Mindburst 2019 M I N D B U R S T 2 0 1 9
A Literary Escape
A publication of the Mindburst staff, Olathe North High School, Olathe, KS 66061 ~May, 2019--Olathe School District USD 233~
â€œWe write to taste life twice; in the moment and in retrospect.â€? Anais Nin 1
A Literary Escape
â€œThere is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.â€? Maya Angelou 2
A Literary Escape
2 0 1 9 Editor-in-Chief: Zoë Hayes Layout Editors: Bailey Boyd Grace Genis Art Manager and Editor: Adam Peet Scholastic Awards Manager: Bethany Robertson Poetry Commitee: Grace Genis Sophia Palcic Bethany Robertson Prose Committee: Bailey Boyd Tymber Marsh Adam Peet Staff: Bailey Boyd Grace Genis Zoë Hayes Tymber Marsh Sophia Palcic Adam Peet Bethany Robertson Illustrators: Claire Genis Hugo Perez Nicholas Stenson Grace Genis Faculty Advisor: Molly Runde
We are pleased to announce that the 2018 edition of Mindburst: A Literary Gale received an Excellent ranking in NCTE’s Program to Recognize Excellence in Art and Literary Magazines. This year’s edition includes a wide variety of rhetorical genres in both literary and fine arts mediums. Each piece was created by an Olathe North student and selected by the Mindburst staff. Several selections published in this year’s issue of Mindburst received prestigious writing awards. In the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, 3 students were recognized: Paiton Stith recieved 2 silver metals and 1 gold metal, Katelyn Gillette recieved a gold metal, and Haley Renee Born recieved a silver metal. In addition, several students were recognized in the Missouri Region Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Students who won Gold Keys include Haley Renee Born, Katelyn Gillette, Ashley Honey, Mia Iandolo, Bethany Robertson, Paiton Stith; Silver Key winners include Haley Renee Born, Molly Duke, Katelyn Gillette, Ashley Honey, Lily Long, Kailey Schlink, Paiton Stith, Trinity Umaña, Kylie Volavongsa; those who recieved Honorable Mentions include Haley Renee Born, Molly Duke, Bailey Flanagan, Alyssa McCue, Kailey Schlink, Neha Shridhar, Kylie Volavongsa, and Bella Wasson. Congratulations to the winners of the 38th annual Olathe North Poetry Contest. The winners of the overall division are (from first to fifth place): Haley Renee Born, Paiton Stith, Kimberlynne Hazen, Airianna O’Donohue, and Abuk Yor. Additionally, four students placed in the 11th annual International Language Poetry Contest: Eduardo Renteria Diaz, Sebastian Escareno, Jocelyn Melendez Hernandez, and Jeferson Pereira Goncalves. Congratulations to Adam Peet for his placement in Olathe’s Got Talent for his photo “Rural Autos,” which is featured on the cover of this year’s Mindburst edition. We sincerely hope that you enjoy the 2019 issue of Mindburst: A Literary Escape.
Table of Contents Cover Art: Rural Autos, Adam Peet (Cohen-Esrey Award, Olathe’s Got Talent)
Untethered From Our Planet: The Danger of Sirens Winter’s Creek Home Celestial Infernal Birds and Beast Silver and Gold Fish Princes Flying Outside of Time The Sculpture Dancing Stories from Lemuit: A New Blackwyvern Time Travel and the Hapless Office Workers
Haley Renee Born Paiton Stith Trinity Umaña Molly Duke Paiton Stith Ashley Honey Jenna Hall Haley Renee Born Katelyn Gillette Haley Renee Born Maddy Fisher Xander Stultz Jenna Hall
11 12 15 17 18 23 28 29 30 32 34 35 45
Bloomin In Love: Fem A Dress Love Her Anyways The Painting Lilac Lady The Dance Fate and a Side of Fries Candles My Sun Tower Tall and Mighty When I Was Young Violets Coffee Stained Paper Symphony Beauty The Two Sides of Water The Fireworks of Our Lives Legend
Molly Duke Emma Beatty Jocelyn Melendez Mia Iandolo Molly Martin Mia Iandolo Molly Martin Trinity Ozias Vanesssa Pineda Neha Sridhar Khushi Parsai Paiton Stith Molly Duke Trinity Mozingo Lillian Long Caleb Lim Alyssa Thompson Ellie Laufenberg
53 59 59 60 61 62 64 65 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 74 76
Art Gallery: Marbled Skies Held Cup & Flower Roadtrip Made Like A Lady Self Portait untitled BLEEEAH CHERRIES Teapot River Feathered Friend Flower untitled Perfect Dine and Dash Fall in Snow untitled Self Destruction
Kaitlyn Savoy Hugo Perez Dairyn Cruz Tymber Marsh Sarah Manuel Abigail Miles Mikaela Navarro Pippin Hart Cosette Snyder Tymber Marsh AJ Barry Detrik Ortiz Yolanda Polanco Hailey Nuber Nyle Banks Sydney Tobis Zack Freund Mara Embry
77 78 78 78 79 79 79 79 80 80 81 81 81 81 81 82 82 82
Dew Drops On Daffodils: Rain
Ocean Oasis Trees Instead of Gravestones Fly High The Shore and The Waves A Winged Heart Windy Beaches The Valley Rain Roses Growing in the Ground When the Tide Draws Back Under the Coconut Trees Flowerboy A Lightbulb and A Seedling
Alyssa McCue Carolina Bermudez Haley Renee Born Ashanti Moore Katelyn Gillete Addyson Edmonds Emma Beatty Austin Shoemaker Kailey Schlink Sean Richardson Amirith Samuel Trisha Nair Paiton Stith Bethany Robertson
85 86 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 100
Hidden In The Shadows: Persistence Lonesome Land Redemption Broken Apart Death and I Katrina
Bella Wasson Paiton Stith Alyssa McCue Irina Honc Katelyn Gillette Airianna Oâ€™Donohue 5
103 104 106 107 108 109
Freezing Rain The Boy Who Was A Soldier The Burden of an Artist Break Belvita Two Different Coffees Looking Annabel Lee Eight Steaming Plates Departed Mind’s Lament Smiles Have Secrets Too Lighthouse Pencils Stone Bodies Darkness Turns to Light Summer Eroteme
Bethany Robertson Anonymous Airianna O’Donohue Haley Renee Born Kylie Volavongsa Sarah Montes Haley Renee Born Airianna O’Donohue Ashanti Moore Joe Mirakian Ally Meyer Haley Renee Born Mia Iandolo Allie Stipsits Jordan Farmer Shaylin Nyguen Eddie Dai
110 112 113 114 116 118 121 122 123 125 126 128 130 132 134 134 136
Olathe North Poetry Contest: A Feeling Like Hunger King of Crows The Sharpness of A Lie 1967 And I Grow Snap Bare Fear Your Words A Field of Suns In the Front Seat of a Car There Stands a Catalpa Death Keeps No Calendar Light
Haley Renee Born Paiton Stith Kimberlynne Hazen Airianna O’Donohue Abuk Yor Elizabeth Schuler Isabella Ceruzzi Khushi Parsai Abigail Davey Grace Hansen Bella Wasson Tymber Marsh Tymber Marsh Grace Hansen
139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 149 150 151 152 155 156
International Language Poetry Contest: Escuela del Horror Eduardo Renteria Diaz Naturalieza y Musica Sebastian Escareno M. Ella Jocelyn Melendez Hernandez O Corredor Jefferson Pereira Goncalves Emociones Brenda Calderon Imigracion Carlos A. Breach
159 159 162 163 164 166
Multicultural Mosiac: Buried Jade Almsberger Trials of the Female Ashley Honey Culture Curry Karthik Kasarabada Branded Ashanti Moore Best of Both Worlds Sofia McCoy 2021 Jill Klusman Sri Lanka Savi Buluwana Better World Nichole Harman Fair is Not Always Lovely Kruti Nataraj Growing up in Little Italy Mario Schnieder La Barradita Hannah Guzman YC Express Train Katelyn Gillette Achingly Satisfied Alija Koirala
169 170 172 173 174 176 177 179 180 181 183 184 186
Chuckle Barrel: A Comedy of Errors Beast Untitled Three Feet, Two Feet, One Damn Technology! Razor Scooter My Son is Missing The Crash A Sonnet I Hate Haikus Snow Globe Time in the Timepiece Coolio Interracial Marriage A Moment In Time
MJ Ferguson Bethany Robertson Carolina Bermudez Elleanora Meman Tymber Marsh Molly Duke E Ingraham Arriona Shorter Jorge Flores Josmar De Jesus Perez Fausto Lillian Campbell Samuel Liu Anonymous Duvis Lopez Leah Heeren
189 189 191 191 192 193 194 195 196 196 197 198 200 202 203
Fox and Snake
Untethered From Our Planet
Galaxy of Marbles
“Imagination is the only weapon against reality.” Lewis Carroll 9
The Danger of Sirens A song as sweet as candy, saltwater taffy twisting into words, calling me to dip my toes in the waves and when they wash away, I see her, starlight clutching her curves, hips and bow of lips, parted just for me a melody spun from seaweed, spiraling around my ankles, drawn away by gravity, pulling me to follow, out, out, only sirens are for sailing men, not young maidens but saying that wonâ€™t take from my ears the sound of her lullaby, an invitation that canâ€™t be left unanswered, though sound alone could not draw me from the shore, no, I want to be lost at sea. Haley Renee Born Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
National Scholastic Literary Gold Metal Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Winter’s Creek Paiton Stith
e always kept one foot in the creek when we were kissing. Other times, when we talked, he’d dangle his legs in the delicate current and soak his cuffed jeans up to the knee. The trees stood at our backs, gentle giants with their arms spread to shield us from the sun. Light splintered through occasionally, dappling the swift rabbit-footed creek with shimmering spots of yellow like the dandelions speckled in the grass. I used to ask him to go places with me, the pool, the movies, my house. He gave me the same smile every time, lips like dusty summertime pressed together to cover white, crooked teeth. Then he turned away to run his fingers through the water or fall back on his elbows to look at the sky. “This place is mine. How could I leave it unprotected?” His voice rushed, smooth like water but carrying that subtle trace of burn, that ability to wear something down over time. We could sit for hours, looking up at the leaves and the clouds, talking about whatever crossed our minds. It worked because when the world stood still, we didn’t. Lying there, looking up, the space within was a whirl of stars. In the dark woods, the silence, we glowed and we twinkled.
But only in the spring. Once every year he’d look over at me as the breeze sent ripples through his cotton shirt, and he’d say, “The snows are coming tomorrow.” It was hard to believe him when his brown skin still blended with the wood, as if they were watercolors born from the same palette. It was hard to imagine that everything would be so white so soon. “Did the creek tell you that?” I asked that first time, sour-voiced and skeptical. He only smiled. “What else would we talk about?” If I did come back to the path that led to the creek I’d find it unwelcoming. What was once open and lush become skeletal, barren, the branches twisted into an impassable cluster. This year I didn’t even try. I stayed home with my parents, my grandmother in town for Christmas, and I’d do my best to steer the conversation away from Creek. Still, Grandma Gray always found a way to bring him up in unrelated conversation. “Vida, are you still cavorting with that water sprite in Nelson’s Wood?” “Cavorting, Grandma?” I pinched the edge of my plate until my fingers turned white, spinning it so the turkey slices were before me. “Hardly.” 12
She turned to my mother with her penciled brow raised in a prim arch. “You ought to keep her away from the fair folk.” Mother nodded without enthusiasm. She never cared where I went. Grandma held a cut piece of potato to her mouth, “They’re cunning, playing at sweet and charming until they bind you with a riddle. Quick as a whip. Then they steal you away and make you rear their children.” The potato popped in with an emphatic nod. “God, Grandma, you can’t say that.” Her eyes flared and she straightened like a cobra. “Have you forgotten what happened to my sister?” I sighed through my teeth so that it sounded like a hiss. “You’d like him if you met him.” She laughed, “In winter?” She sawed at the turkey on her plate. “Tricky as they may be in the spring, every bit of good is gone after the first snow.” I forced myself not to stiffen in surprise. “Why is that?” I asked nonchalantly, trying not to look too clueless in case she thought I wasn’t keeping my wits about me. That would only make her more convinced that I needed to be protected. “I don’t know,” Grandma snapped. “all a respectable person needs to know is what charms are the strongest, how to weasel out of a bargain, and common sense enough
to stay away from them in the first place.” She waved her fork through the air. “And most importantly, a winter faerie is a faerie you avoid.” She narrowed her eyes. “Stay away, or suffer for it.” I stabbed my fork down into my mashed potatoes so that it stuck up on its own. “He doesn’t let me visit in winter, so you don’t have anything to worry about.” I meant it to sound nasty, but it came out bitter. Grandma paused with her fork on the way to her mouth. I saw her coffeestained teeth before she pressed her lips together again. “Good.” The rest of dinner was unnaturally still.
“See, that was the trick to the fair folk. All their power laid in their silver tounges.” I got up to rinse my plate and Grandma touched my arm as I passed. I paused, already preparing a retort. She only said, “Be careful.” Of course I was careful. I was always careful. I’d heard the stories, but in every case the foolish human had done something to offend. If you knew the rules, dealing with faeries was a breeze. I’d been going to the woods for years now, and I’d never had problems with any of them. Never in winter, though. 13
Maybe that’s why my heart cowered in my mouth, like it felt safer using my teeth as a shield and my tongue as a sword than in my ribcage. See, that was the trick to the fair folk. All their power laid in their silver tongues. You just had to play along with enough skill, and I’d spent years sharpening my arsenal of flattery, language flowered with deceptive description, and of course, the potent last resort: lies. I knew Creek, I’d been spending every warm season with him for twelve years now, back when I’d been an overexploring toddler and he was just a little babbling brook. Still, Grandma’s words haunted me. I had to see him, just once and then I’d never force my way through the brambles again. Truth is, I was worried about him. For years, I’d let him convince me to stay away so easily, but something about Grandma’s expression when I told her made me uneasy. Nothing surprised Grandma. Something must be wrong. The one time I’d tried to get through the twisted path, the branches held like they were made of iron. This time, though they weren’t exactly welcoming, they shifted eventually to let me through. Roots hidden beneath the crunching snow grabbed half-heartedly at my ankles. The branches hung lower than in spring, scraping at my cheeks so that I had to shield my face with my arms.
The silence was the strangest part. I was so used to springtime chatter and constant movement. This landscape hummed with barren silence. “Hello?” I called out a few of my friends’ names, but no face showed. I tightened the scarf around my neck and held my wool coat together at the collar. I didn’t recognize the end of the path when I came to it, and nearly plunged a foot into the frozen creek. With my right boot crusted with snow, I crouched at the edge to wait. The afternoon sun glittered across the ice, and I thought that it wasn’t so hideous. Barren could be beautiful too. Creek didn’t take long to show up, standing like a ghost on the ice, barely out of the trees. The naked branches cast sharp shadows across his body, and his dark eyes peered out of a hollow, sunken face. “Creek,” I said, standing. “Aren’t you cold?” He was barefoot, in the same cuffed jeans and light cottony t-shirt he wore in spring. “Yes.” His voice had hardened, brittle and splintered and hoarse. He didn’t come any nearer. “What are you doing here?” My cheeks warmed despite the cold. “I came to see if you were alright.” “I am.”
“Are you sure,” I asked, and dared to take a few steps toward him. He backed away, lowering his head until he was glaring up at me beneath his frosted brow. I stopped. “Creek, where is everybody?” He wrapped his arms around his chest, squeezing his ribs until his arms paled. “Hiding.” He was shivering. My blood chilled in my veins. “From what?” He shook his head, wouldn’t meet my eyes. “I told you not to come.” I took a tentative step forward once more, watching the frost creep up from his blue toes to disappear under his jeans. “My grandmother told me you’d be dangerous in the winter.” He looked up sharply at that. “No,” he said, then his eyes slid away from mine. “I’m not.” I hissed through my teeth, white breath clouding out of my mouth and spinning up to the sky like a bird. “What’s wrong with me being here?” I felt eyes on me now. Out of the corner of my eye I’d catch the flicker of tiny bodies moving amongst the snow and withered shrubs. His hair fell forward into his eyes, thin and dry as his skin, as his body. He was skeletal and the warmth had fled his skin, leaving him palid and dull. The sight filled me with a stark unease. I had never
known him like this before, always he was brimming with vibrance and joy. He spoke in soft voices in the spring, with whimsy and humor and beauty. Winter had turned him bitter. I was right. Everything was wrong. I lifted my chin. “You let me in here. The branches could’ve barred my path like they used to, but they didn’t.” Crackling ice and snow were the only sounds as I approached, and they bounced around the emptiness like it was a skeleton to fill, like it knew what this winter world needed, but couldn’t meet the demand. “I’m sorry I ignored you,” I whispered, “I won’t any longer.” Disjointed arms with spidery fingers reached for me and he was the heart of winter itself pressed against my chest as I wrapped my arms around him, unbuttoned my coat so he could slip his arms inside. It was cold and miserable, I wasn’t pretending not to notice, but there was something full about this. Something that had been missing when I only loved him in the spring. That had been halfway, a lovely fantasy. He was bitter and cold and even cruel at times, but so was I. I imagined my warmth leaching into him, and I knew I’d hold him tight. Even if he never stopped shivering.v
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
n my world, you’re either born with the time and place of your death on your wrist or you’re given the choice of how you die when you turn twenty-five. The latter is very rare, only two percent of the population is given the choice. Those are the lucky ones. I am a lucky one. When I was born, my parents cried. They were so relieved. Since then, they spent all the time possible preparing. They researched the hardest ways to die, the least painful, the ones that would allow me to die old, happy, and peacefully. It consumed them, but they were content with spending most of their time finding out how to give their daughter happiness. I didn’t care. Getting to choose how I die granted me to be free of worry for twenty five years. I knew I couldn’t die, I was basically immortal and I had bigger things to worry about. So I enjoyed my life as best as I could, never being afraid of anything. I’d go skydiving, bungee jumping, anything that could potentially risk my life. I was free to focus on things like school and friends. In my sophomore year of high school, I met a girl. She was so sweet and bright-eyed, lighting up the world wherever she went. She was one of the unlucky ones. Luckier than some, but still quite unlucky. On her wrist sat a date, far too soon for anyone to be content with. She was to die at the ripe old age of twenty five at 5:36 pm on October 8th. Ironic how my fate is decided merely days before, but her life ends. Lucky for her, right under that dreadful date was a warm word that softened the blow of a youthful death. Home. We became best friends. A girl doomed to die young and a girl with timeless freedom.
She soon became a warm presence in my life, loving and loyal, a safe place to go back to. Her beauty and her kindness drew me closer until I fell in love. I spent days, weeks, months, years pining after a girl who would soon be gone. A girl that brought happiness into my life. A girl who I began to call my home. In turn, she pined after me. She didn’t want to hurt me, but I knew it was too late. No matter what happened between us, the loss of her presence would hurt me. So I asked her to ignore whatever fate was in store for us and just consider going on a date with me. The stars were shining on me that day, because she said yes and one date turned to two turned to many. A girl doomed to depart early and a girl destined to depart happily. Together. The rest of her years were spent with each other as our home. Graduating high school, being on our own, college, early adulthood. We did it all together. While the dark date grew closer, we were happy. We didn’t care if our time would be cut short, we were going to spend our time together. One night, she came home to find me waiting. Candles illuminated the room, adding an additional twinkle in her eyes. She was beautiful and I fell in love with her all over again. I took her hands in mine and voiced my thoughts out loud, voiced the feelings she already knew, voiced the love in my heart for her. I knelt, her hands shooting up to cover her mouth, tears forming in the corners of her beautiful eyes. I loved her and she loved me, and although our time was short, it was ours. I loved her and she loved me, so I asked her to be mine forever and to take me for just as long. Crying, she accepted, and we spent the night dreaming out loud.
Dreaming of a day in white, sweet and tender, proclaiming our love to the world, to the law. And soon enough, the day came. Standing under an arch of flowers, I watched her walk towards me like an ethereal angel. She was mine and I was hers, and we had the rings to prove it. Blissful days had come and gone, the dreadful date looming closer. Though we loved and were happy with our time, we couldn’t help the cloud that covered our sun. She would miss me and I’d miss her, our love eternal yet short lived. The coming months were spent together, crying almost endlessly and feverishly enjoying our vanishing time. My birthday was growing closer, but I had not decided on my fate. Caught up in living and thinking about her death date, I hadn’t paid a single thought to it. I ignored the calls of my parents in the days leading up, ignored the
early birthday wishes, ignored the well-intentioned advice. I didn’t care about myself. I was in mourning before I even lost her. She occupied my world, my heart, my mind. It soon became the day before my birthday and I still had nothing but her. She was all that mattered. I could worry about myself after. I couldn’t sleep that night, occupied with worry and grief. I turned to the clock to see that it read 11:58. Staring at it, I waited for it to turn to midnight, signaling the start of my birthday. Soon enough, it came, and something, what I could only assume was a heavenly force, placed a thought in my head. It was time to decide. I turned to look at her. She was sleeping so peacefully, her beautiful face so serene. I glanced at her wrist, the word under the date sticking in my mind. I closed my eyes and thought of my decision. I called my
parents and said only two words. “I’m sorry.” I woke up and it was still my birthday. She asked me what I decided and I told her I decided on home. We cried for a bit, but we cheered up, not letting our fate get in the way of happiness. We spent the day having as much fun as possible. We laughed and we loved and we lived. Days soon passed and that mournful day was upon us. We watched our favorite movie, ate our favorite food, and just stayed together. It was October 8th and we laid in bed wrapped in each other. She fell asleep in my arms and I soon joined her in slumber, the steady rhythm of our breaths intertwined. A few minutes passed and the sound of our breaths ceased. Together in each other’s arms, a girl doomed to die young and a girl with timeless freedom. Home. v
Celestial Infernal The Sun hangs faithfully in the white sky. The Moon, suffers, bearing its counterweight. The Sun blisters the red skin on my thigh, the Moon’s own comfort tries to compensate. Stars coo, planets weep, the universe cracks under the weight of the thigh burning sun. Unwanted geocentric parallax. The meteor undoes; it’s measure spun. The Sun explodes, heat dividing again, slicing the interstellar connections. The Milky Way is merely a bloodstain. The thigh has no clear source of protection. The sun’s string snaps, unbalancing the moon. The satellite whirrs, landing in a dune. Molly Duke Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
National Scholastic Literary Silver Metal Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Birds and Beast Paiton Stith
he villagers with the bad luck to live near the entrance to the Iron Maze called it the steps down to hell, and the name stuck, circulating until even the king in his ivory tower referred to it as such. It wasn’t hard to see why. Once, Amira had been sent to investigate, long before the dayrds to the east had become a concern, and she still had dreams about it. The spiraling steps into darkness so pitch, so all-consuming it froze your little child’s soul inside your body. It drew you in. Even knowing what to expect Amira still started toward it, staggering like a mesmerized baby drawn to a flame, all consciousness flicked off. Later, in service to her king, she would give in to that pull, and she would become nothing more than a wolf in shining armor, an animal with tangled hair and bloody teeth.
he stands in the blackness with iron bars on either side and above, rusted red like the blood that crusts a scab you can’t stop picking. She herself has quite a few of those. They litter the skin beneath her armor. She scratches absently at one on her wrist. The dayrd, asleep and wholly oblivious, lies atop the bars just a few feet away. A hundred others are doing the same. This one just happened to be unlucky. The shadow still hasn’t caught on. It rubs at its pale face, black eyes as open as a child’s.
here had been people who chose to descend. Most of them had no family or were desperate or just wanted to die, but a certain few were ambitious. The inscription on the stone beside the first step told of a power to be gained at the maze’s heart.
No one ever came back up. That first time, she turned her back on the dark tunnel in the meadow, but she still thought about it sometimes. When she sat in the grass beside the castle pond watching the swans, listening to them call out across the glassy water, the thought came crawling back to her like a disjointed insect. The voice of the abyss spiraling around and around with popping limbs, itchy antennas. Her sword gleamed in the grass beside her, ornate and polished, strangely beautiful beside the cheap brown clothing she wore. She didn’t look up when er king crunched through the grass, coming to stand at her side with his hands clasped behind his back. He stared out over the pond, the woodland in the background. A few people at the edges of the water, mostly knights and nobles, paused to bow to him when they noticed his presence, but Amira didn’t move, didn’t look up. She stroked the stem of a reddish reed and let the sun’s reflection off the water make her eyes sting. He wore black pants, a shirt the color of dusk. He didn’t ask her to bow, but she’d never been like any of his other knights. She didn’t need to bow to prove her loyalty, it was threaded through every choice she made, every tiny flicker of movement, every semblance of instinct. He put his smooth hand on her shoulder, thumb affectionately. “There are too many,” she said. “The dayrds exist in every inch of the east forest. We can’t take it from them. Not as we are.” They’d moved between the trees like one bubbling organism with a thousand glittering eyes and slick black feathers. She hadn’t even need to go in to determine the threat and wouldn’t
have made it back out if she tried. Not with any flesh still attached to her bones. Her king nodded. Amira blinked and plucked a rock from the mud. “I will go.” She turned it over in her fingers, smearing the mud under her nails. “Amira, you’ve only just returned.” His voice had grown rougher since she’d first met him, when he’d given her the chance to train and become one of his knights. “Let me repay you,” she said, and looked up at his furrowed green eyes. Without him she’d still be nothing more than a desperate animal starving on the kingdom’s cobbled streets. “You would throw your life away?” “No,” she said. She had no life to throw away. From that day onward she had been an extension of him, bound to carry out his will and serve the land he ruled. She was a king’s knight. Not just knight to the king.
he draws the blade at her hip, beautiful hilt stained with blood. The dayrd sleeps with its head tucked under its wing, razored beak hidden. The left it long loop of neck exposed, black feathered, bony, and as delicate as any of the swans in the king’s garden. She’s killed many daryds in her time below, mostly to eat, but this one has a different fate. Even she can barely
stand to name it, but her only sword is broken in its sheath, and she’s only just found the heart of maze. Too close to quit now. Without the slightest hint of sound, she leaps. And slits its throat. Her king gifted her a new pair of steel boots to match the sword he’d granted when she was knighted. She wore them to the entrance, but they made a sound when she walked and so she took them off to put on the old pair she’d carried with her. She took one last look at the emerald meadow and the wildflowers dotting color into the landscape at the edge of her king’s land. The daryds’ forest was a blight on the horizon. She let the current of the abyss sweep her away. Her mind began to fade in quick swings that left her heart hammering, like trying to stand on wet rocks. But before she lost herself completely, she thought of Godfrey, the only knight to come and see her off which was a surprise. She’d never made an effort to connect with any of them, but maybe he’d felt some sort of obligation as they were the two youngest. When her king left, Godfrey had lingered, brown eyes startled. “Are you really going down there for him?”
slim fingered hands. Amira sheathes her sword and swallows, staring at the stump of neck hanging between the bars like a wilted flower, dripping petals of red onto the dusty stone. Poppis or roses or dahlias. When was the last time she had seen the garden? How long ago?
hen she woke, she was already standing. At the bottom of the steps it was so cold she could see her breath, the kind of cold that slithered between bone and skin. A pale creature hunched at the steps, naked and so transparent she could hardly see it at all. Nothing more than the shadow of a being. Looking at its smooth face, wide eyes, made her feel so strangely empty. The Iron Maze was lit by luminescent blooms, with colors that concentrated in certain areas. Different garish colors to weak to alleviate the pressure of the abyss. At first, she tried to hold onto her pride, but that fell away until all that remained was her undying fealty to her king. But truly, that was all she needed. The shadow followed her wherever she went, watching with constant judgement, but it was soundless and harmless and not worth the effort of shooing he shadow looks at the off. But she swore it grew waterfalling blood and more opaque every day. In shivers in horror, cover- the end it was her king that ing its enormous eyes with its kept her searching, kept her
killing. Until she stumbled into the center, bruised and aching and weak. She swayed at the entrance to the heart where the bars gave way to a higher ceiling and a leafless tree grew from the stone. A golden peach grew in the center of those brambled branches, hanging above the trunk with a faint glow. Amira cocked her head, taking one soft step toward the seat of thrumming power, the melody of discordance streaming around her bones and tugging her closer as if she was a fish on a line. Creaking iron behind her had her whirling, blade up. Something huge and black feathered clung to the wall, not a dayrd because it had no beak, and it was too fast for a creature that large. The beast flung its wing, and when she tried to block with her blade she was thrown to the ground. She gritted her teeth, and stood with her sword still tight in her grip, except it was broken, the end jagged. Her heart stuttered in her chest and she scrambled for the exit, looking over her shoulder, but the beast was already gone.
he shadow trots along behind her, still moping while Amira heads for the heart. She needs to make it before the dayrds smell blood and come to see the shattered shards of skull she left behind. She pauses at
the entrance to scan for the beast that broke her sword, but the dark ceiling is indecipherable. She proceeds with caution, ready to move in a split second at the slightest brush of air or the shadow of a mighty wing. Dayrds perch around the heart, watching through the bars with bright eyes, wrinkled gray feet gripping the bars tight so they could poke in their narrow beaks. Amira shakes out her tired limbs and creps slowly inside, constantly turning to guard every direction, but it’s nowhere to be seen. Must be watching from above. She would’ve thought it’d be guarding the tree mercilessly after her recent attempt to take the golden fruit, but maybe it hopes she won’t come back. Maybe that’s why it hadn’t finished her when it could have. Maybe it just wants to get away from the viscous, stagnant pool of dark energy that surrounds the skeleton tree like a circling behemoth. Air stirs the hair at the back of her neck, just under the tangle of ribbon she uses to tie it up. She whirls in an instant to find it landing with slow, even wingbeats, disturbing the dust so that it lands on bare stone. Its beakless mouth smiles at her, fleshy face flat like an owl’s with the same round eyes. Those eyes, so human and so dayrd. It has no nose, only slits for nostrils and she fights not to step back 20
from it, fights not to show any fear. The shadow runs in panicked circles around her legs and keeps looking at the tree as if it would like to hide there, but won’t go near. The beast keeps tilting its head from side to side, growing nearer and nearer with each delicate placement of talon over talon. Impossible long lashes fan air over Amira. Instinctively, she puts her hand on the hilt at her hip, but doesn’t draw her broken sword. “What is it you want?” The beast whispers, huge face flinchingly close. Amira juts her chin up, holds her ground. “What is it you need?” Its eyes dart to the tree behind her. She doesn’t answer, only glares with her mouth twisted into a snarl. In this moment, she is an arm, blade of the monarch. King’s knight to her core. The beast looks almost sorry, like it wishes she had taken its warning, but it leaps for her with its claws outstretched. Amira flicks hers hands to her hips, as the dust sprays up in a cloud. When it clears, she stands behind the beast, holding the halved beak she’d stolen from the dayrd like twin daggers that glint in the mixed light of red bloom and golden fruit. Blood drips from the ends of both to bead on the stone. Bone streaks through the red slash in the beast’s cheek. It cocks its head, intent on the
beak she holds. Its pupil fluctuate, then it begins to shake and it forces out a hoarse “you…” but can’t continue. The birds surrounding the cage bristle, wings flaring wide before they shoot up into the abyss. There’s real pain in the beast’s eyes. Real tragedy. Real loss. Amira knows loss. She knows how it fills the head to spill out your pupils and taint everything you see. To turn everything dark until something comes to bring the light back. My king, she reminds herself. My king. My king. My king. Distant clanging and rattling shakes the bars of the iron maze. Blood rains from the sky. Some part of her is straining away from the rest, looking at its former body in disgust. The beast hasn’t moved. Hasn’t blinked. Amira takes her chance and dashes for the skeleton tree, only vaguely aware that the shadow doesn’t follow. She can’t make it—she doesn’t make it—the ceiling bars come screaming down like the open maw of some giant with jagged teeth. Heat razes her back and she tumbles far from the tree. Blood spills over her shoulders. She grimaces as she stands, and sways in place, scanning dully for the golden light and the skeleton tree. She loses blood in waves, but she moves toward that humming power.
The beast bellows in rage, in pain. Amia glances back already raising one beak, but it’s trapped by a twisted mass of bars spearing through its wings, its body. It shudders, twitches, tries to free itself while the dayrds light on the bars in a circle, surrounding it with unblinking gazes, unmoving bodies. Amira spits red and reaches into the tangle of wood. Her fingers brush the soft skin and it leaps into her palm. The brambles dissolve. She takes a bite and the sweetness burns all the way down her throat. Ichor of the gods. Flesh of the damned. Her head spins as she wipes her mouth.
“There’s real pain in the beast’s eyes. Real tragedy. Real loss.” She fills to the brim, something thick and suffocating colonizing her, twisting her insides into a contortion of skinny black branches. And still she bleeds while her body thrums like a goddess. She tries to reach a hand around to probe at her wound, but twisting wrenches a scream from her mouth. She trembles. She doesn’t—She doesn’t want to die. My king. My king. My king. How can she bring this back to him now? What’s the point of any of this struggle? 21
The beast’s labored breaths grate against her, in and out and in once more. Shaking from exhaustion and anger, she limps to the beast. He veins stand out black against her skin. She can end it with a wave of her hand now, but she can’t see past the beaks in her hands and the beast on the ground. The shadow throws itself at Amira’s feet and in this light they seem to have the same face. Its eyes—Amira’s eyes—implore her, but Amira shoves past to stand before the beast’s vulnerable throat. Wasn’t this fair? Amira’s supposed to go back up. She’s supposed to see the sunlight again. She could kill it for the kingdom. The next knight to challenge the maze could stroll right in if she brought the beak down on this beast. The beast’s labored breathing fills the cavern, races through every barred hall only to soak into uncaring stone. She looks into one of those giant black eyes, half-lidded from the pain. The dayrds huddle in a mass, unable to reach the beast, unable to help or fix their mistake. Maybe it made her a monster, but she would’ve done it anyway. If she didn’t see the wicked, bloody snarl on her face, reflecting in those eyes. Her face, streaked with grime and haloed by a tangle of matted black hair, is that of a beast.
She doesn’t want to die, but this creature hadn’t killed her. Why had she ever come down? No one ever asked her to. Blindly for a king? Is she truly so empty? A king’s knight he is. A king’s knight who kills without honor and sees without caring. Out of all the animals in the Iron Maze, she is the only beast. She drops the beak. We don’t need more land, she thinks. We want it. Her strength drains on a current of blood and she sees it in the creature’s eyes.
This maze is guarded by them because they understand. This power, causing so much death, had never been made to heal. She touches one of the rusted bars, and the energy flows through it, dissolving the cage to dust, and when it runs out of iron it streaks over stone to eat the tree itself. Chews itself to pieces. The beast lifts itself in a boneless way, and glares at her as it bleeds, but it doesn’t approach her. It knows there’s nothing real she can do now and she would apologize to it
if she could. She’d apologize to her king too, but mostly she wants to sit at the pond’s side and watch the swans glide. Her eyelids are heavy, lips sticky with sweet nectar. With the last of her strength she cracks open the abyss of ceiling. Just enough for the birds to get out and some light to get through. She doesn’t see them spread their wings as she falls, but the shadow pets her hair and she feels the sun on her face. v
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Silver and Gold Ashley Honey
his routine repeated itself on each of much more boisterous. She sat up, stretched, the front porches on Lilipool Lane. It and pranced over to the silver bowl next to the didn’t take long to note the perfection tall brown countertop. As she ate, she tried to listen to what the and cookie-cutter attitude found in each of the houses on that street, the endless one- humans were meowing. She couldn’t quite upping the humans found themselves partic- understand their words because animals and ipating in. When the Johnsons got a new humans didn’t speak the same tongue, but she deck, the Everlinds stained their fence a dark could hear from the tones of their voices that brown. When the Marks adopted a dog, the tension was bristling in the room. Hughesmans adopted a kitten. And that was Once the last chunk of tuna was swalhow Marigold came to be. lowed delicately, Marigold swept her tongue Plush, soft cloth cradled her body; a soul across her muzzle and retired to the couch. devoid of stress and doubt and insecurity Here she gently lapped at her paws, groomcurled deeper into her nest, pressing her nose ing areas of her fluffy, orange coat that needed into her warm orange tail. She was complete- freshening up. She still overheard the unrest ly oblivious to the competitive attitudes right unfolding in the kitchen, but it came to an end before her eyes like the spray tans, yoga class- when the mother quickly ushered her kittens es, and designer bags the mothers sported out the door. The father slid out of the door a down the lane. That was the beauty of being few moments later. feline and not a human. Mari seamlessly moved to the next step of A soft stream of water splashed around her morning routine: watching. For hours she in the sink as the mother of the human sat by the window and watched the outside kittens rinsed the dishes from last night’s world commence. A sparrow flew from its dinner. The kits were brushing their teeth in nest to search for food, a dog trotted alongthe bathroom, ready to gobble up their side a human on the sidewalk and many other sugary cereal. pedestrians carried out their days, unknowingThe mother called her kittens, and ly watched by the cat in the small blue suburthey bounded down the stairs. She poured ban house. their breakfast, then opened the cupboard Some may say Mari led a boring life, but where she kept the cat food. she did not see it that way. She didn’t really Marigold didn’t lift her head until have much to compare her life to, and she she heard the familiar sound of the can didn’t necessarily feel as if she was missing out opener and the shrill call of the mother’s on anything. Her purpose was to bask in the voice across the room. Mari found herself sun, eat, and claw on things. That is the life of lifted from her dreams of climbing the tree an easily pleased and satisfied cat. in her yard—she had almost reached the She found herself eyeing the tree in the very top for the first time. While she never middle of the yard and felt the urge to squeeze would have attempted such a maneuver in 23 real life, her dream self was
through the flap in the human door and frolic on the yard. The weather was rather pleasant and still, so she followed her guts and leapt down to the ground, trotting across the plush grass. Birds were calling in the old maple tree, but Mari was uninterested in attacking them. She would much rather keep her paws nice and clean, thank you very much. “Mar!” Her eyes perked up, and she glanced over to the fence on her right. Charlotte, a pale gray tabby with white paws that looked like they had been dipped in powdered sugar, was perched on the top of the fence. “Want to go on a walk with me?” Marigold’s ear twitched in annoyance at the nickname Charlotte had chosen for her, but she tried to set that aside and be polite. “No, thank you.” “Oh, come on! You never leave your yard. Don’t you want to see what’s out there and try to catch something tasty?” Charlotte pleaded. “No thanks,” Mari meowed, licking her paw. “Why don’t you just ask Henry?” “Oh, that’s a good idea! Thanks Mari!” she chirped, landing back on the ground and bounding toward Henry’s yard, finally leaving Mari with some peace and quiet. Plus, talking to other cats wasn’t her favorite. She would much rather play with the feather hanging next to her nest or
scratch at the maple tree by herself. Once she was hot from spending so much time in the sun, she retired to the indoors and waited for the mother and kittens to arrive. Marigold wasn’t a mischievous cat by any means. Her curiosity was slim to none, and she didn’t do much but paw at her plush mouse and nap lazily on the couch. One day turned into two, three, a year, and her routine never changed. Until that one night. The humans all retired to their beds once the sun set, the father slipping inside just after the final dish was dried and organized back into its cabinet. He tentatively stepped toward his room, opening the door and bracing himself. Shouting erupted from the room of the mother and the father. Mari didn’t hear it at first; she was fast asleep in her warm fluffy nest. And she probably wouldn’t have heard the human’s arguing if they hadn’t knocked over a large ceramic vase. As far as Marigold was concerned, the status of her household was perfect and peaceful and predictable, but there were many things Mari was oblivious to because they happened out of her line of sight and behind tightly shut doors. A bang, a crash, a wail-all sounds unfamiliar to the orange house cat--jolted Mari from her warm slumber. She 24
flicked her tail and swiveled her ears to focus on the sound from across the hall, hear more screaming and shouting, doors opening and closing, and desperate cries for help. The mother staggered from the room, face marred by specks of crimson. She wiped a paw across her cheek, face damp and swollen from the violent outburst in the room. And when the husband emerged from the room, arms piled high with bags, and stalked out the front door, his visual appearance was the same as usual and did not appear to be physically harmed by whatever happened in the nest of the mother and father. Nothing was quite the same after that. “Mar, what’s up? I saw this large box, the size of a human nest, perched outside your door!” Catherine noisily pointed out, calling from her place on the fence. Marigold’s ear twitched, and she tried to avoid answering the feline’s questions. She didn’t even know how to explain them to herself. She eventually escaped from the conversation, though. Cardboard boxes slowly took over the house. Mari thought they were fun to climb inside and considered moving her nest in there, but the mother scolded her and plopped the orange cat back onto the floor. Mari didn’t really know what to think of these sudden changes and the
shift in the household’s tone, and she expressed this by clawing at the mother’s arm, so hard that she actually drew blood. The mother jerked her body away from the cat as if she were a vicious lion, crying out and spitting at Marigold. She blurt out words Mari had never heard before, words that had never been uttered to her. And while she didn’t know what the mother meant, she assumed it was some sort of an insult and stalked away. Items from around the house vanished as well. The vase on the table, photos from the walls, and more knicknacks slowly disappeared until the house was unrecognizable. Mari felt uneasy for the first time in her life and felt the quickening of her heartbeat every time an item was taken away from its usual, predictable spot. She began to lash out at the humans. Their voices sounded tired and angry, and being surrounded by that environment began to affect her negatively. She began to lose herself, lose the carefree house cat that watched the outside world with curious eyes, and became a timid, agitated feline. She couldn’t quite recognize herself anymore. The food never stopped coming. Marigold lept from her nest this particular morning when the wet tuna splattered into her bowl. She attacked her meal with famished gulps.
Her anxiety had her constantly on edge, and she began to wonder what the next item to leave the house would be--her food? Her bed? Or even...Mari herself? Mari still made time to bathe in the midday sun. The coming and going of the bright, warm orb was the only thing she could trust in her life; she knew that every day, it would rise, and a new day would begin. The sun did not shout or hit or scream.
“Her anxiety had her constantly on edge, and she began to wonder what the next item to leave the house would be-her food? Her bed?” The sun just kept shining despite everything it saw, unchanged, in a loop of constant revolution. And the mere thought of this concept provided her with a sense of stability and comfort she had never required before. She found herself avoiding Catherine even more than usual, and she didn’t even seek attention from the human kits anymore. Once they got home, she usually hid under the couch to avoid hearing and seeing their tears and angry faces. 25
Her orange pelt glistened in the warm spring light, the songbird in the yard lulling her to sleep. While it was a weekday, the human kits did not go anywhere after their morning meal. They stayed inside and continued to toss items into boxes. This deeply upset and agitated her, not only because this disrupted her daily routine and quiet nap time, but also because she didn’t know how else to cope with the fear festering deep inside her. She vaguely remembered her mother, the warmth of her belly, and the meowing of her littermates. She had a distant memory of her humans picking her up from the nest and taking her to her new home. And then her life was a constant cycle of routine, routine, routine, each day indistinguishable from the last. Her life was far from magnificent or fascinating; she just spent her time living and breathing and basking. There was no anxiety. But now... Now they were home. A kit was crying, the mother was short of patience, and the second kid was putting more belongings away into boxes. The mother walked quickly over to Mari, grabbing her clumsily. Mari, startled at such abrupt movement, squirmed and meowed in the mother’s arms, her tail thrashing wildly. And then the world went black. She couldn’t see. Mari didn’t know how long she had
been trapped in what felt like a cardboard box, one of the place she once thought of as a fun hiding place. But she saw the box a bit differently now. She brushed the pad of a paw against the walls that closed in on her, struggled to breathe in the stale air, and let out a wail. Her claws unsheathed, and a wild force in her heart emerged for the very first time, urging her to scratch at her jail with a burning fury of desperation. Trapped...trapped...trapped… Her heart was racing wildly now. She didn’t know how much time had passed. Marigold could not see the sun or the sky or the stars, any sign that days or mere hours had gone by; all of these were hidden from her. All she knew was the growling of her stomach and the rumble of the world outside of the box. It had felt as long as a mere moment and an entire lifetime all at the same time. She desperately tried to break through the paper, but it was far too thick for her claws to puncture. The air was closing in on her, and she couldn’t breathe. No air. No air. No air. Her energy withered away, and she gave up, throwing her body onto the ground. And then everything stopped. No noise was uttered from outside, and Mari braced herself for any sudden change. She winced and curled into herself when a slam echoed in the distance
and a pop released close to her ear. The box moved. Marigold, lacking traction and stability, slid over to the right of the box, struggling to gain a hold of her footing. The box hit the ground with a heavy thud that shook Mari to her core. Then another pop and slam, and a steady grumble reached her ears, growing quieter and quieter until she was met with silence once more. Mari took a moment to collect herself before scratching at the box again.
“Her heart was racing wildy now. she didn’t know how much time had passed. Marigold could not see the sun or the sky or the stars.” Her paws went faster and faster and more and more aggressive. And then she stabbed at the box, her claws breaking through the material as she ripped a gaping hole through the material. Her legs were shaking as she emerged from the confines of paper and darkness. When she was finally free, it was dark. Her legs were stiff, and her lungs were gasping for the fresh air of the outside world. She realized, in this moment, that she hadn’t 26
been outside in quite a long time. Grass and clean air were two things she would never take advantage of again, she noted to herself. A dim street light shone above, the only thing illuminating the dark path she found herself standing before. She spotted dark movement from the corner of her eyes and nearly lept out of her skin, but she felt foolish when she noticed it was only her own shadow. The humans were nowhere to be seen. This must have been a mistake, Mari thought with a flick of her tail. But she was too exhausted from the draining journey to think about how she would find them, how she would return home, and sleep beckoned her with a kind and gentle caress. They would probably come to retrieve her later in they day when they realized they had made a mistake. She felt exposed sleeping in the open air, so she dragged her body over to a tree surrounded by some bushes. Mari was somewhat covered and blended in with her surroundings, but she did not feel trapped like she had been in the box. And before she could even ruminate about how she felt while trapped in the box, she collapsed into a deep slumber. The sun filtered through the leaves, speckling Mari’s coat, changing the solid orange to a sea of tan and
fiery gold. She awoke to find herself not in her fluffy bed but in a forest surrounded by trees. It took her a moment to recall the events of the night before, and once she did, she felt a deep weight fall into the pit of her stomach. She stretched out her sore body, tail ruffling the undergrowth of the forest. Marigold perked her orange ears and noticed something underneath the sea of morning birdsong and chirping--paws scurrying and a timid heartbeat; and when a force she wasn’t initially aware of parter her jaws, she could nearly taste the soft flesh of some animal, the name of it she failed to place. She awkwardly careened forward, leaves rustling vigorously, blades of grass squashed beneath her clumsy paws and she followed the presence of her potential breakfast. The prey, however, was too quick for Mari’s unexperienced claws, and she watched bitterly as a long pink tail disappeared into the forest. “That was pitiful. Just pitiful.” She whirled around, heart still racing from the adrenaline of a hunt, and met
the eyes of the most beautiful tom she had ever seen (Granted, she hadn’t seen that many toms in her day, but she had definitely seen many cats peruse the field behind her human’s home. He was much more beautiful than Henry or Muffin). His blue-gray fur stood out like a sore paw in the sea of green leaves and brown tree bark, his dark eyes watching her with curiosity. His whiskers twitched with amusement at the sight he had just witnessed, which made Marigold wonder how long he had been watching her. “Hungry?” he continued, leading the female to realize she had never responded in the first place. Then again, initial statement wasn’t much of a question. It was more of an insult. But Marigold didn’t have a chance to feel offended because the awkward silence had begin to make her squirm. “Y-yes,” she stammered, suddenly realizing how warm and restless she felt under his watching eyes. His gaze hardened, watching Mari with curiosity.
“You aren’t from around here, are you?” “No.” “Where are you from?” “I don’t know.” “What do you mean, ‘you don’t know?’” “I told you. I. Don’t. Know,” she snapped, flicking her tail in irritation. He flinched, drawing his paws backs before purring in amusement. “Feisty, are you?” She didn’t utter any words, but Marigold,’s agitation showed through her eyes and spoke enough. “Do you have any food?” he asked. Mari swallowed. “No.” The tom studied her for a long while. “I thought so. You look like a disaster. Come with me,” he meowed curtly and began to trot away. Mari blinked before letting out a scoff. “I don’t even know your name, so no, I’m not following you. How do I know you won’t murder me or something?” The tom spun around. “You’d be dumb to stay behind here and die.” He continued to walk away. Marigold thought for a moment before finally giving in and bounding after him. v
Fish Princes In the summer I kiss fish For young girls, I do. It’s impossible to tell under silvery scales, if there hides a royal’s visage, Or in alien eyes a hideous curse. Maybe in graceful fins lie a noble’s lineage, Or in rippling frills a claim to the throne. A pure maiden’s kiss can lift the spell and restore a prince to his former splendor. Then, in a rush of magic She is spirited away to become queen And Never to return. But in the summer It is hot And humid And exhausting And I don’t really qualify as “pure” anyway. But as I press my lips to the soft, sharp, scales Which taste strange, like the fresh grass or a cool drink in the midst of summer, I quietly tell the prince That There is no kingdom waiting for him No princess to rescue No evil to banish. But There are young girls who Still see the magic in a fish in a frog in a cat And everything in between and beyond. So I softly whisper to a scaled prince as he is placed back into the sapphire lake, That he is a magic fish 28
Which brings joy, Laughter which rings out as lively as silver bells, And I couldn’t wish for more. In the summer, I kiss fish For a young girl’s smile And her laugh, I do. Jenna Hall
Flying This isn’t peace, it’s my heart stopping between wingbeats, praying this updraft holds me. It’s slowing my fall just enough that my feet don’t splinter on the ground. I’m barely cutting through the headwind. There is no calm above the clouds, only a breathtaking view and thinning air. Not freedom, but distance between one destination and another, between sea foam and frayed feathers, there’s only one surrender from air to water filling my lungs. Thin as a string, without even that to hold me up. I fall and I fall, but still, I hope. Haley Renee Born Missouri Region Scholastic Honorable Mention
Outside of Time
hen it was first discovered, the knowledge was immediately hidden. Only a choice few knew: myself and the rest of my team, not even the government. We all decided that this was of the best, if the knowledge had become public, it would have become a humanitarian’s worst nightmare. Just imagine it: normal citizens, even the kindest ones, abandoning any morals in the idea that they could gain immortality, even if at the cost of another person’s life force. There would inevitably be crying that it wasn’t fair that we kept this secret for ourselves when so many could benefit from it, while others would want this “borrowed time” for themselves or terminal loved ones. But amid all this, if humanity were to ever find out, would there ever be any thought for those who were sucked dry of their lifespan, stripped of any available time to live? I still can recall, when me and my team first discovered it, our fears for a future in which humans were bred to sell their lifespans to the highest bidder. I’d like to believe that we made the right choice of destroying all our research, hiding all the potentially disastrous knowledge in the realm of the forgotten. We made a pact to take this knowledge to our deaths, keeping it guarded until the last person who could even remember the tests and trials was dust in their grave. I admit I have kept my promise, though not as my partners would have liked me to. When I die, such secret will officially cease to exist. I simply must die first, which I doubt will happen any time soon. hen we first started to find the key to immortality, we never planned to test on people. Even we, crusaders on a quest to conquer death itself, had humanity. I personally had first tried the process on a mouse. Quickly, as the process kicked in, I had
felt more energetic than before. Two years. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t met that mouse, wonder if that moment had been the catalyst for all I have become. We slowly made our way up the animal kingdom, trying on animals with increasingly longer lifespans. Five years from a duck. Ten from a dog. Eighty years from a turtle. With animals it was easy, we were able to simply tell ourselves that this was a test to avoid the guilt of what we were doing. At that point, none of us were doing this out of malice. We had truly thought that we could save humanity, find a safe way for everyone to beat death. But you could only get so much from animals, only so many years. Eventually we had to try this test on a human; we all knew it was inevitable. Did you know the longest living human died at the age of 122? We couldn’t exactly just recruit a test subject for this off the street. Just imagine how that interaction would have gone: “Hey, do you want to give up the rest of your lifespan for science? Wait, wait no, I’m not a serial killer.” It would have been the truth – I didn’t consider myself a serial killer at that point. We couldn’t just take someone who was already on their deathbed though. Sure, they might have been a bit more willing, or at least too drugged up to mind, but they had barely any time left to give. Even now, years later, I’m not sure where we found her. I had never wanted to know – I never asked – it would have made her more real, more human. One of the others brought her in: a scrawny child with a messy mop of hair hiding her face, a pair of bright eyes shining behind her locks. That moment I snuffed out that shine was the moment when we knew that none of this could be justified in the name of science. We – I – had become monsters.
One by one, the others fell victims to their own demons. Poison, drugs, a bullet to the brain, anything worked for them. I was the only one not to succumb to my demons. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt terrible about what I had become, and there were moments I wanted to off myself just like how my colleagues had. It was just that I had become devoted to making sure that all the life I had taken was liven to its fullest. I think at that point I had borrowed somewhere around 400 years of life. Some would say I was addicted to the borrowing, to the taking of lifetimes. It had been so long since the little girl by the time I fell to my cravings. I was surprised I hadn’t forgotten the process by then, though I guess its one of those things that get ingrained into you mind, like riding a bicycle (another thing I hadn’t done in so long). After the little girl, the one with such bright eyes, I chose a little orphan boy from some foreign country – I could never understand what he said to me before I borrowed his time, and I still can’t understand him now. Then there was a hitchhiker along a lonely stretch of a cornfield, a crying baby in a refugee camp, a prostitute in a big city. There were others too. I remember all of them, all those who gave me another thousand years to live. Years and lifetimes passed slowly. It was like those sob stories in fiction where that vampire or other immortal laments about how they live with lives untouched as the world rushes by. The loneliness of the situa-
tion would drive even the strongest insane; I can admit I had my low points. Without any human connections (I tried to stay away to avoid the cravings to borrow more), voices started to speak to me. Maybe they were the souls of those I had stolen from, maybe I was just unraveling, I don’t know. They were evil little things, whispering and taunting, making me crave for death. But they were a constant, a companionship I couldn’t outlive, and because of that I grew fond of them. Their voices filled my head, drowning out my own thoughts. How could I think of how I should feel guilty when I’m instead hearing a teenager whisper her tales of damp apartments and abusive boyfriends into my mind’s ear. Stories like this made me feel almost justified in my borrowing. All these people were wasting away such precious time, miserable in the lives they were given. I was doing them a service: giving their lives a purpose. Their time wasn’t being wasted on their own misery any longer, I was living it to the fullest potential. Surely I, after living for such a long time as I have, knew how much life was worth. They should be happy that I’m doing them such a kind favor. Now surely you can’t blame me for taking lives and time. They are such a valuable resource after all. I’ll eventually keep my earthly promise to die, and with it the promise to take the secret of immortality with me, but until then I’ll be a god among mortals, putting their lives to better use.m
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
Haley Renee Born
aura, what are you doing?” “Leaving.” “You’ve gotta work.” “Doesn’t matter, it’s almost over,” she
“Your shift’s not up for another four hours.” Her coworker stamped a customer’s order code into the pad next to the screen. Its preparation began with a whir. “Not my shift, everything. Everything’s almost over,” she added. The coworker hesitated, fingers hovering over the handle to open the food dispenser. Laura left, shrugging off the heat and grease of the food she served, irradiated to life. Her feet beat the hull of the ship christened New World, hers and all the human feet left in the universe. Such a weight to place on something so hastily constructed and so long ago. She barely saw it, barely cared. She arrived in the observatory. It’s dark cavern of thick glass used to be full all the time, in the early days when humanity was still enamored with the universe. Before they realized the stars are just old light. Dark and dark and dark and light. That’s all. Laura turned to the sculpture sitting at the center of the lightless dome. Its six steel arms raised in imitation of a god they had long grown out of. The only gods left were constellations, and they all eventually passed in the wake of toxic gas and the hum of engines. “When will the world end?” Laura asked the sculpture. Its eyes shimmered, two marbles set deep in a metal face, focusing on something very far away. She studied the shiny convex surfaces, trying to catch what it could see. What she could only feel. “The world ended on March 15, 2019.” Its voice was water dripping in a cave.
“I mean, when will the New World end?” “Not for many years,” It said. “Why are you lying?” Its eyes didn’t slide to see her, its finger joints didn’t bend. The only movement in the neglected room was the fish. The fish in the torso shaped tank of the sculpture. Red koi swirled in the dark water. Water that looked like the sea at night, only no one who had seen Earth’s oceans was alive to remember them. “I am incapable of lying,” It said. “I don’t think so. They made you right, they made it so you would know. I bet they forgot to make sure you’d tell us. But I know. I know the end is tonight, not long now,” The fish stilled, for half a moment they floated, their round eyes like tens of tiny observatories, observing her. Then back to swimming, slow flashes of ruby, fins pulling at the small starlight. “Why not tell us? Why not be honest? That’s what they made you for, so we would know when we were out of time.” The fish moved out as one, approaching the glass, then back to the center. Just like a sigh. “The New World will live for many years to come.” “No it won’t. It dies tonight. I already know, I can feel it.” She watched the koi. If it were to tell the truth, to admit the end was near, a silver stream of mercury would slip from its steel skull and fall into the tank. Designed as a warning, but designed. She imagined the fish shimmering and dead like the stars, belly up. “I wonder who feeds them,” “I do.” Those eyes like wells, the whole universe swimming in their glassy shadows. Still water silence filled the observatory. “They
are alive, a part of me, and yet, I am empty. Nothing but space and mercury.” The darkness rippled. “You don’t want to hurt them,” She saw the flick and sway of their long tails and knew they were beautiful. The sculpture was large and seated upon a raised platform, but she could still reach it. She placed a hand against the glass. The fish flinched away, but slowly they returned to study the pale starfish of her fingers on the edge of their cold, dark world. “They trust me,” it said. “The world will live on,” It said. “We’ll all be dead and together soon enough, what does it matter?” With a sudden and startling creak of metal, the statue turned, bending so its large plated face was just near Laura’s. “Yes, what does it matter?” Up close its eyes seemed impossibly deep, stardust sealed in an endless, reflective darkness. She drew away. “It matters to us. Well, to others. I already know it’s ending, so soon, so soon,” It moved back so that you’d never know it had done anything but just sit there. “If you knew, you wouldn’t need me,” She thought on that. “Perhaps not,” She thought some more. “Do you wish we had never wanted you? Do wish we had never wanted to know?” “They never did. They only thought they did. They thought and thought and didn’t feel. Like me,” It let its three sets of arms down, at last creaking stiff joints to rest at the tank’s sides. The clinking of metal on glass scattered the koi. “No, not like you. You won’t hurt them. You must feel, or you’d just tell us and the fish would die and it would be over,” “How could I? How could I do that? They trust me, they don’t know or understand. They think they know what they want from me but they don’t. They can’t see anything outside
their cold, dark, little world. Not like I can,” It stared past the stars. “I know, I know, but it doesn’t matter. Soon nothing will,” “Perhaps not,” It paused. “but then why don’t you tell them?” “They wouldn’t believe me” “You barely believe you. Because you can’t see either,” She moved right to the edge of the room until her nose almost touched the barrier between her and all that old light, just pinpricks in the dark. “You can only feel, blind and feeling is what you are. You don’t know, so you want me to tell you what I see, what I know. Or maybe you do know, but you wish you didn’t,” Silence settled over them again. Laura watched the stars and tried to imagine their planets, warmed by fresh light. She couldn’t see anything but dust. “And so I don’t tell them,” A star caught her eye, its frosted white light flickering, growing. “Will it be fast?” “No,” “Will it hurt?” The single star stretched, fingers of light splayed like a starfish. “No, nothing but your eyes, if you don’t close them,” Laura was no longer alone. She didn’t turn but knew that her coworker, and her dentist, and her mother were there, alongside those she wouldn’t be able to place or never knew. The observatory was once again full of people, faces turned to the glimmering membrane. Beyond it, the light was huge and brand new. “I suppose it really doesn’t matter,” The sculpture said. A silver koi drifted to the top of the dark water, scales pressing against the glass.f
Dancing Dancing in the moonlight. Twirling around the stars. Spinning around Mercury, Venus and Mars. Swaying around in the dusk. Whirling in the night. Singing to the moon. Serenading the stars. Trill to Mercury, Venus and Mars. Crooning to the dusk. Warbling to the night. The dreamer slowly awakes form enjoying her midnight show The animals she thinks loves her for them Their funny trills joining her singing and their whirling her dancing. The dream feels so magically really that it brings her more joy then seeing her self onstage in her dreams. The stage she desires is more natural. The air is sweet as she returns to her dream world Maddy Fisher
Ameilia Crawford 34
Stories from Lemuit: A New Blackwyvern Xander Stultz
oleus Dragoon, Blackwyvern of the Explorer’s League, marveled at the cave paintings in front of him. Each was meticulously painted in reds, oranges, blacks, and whites. There were three main murals in the cavern, each evenly spaced apart on the rough slate walls. One painting depicted a lion, another a wyvern, and the last a bear. Coleus stood before the bear mural, inspecting it. Black and white figures knelt in front of these animals in a reverent way, worshipping the painted animals. The creatures were artistically covered with black filigree markings, and a single diamond-shaped gem adorned each of their foreheads. Red and orange filigree connected the murals into one large art piece. Unfortunately for Coleus’ crew, time had been unkind to the flaking paint. The bear, like the other painted animals, had a dull white base, weathered and faded from the years. Vines grew to the sparse patches of light that peeked into the cavern through cracks in the cave’s ceiling, and there were splotches of verdant moss everywhere else, seriously damaging the paint it grew on. The ruins were like a story written as if a child had smudged its grimy hands all over the 35
pages. As for the meaning of that story, Coleus had no clue where to begin. Didn’t that Seraff mention a riddle somewhere? The Blackwyvern stroked his beard in thought; it was scraggly from days gone without shaving. His normally clean-cut blonde hair had become an unkept mop over the course of the journey as well. His cloak and shirt were crusted with dirt and mud and the ebony plating of his armor had protected him from the crash of rubble created when the crew uncovered the ruins. At his side was the sheathed Blackwyvern sword, which embellished an engraved wyvern along a black steel blade. Clopping boots neared Coleus, and the Blackwyven turned to see his Second, Fern, approach and offer a leather notebook with outstretched hands. The lanky kid hadn’t bothered to change clothes since they discovered the ruins the previous day. Fern looked dirty, disgusting, and unpresentable, dirty blonde hair looking more “dirty” than “blonde” thanks to layers of mud and sweat. He looked just as any good explorer should. “These are the notes I took regarding the murals and their meanings,” he said rather formally. He was anxious, shoulders raised and hands clenched. Coleus didn’t blame
him. It was the first time the Blackwyvern would assess his work for this expedition. If Fern was lucky, he’d come out of the process relatively unscathed. However, he usually received various curses, insults, and doubts of his ability when his mentor read Fern’s first draft of expedition notes. Coleus flipped through the pages of the notebook, mumbling to himself as he read. “The murals depict a lion, wyvern, and bear… possibly depicting Carbunkles… while the Lion is known, there is no common knowledge of a wyvern or bear Carbunkle… while colors and art style suggest Nari handiwork, location suggests otherwise… note the “worshippers” do not have horns, and therefore cannot be Nari… definitely of the pre-Seraffin era… filigree flows from mural to mural, and has already revealed Lanto writings-” The Blackwyvern abruptly glanced up from the notebook and glared at his Second. “You discovered what?” Fern paled. “Some crew members found Lanto script that melded with the filigree over by the wyvern.” He audibly gulped. “I was going to tell you after you read the descriptions…” Coleus, after a long moment of staring down his apprentice, let out a frustrated sigh. “Come to me before you ever consider to investigate
something. I want to know what is happening at all times, understand?” “I understand, Blackwyvern. I’ll go, uh, check with the linguist and see where we are on a translation for the script,” Fern said awkwardly, taking the notebook from his master’s hands. The razors in Coleus’ voice persuaded him to hurry along to the linguist. “Second?” Coleus called. Fern paused before he’d gone too far. The kid looked back and made eye contact like he was taught. “Good thought about the Carbunkles. I thought of it too. This could potentially prove the existence of two never-beforeseen Carbunkles.” Coleus could almost hear Fern beaming as he gave the kid a satisfied, smug look. It was as close as Coleus could get to a smile. His apprentice bowed and made his leave. The Blackwyvern made his way to the center of the cavern, which was slightly raised like a pavilion. He sat on the lip of the platform and simply took in the cave, glancing back at his apprentice from time to time to check on him. Fern was coming along nicely with his work. He spoke calmly but firmly to the linguist, a Lanto man, standing beside him while they worked together to decipher the writing. That gave a subtle impression to the linguist that Fern believed himself equal 36
to the man. Smart move. It would make the linguist more apt to work with Fern, rather than against him in some sort of competition. While his Second had the skills to be a great Blackwyvern, he lacked a thick skin, something Coleus aimed to develop. The kid’s Aidyllic values would make him weak when he couldn’t afford to be held back by pesky morals. Nonetheless, he could be great. Fern Rond would be the successor to the greatest Blackwyvern that ever lived, he was bound to glean some glory off his mentor’s legacy. Fer stopped conversing with the linguist when he stole a glance at his mentor. “Are you… smiling?” he asked the Blackwyvern. Coleus immediately frowned. “No.” He let the “mhm” and the eye roll from Fern slide. Most in the crew would be skinned alive for that behavior, but Fern was a different case, being the Blackwyvern’s Second. The kid had worked tirelessly to earn his position, and that position granted him entitlement to a little favoritism and leeway. Fern finished the conversation with the linguist and met with his mentor. He stood over Coleus, who was still sitting on the edge of the pavilion. He plopped his leather notebook into Coleus’ outstretched hand. “This,” he said, “is the Rysanthian trans-
lation for the Lanto script.” Before Coleus began reading, Fern added, “The rhyming scheme was lost through translation, and there’s a lot of things that don’t make sense. I think it’s some kind of riddle.” Indeed, the word “riddle” was underlined twice with three question marks in the notebook. The Blackwyvern began to read:
Fern paused to steady himself. “Well it means ‘to die’.” The Blackwyvern had a sly grin, a glint of madness in his eyes. He loved the rush of a life-or-death situation. Looking about the room, he said, “I hardly think there’s any danger in here, Second. The riddle must be full of clues to get to other rooms in the temple.”
‘The Life Finder walks a dangerous road, Should he choose to follow. To open trapped paths and untold gold He must life lick the altar. The Life Finder must lift the unbearable weight and walk on light Lest he want to hear his friends’ cries. The Life Finder must survive the shafts or feed grass, And fly through the field or stop. If the Life Finder succeeds at all these tasks And proves his worth, The bear will share his treasure.’ “I agree,” Coleus conceded. “This makes no sense.” “Obviously, a lot of the colloquial meanings were lost through translation,” Fern stated. “There were so many idioms that just don’t make sense in Rysanthian. The linguist did explain one of the idioms though. “‘Feed grass’ is a Lanto idiom for…”
“May the great Sovereign forgive me,” Coleus added sarcastically. “Now get to work.” His apprentice cocked his head. “How do you know this is a temple?” Soot, the Blackwyvern thought. He hadn’t meant to say that. If his apprentice found out he knew more about the location than he was letting on, it could spell disaster for his reputation. Recovering quickly, Coleus asked, “Do you want to take the lead on this?” The kid was starstruck. “Y-yes,” he stuttered. “You do know why I’m doing this, yeah?” Fern nodded. “It’s supposed to give me experience and whatnot.” “And whatnot,” Coleus mocked with a casual air. “Plus, you’re cleverer than me. If anyone can figure the riddle out, it’s you,” he admitted. 37
The kid’s jaw dropped. Coleus held up his hands in defeat. “What can I say? It’s true.” Fern’s mouth was still gaping. “Yes, yes, I know, I gave you a compliment at my expense,” Coleus said, trying to spur his apprentice to action. The kid still stood in front of him. Couldn’t he just move already? “May the great Sovereign forgive me,” Coleus added sarcastically. “Now get to work.” Fern sat shocked for a moment more, then began to sort out the riddle as he was told. Grabbing the notebook, he started jotting down ideas. “Ok. It appears the first two phrases are filler, they’re the setting for the story. The third literally tells us there will be traps. We need to figure out the fourth phrase. “Life lick”? That could be blood,” Fern suggested. Coleus stood and drew his knife with a dramatic flair, which startled his apprentice. However, the Blackwyvern turned the knife to himself, pulled off his right glove, and pricked his pinky finger. He let the blood drip in the center of the pavilion. “I don’t think blood will do it,” he said. Coleus called for the crew’s medic. “Uh… life licking… life eating…?” Fern shook his head. “No, that doesn’t make sense.” He yelled to
the linguist, “What is “life” in Lanto?” “Filo,” the linguist yelled back. “What about “Filigree”?” “The art or what Filigrists use?” “What Filigrists use, you clacker!” The curse earned Fern a satisfied, smug look from Coleus as the medic bandaged his finger. “Filoi.” “Aha!” Fern exclaimed triumphantly. “It’s like a pun, but in a completely different language!” “It’s called a malapropism, Second,” the Lanto man interjected. Fern shot him a glance of daggers. “Explain,” Coleus commanded. The medic had gone back to his duties. Fern happily obeyed. “‘Life’ and ‘Filigree’ are almost the same word in Lanto. In fact, it seems “Filigree” is based on the word for “life”. As for the licking part? That’s the fire of Filigree. You know how fire ‘licks’?” “We don’t have a Filigrist with us,” Coleus pointed out. It was something this expedition was supposed to fix. “Yes, but maybe we can cheat a little.” He yelled to the linguist again, “What about ‘fire’?” “Filio. Are you done now?” Looking up at his mentor, Fern said, “I think the filigree paint may reveal more than just a riddle. It could be Filigree, with a capital “F”.
Maybe it’s even the altar the riddle speaks of.” Coleus stroked his scraggly beard, nodding. “Go ahead, Second.” Motioning for a torch to be brought to him, Fern approached the walls of the cavern. Casting an eerie shadow across the floor of the temple, a crew member dropped a torch into Fern’s hand. He reached up with the flames and tapped the end of the burning stick to the painted filigree that connected the murals. Nothing. The crew members that had gathered around the Blackwyvern’s Second disappointedly let out a breath of anticipation and went back about their various duties. Fern frowned, still holding the fire to the paint. “So much for that idea.” Coleus patted his apprentice on the shoulder. “We can try someth-” The wall erupted into flame. Fire from the torch blossomed across the painted filigree, causing the paint to burn bright white. Fern jumped back, dropping the torch. The crew members, Coleus included, watched the flames snake across the paintings throughout the room with awe. It illuminated the entire temple with holy firelight. As soon as fire fueled part of the filigree paint, it came to life. The flaming white filigree rose off the walls and writhed 38
in the air in a fixed position above the stone, like a layer of oil on water. It was oddly similar to a Filigrist’s magic. After the initial burst of fire had fueled all the paint, the bright white glow died down to a flaming orange like proper Filigree. The flames had eaten through the vines and moss that had grown over them. Strangely, the fires never touched the murals of the “Carbunkles”, rather framing them in wispy embers. Altars indeed, Coleus thought. The Blackwyvern gazed around the room. Nothing had changed. There was no hidden door or passage activated by the Filigree as he had suspected. It seemed the Filigree only served to provide light to the temple. “This was a waste of time,” he muttered. No one heard him over the dull roar of the fire. Coleus left the wall of the cavern and sat back down at the pavilion. His patience was growing thin. How was he ever supposed to find that Carbunkle if he couldn’t even solve a sooting riddle? This temple was supposed to make him famous, immortal in the historical texts, a new Blackwyvern for all of Lemiut to remember. That Seraff had lied, and Coleus was a fool for listening to it. He should have just killed it from the start. His Second approached him. “Coleus…?” he asked timidly.
The Blackwyvern stood in a fit of anger and bellowed, “You do not call me by that name!” The entire cavern went quiet. The crew members watched silently as the Blackwyvern continued to chew out his apprentice. “I am your Blackwyvern. You will refer to me as such, Second. Do you understand?” Fern nodded, looking at his muddy boots. “Do you understand?” the Blackwyvern repeated. He hated repeating himself. “Yes, Blackwyvern,” Fern said, refusing to look at his master. He bowed low and left Coleus standing there, going back to the linguist. The Blackwyvern peered throughout the temple at his crew, eyes full of rage and loathing. The crew quickly went back to work taking samples and documenting the changes in the room. While glaring at his crew, Coleus spotted something. There was a gap in the slithering flames, large enough for a hand to fit through. Maybe it was a button to open a secret door. The Blackwyvern glanced around the room. There was no other space like that in the Filigree. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Making his way to the temple wall, Coleus waved for a crew member to follow. Fern sensed his mentor was up to something and spectated from a safe distance.
the fire, the At Blackwyvern instructed, “Press that portion of the wall,” pointing to the stone space. The man didn’t question his master. Gingerly, he reached out his gloved hand and touched the stone wall, ensuring the embers didn’t graze him. Nothing.
“The crackling markings crept up the man’s arm and up his neck to his face like vines.” So far, so good. Coleus nodded to the crew member and the man pressed the wall. A click sounded as a seamless section of stone slid slightly back into the wall. The floor shook. The pavilion’s center sank and spun, revealing a spiral stone staircase. How on Lemiut’s Back did people build that sooting contraption? Coleus thought. The staircase alone proved the pre-Seraffin era could have been more advanced than he had thought, an astounding discovery in and of itself. While the entire temple watched the pavilion transform into a stairway, the crewmember who had activated the contraption began to scream. Coleus’ head snapped back to the man. The crew member’s hand 39
was still on the wall, but the Filigree had wrapped around his wrist, a rope of pure fire. It had begun to burn his gloves and sleeves, the fabric singeing and glowing with embers of its own. The crackling markings crept up the man’s arm and up his neck to his face like vines. Oddly, the Filigree itself didn’t outright burn the crew member’s skin, similar to a Filigrist’s flames. Of course, the man was still in burning clothing, and since the Filigree bound him in place, he stopped screaming as he became engulfed in fire. No one came to his aid as the man became a charred mess on the ground, fearing the flames would do the same to them. When the Filigree was through with the crew member, it slithered back into its position above the wall as if nothing happened. The Blackwyvern wrinkled his nose. It smelled awful. The smell of burning flesh never sat well with Coleus. He left the burning body of the crew member to investigate the new passage. The crew, however, was dumbfounded. Fern gaped back and forth from the corpse to his master. “You’re just leaving him?” Fern asked at last. The Blackwyvern ignored his apprentice’s question. “Answer me, Coleus!” Fern screamed. He soon realized his mistake. The Blackwyvern unsheathed his sword and
directed it toward his Second. “The next time you call me by that name,” he promised, “I will kill you with this sword.” Silence. The Blackwyvern continued, “He’s dead. Now we know the Filigree can kill us. Keep that in mind.” Fern took a moment to compose himself before he stomped over to his master, ignoring the sword at his throat. “How can you say that? We can’t just leave him. He deserves a burial,” the kid said. Coleus narrowed his eyes, staring back at Fern unimpressed. “If you believe he requires an immediate ritual for the dead or some other dumb Aidyllic thing, then do it.” He paused to look back at the ashen corpse, then addressed his Second with bravado, “Know the rest of the crew will move on. We are on the edge of something big here, and if you waste time with that body, you will not be a part of it. Are you really willing to give up everything you’ve worked toward to pay respect to a dead man?” Fern held the stare a moment longer, trying to find some empathy in the Blackwyvern’s eyes. There was none. Coleus’ apprentice walked away from him, grabbing a blanket from a nearby crew member and gently covered the body with it. Fern’s face was grim but determined as he circled back to the pavilion.
“Good,” Coleus said. He sheathed his sword at last, facing his crew and declaring, “We move on. You will all come to the next room, no matter how much there is still left to do in here. We will need every member in order to make it through this temple. You will follow me and do as I say, understand?” The crew mumbled halfhearted affirmations, and the Blackwyvern descended the spiral staircase. ountless traps within the temple had picked off the Blackwyvern’s crew one by one until only Coleus and his Second remained. They reeked of sweat, blood, and the smell of burning flesh. The Blackwyvern was panting heavily after narrowly escaping a guillotine-like contraption, and Fern was bent over, just having emptied his stomach for the fourth time that day. But they had done it. They had reached the end of the temple’s winding, deathridden path. The Blackwyvern and his Second now stood in a room of clean-cut stone. Its walls were covered with orange flaming Filigree, just like the rest of the temple. The fire made way for cultivated vines that grew up from wide troughs in the stone that held clear water on either side of the entrance. Directly in front of the entrance was a higher
pavilion, an altar of pure white stone, marble or quartz. On top of that altar sat a sleeping bear. Paw outstretched before it as a cushion, the bear’s eyes were closed, snoring. It was about twice the size of the local brown bears and its fur was stark white like fresh snow. Symmetric black filigree tattoo-like patterns adorned the creature’s bright body. In a fixed layer above these markings were identical filigree patterns, only made of crackling fire. The bear’s Filigree snaked off its body in places, creating an image of flaming tentacles dancing, floating off its fur. These tentacles of fiery Filigree rose and fell softly as the bear inhaled and exhaled. Embedded in the bear’s forehead was a large, diamondshaped, crystal clear gem. The unknown Carbunkle. Coleus took a wary step toward the Carbunkle, immediately stepping back as soon as the bear opened its eyes. The Blackwyvern heard his Second gulp and take a healthy step back as well. There was a shuffle of feet and then a plop on the floor. Coleus turned to see Fern kneeling on the ground, head bowed, and praying. Before he had time to scold his apprentice, the Carbunkle spoke. “Who are you?” it asked. Each word was slow and deliberate. Its voice deep and rugged, yet strangely human. The Bear’s Filigree darted
to and fro as the its mouth moved. The Blackwyvern immediately knelt on one knee. He had no intention of angering a Carbunkle today. “I am Coleus, Blackwyvern of the Explorer’s League,” he answered. The Bear looked unimpressed, already bored by the puny human that stood before it. “I am Ursilial. I assume you are here to gain part of my Filigree? Part of my magic?” Coleus’ heart was pounding in his chest. This was it. He was going to receive the fires of Filigree from a previously unknown Carbunkle and become a Filigrist, and in doing so he would go down in history as the greatest Blackwyvern of all time. A new Blackwyvern he would be, reborn in the flames of Filigree. Wealth, fame, and glory would all be his, so long as he could bring the proof home branded on his skin. With all this in mind, Coleus manically said, “Yes.” The Bear huffed, “I am afraid your search has been in vain, then. I will not share my power with you.” The Blackwyvern broke. He gazed up at the Carbunkle. “I’m sorry, what?” he laughed, pretending it was a joke. He was trying to fool himself more than the Bear. Slowly rising to its feet, the Bear continued, “Did you believe I was like Pio, the Scorpion? Or Leonti, the Lion?”
It stepped off its altar and paced to Coleus, claws clacking on the stone floor. “Did you think I would just give you part of my power simply for finding me?” The Bear narrowed its beady eyes at the Blackwyvern.
“Fern curled over as blood began to dribble from his nose to the stone floor.” “One must be worthy to receive part of my magic, and you, Coleus, are not worthy in the slightest.” “I deserve this!” Coleus cried. “I survived your traps and solved your riddles! You owe me Filigree, beast!” The Bear growled, “I owe you, Blackwyvern? Do not mistake me. You do not deserve my magic. Your reactions here are a clear reason as to why. Besides, you did not reach this far on your own, you didn’t even solve the riddles. You had help. Because of your actions, your help did not survive long enough to kneel before me as you do now. I can smell their burning skin on you,” it said, returning to its altar. “You reek of death.” Coleus stood as the Bear sat on the stone, drawing his sword from its scabbard. “No,” he said. “No. I will get 41
Filigree from you, one way or another.” The Blackwyvern took one step toward the Carbunkle before being stopped by a hand on his shoulder. “You will not harm the Carbunkle,” Fern firmly stated from behind him. The Blackwyvern sheathed his sword slowly, then suddenly spun to knock Fern to the ground. “Do you think this thing is holy, Second?” the Blackwyvern asked, pointing an accusing finger at the Carbunkle. “Do you honestly think it’s something sent by Sovereign to better humanity? This thing, this animal, is nothing more than just that,” the Blackwyvern said. He kicked his apprentice with his cleated boots, unhitching the scabbard at his side to beat Fern. Fern defended himself best he could from the ground, crawling back as his master continued to spit blasphemy. “It’s not holy,” he said. Thwack. “It’s not divine.” Thwack. “It’s only powerful.” Thwack. “And I want that power.” Thwack. “I deserve it.” The Blackwyvern kicked Fern’s face, and his Second fell back near the fiery wall. Fern curled over as blood began to dribble from his nose to the stone floor.
Towering over his beaten apprentice, Coleus rambled on, “It’s just like the Seraffs, masquerading as something that should be worshipped.” The Blackwyvern drew the sword once more and tossed the scabbard aside. He held his blade high, black steel shimmering in the firelight as he poised for a fatal strike. Coleus added with maniacal glee, “I bet it tastes like one too.” “What?” Fern asked, shocked. “You ate a Seraff?” “Yes, I did,” said the Blackwyvern, a wicked grin on his lips. “You’re a monster,” Fern said, gazing up with horror at his master. The Blackwyvern paused at this for a moment, lowering the Blackwyvern blade. He replied, “No, I’m human.” He bent down to jeer at his broken apprentice. “How do you think I learned of this place? I found a Seraff on one of my expeditions and captured it. Do you know what Seraffs actually look like?” “I met one, once,” his apprentice croaked. His mouth dribbled blood from one side. “It saved me from people like you. They’re our protectors, just like the Carbunkle.” “But they’re not! You know Seraffs aren’t even remotely human! They’re lizardy, buggy, disgusting creatures. They’re animals that fool us into thinking they’re
human. They’re not divine in the slightest.” “This Seraff was no different. It begged to be released, even offering information on some Carbunkle locations for its freedom. I happily obliged. When it was finished telling me all it knew, I killed it, with this very sword. I couldn’t just let it wander about, maybe telling its friends about me. That would be a hazard to my health. Of course, I had to dispose of the body, but I wondered, “What does a Seraff, a holy being, taste like?”” The Blackwyvern chuckled darkly, “I guess I let my Luroon curiosity get the best of me.” “You were wrong, Coleus,” Fern wheezed. He struggled to breathe. Lifting his head, he peered into the eyes of the Blackwyvern. “You aren’t human.” The Blackwyvern figured it was time to make good on the promise he made to his apprentice, but before Coleus lifted his sword to strike, Fern screamed in agony. The Blackwyvern noticed a tendril of fire, a small thread of Filigree, that had coiled around Fern’s wrist. It slowly began to slither its way up Fern’s arm, burning through the sleeve to his tunic. An identical rope of flame wrapped around Fern’s other wrist, binding him in place, a prisoner awaiting execution. Coleus gave his Second one last satisfied, smug look and lowered his sword, turn42
ing away from his apprentice. Fern soon stopped screaming. The Blackwyvern didn’t need to kill him. He was dead anyway. The Blackwyvern approached the Carbunkle, who had sat and watched the confrontation between Coleus and his Second. He dragged his sword along the stone, scraping the sacred ground with the black blade. There was a hunger in his eyes, a lust for power. And it was his for the taking. “Are you going to kill me? A Carbunkle? Do you know what happens to those who kill Carbunkles?” asked the Bear, not at all afraid. It was smiling. How did a Bear smile? The better question was: “Why are you smiling?” the Blackwyvern asked. He sensed something was amiss. The Bear huffed, “I finally found someone worthy of my power.” Coleus now smiled too. “I passed your little test, then?” “No, you did not.” Coleus felt a scorching pain flare up from his ankle as Filigree wrapped around his leg. The Blackwyvern fell to the floor, sword clanging on the stone beside him. He was dragged, screaming, by the rope of fire to a wall. It was a slow process, the Blackwyvern fighting back every single moment. He kicked the flames, even grasped at the floor before him, but to no avail. The
flaming Filigree had bound Coleus’ legs together and soon wrapped his arms to his torso like a fiery cocoon. His clothing was burning. His cloak and ebony plating were succumbing to the flames. As he was propped up against the fiery wall, Coleus beheld a truly awful sight. There was Fern standing before him, his eyes bright, but his face dark. The sleeves to his tunic had burned away, but black, tattoo-like Filigree markings were on his arms and wrists where the fire had branded him. Above them lay a shimmering layer of fire in the same patterns. It was the same effect as the walls, a layer of fire floating above identical markings, only on Fern. Fern was a Filigrist His apprentice’s ropes of pure fire coiled around the Blackwyvern’s body, pressing Coleus into the wall as the surrounding Filigree grasped him and burned the Blackwyvern alive.
ern stood before the flaming corpse of his master, not disgusted, not guilty, not anything. He felt numb. He had killed his master and mentor with a power that was meant to be holy. What he had just done was not holy. Fern let his flames retreat back to his arms, somehow making them subside and fall back into the markings from which they originated. He
didn’t want to touch the body of a madman with his magic any longer. “I see you already have a grasp of how to control the power I have given you,” the Bear observed. He looked down at his arms, spying the new markings on his skin. They looked like black tattoos, and they didn’t hurt, but he could feel something awesome emanating from them, something that was now a part of him. That same energy had stopped his bleeding, but he still ached from the kicks and bruises he had received from Coleus. “I’ve always seen Filigrists, even revered them,” he said with awe. He was actually talking to a Carbunkle, a creature imbued with divine power. He should stop and kneel before it, but he felt he didn’t need to. There was a strange bond, a connection between him and the Bear now. It felt… familiar. Welcoming. “I never thought I’d be one,” he said. He waited a moment before asking, “Why me?” “I will never grant a man Filigree if he will not be wise in using it,” the Bear said. “It was you who solved the first riddle, yes? You showed respect for men who died. You stood firm in what you believed. You challenged a monster who had power. You proved to have intelligence, compassion, and courage. You proved to be human.” 43
Fern asked quietly, “Filigrists are supposed to be holy, right? Granted gifts through the power of Sovereign? I… I killed someone. That wasn’t holy.” “You believe that?” the Bear asked. Fern struggled to comprehend the question. “Is that not true?” The Bear thought a moment, then replied, “To an extent. This power I have is now with you, and it is yours to do with as you please. Whether or not it is holy is up to consideration, but I believe it has the capability to be used for the betterment of humanity, like the Blackwyvern said.” “You don’t know where you got your Filigree?” Fern asked. “I do not recall what gave me the magic I have, it has been too long since that time. I fear I have forgotten the fire’s purpose. But I do know it was given to me by something truly awesome and powerful. That could be the Sovereign of which you speak.” Fern gave a melancholy smile. “I guess we’ll never quite know then.” A quiet moment passed, Fern testing his new power while Ursilial watched him. “Are you to return to your people?” the Bear asked at last, breaking the silence. It nodded to Coleus’ body, saying, “You have no need to stay here any longer.” It suddenly dawned on Fern the reality of his situa-
tion. He couldn’t return to the Explorer’s League, not with Filigree on his skin. They’d know he had found something, and they would do anything to get that information out of him, Blackwyvern or not. He was the new Blackwyvern now, wasn’t he? After a shaky breath, Fern expressed his dilemma to the Bear. It nodded, then said, “You rightly deserve the title of Blackwyvern, you cannot leave it. It is your duty to take up the mantle.” “But I’m a kid, there’s no way on Lemiut’s Back they’d take me as Blackwyvern.
They’d assume I killed him,” Fern said. “You did kill him,” the Bear pointed out. Fern let out a frustrated sigh and sat on the ground, cradling his head in his hands. “I did kill him. Soot. I killed him. Why doesn’t feel wrong? I mean, I know it should, but it doesn’t feel that way.” “Perhaps you feel that way because it was right. It was what he deserved,” the Bear offered. It seemed set in its opinion of Coleus. “Was it…?” Fern wondered. “Men are dead. I killed one of them, even if he was a terrible, terri-
ble person… I should bury them. They deserve at least that.” He slowly stood up and dusted himself off. He grabbed the Blackwyvern blade from where Coleus had dropped it, its black steel and engraved wyvern glistening in the light, swinging it so the flat edge was on his shoulder. He began walking toward the entrance of the room. “Have you any idea what you will do next?” asked the Bear from behind him. Fern didn’t face the Carbunkle as he answered fearfully, “No. No, I don’t.”v
Abigail Miles 44
Time Travel and Hapless Office Workers Jenna Hall
ffice power plays were horrible. Amy, a simple office worker stuck in a dead end job working for a corporationIt didn’t matter which one, they were all the same in the end-worked on the fifth floor of the corporate skyscraper. Her supervisor had his office on the fiftieth. Other than the fact that the difference was more than a little ludicrous-the next floor up would have gotten the point across well enough-the trek up to deliver papers (because this just had to be the most stereotypical corporation in existence, of course) was long and arduous. At least the elevator worked well. The one week it broke nearly sent the entire building into a riot. Regardless, it was working today, much to Amy’s relief. She leaned up against the wall of the glorified metal box, absentmindedly rubbing her thumb over the manilla folder with her printed report in it. Despite grumbling with her coworkers over the banality of the entire thing, It wasn’t that bad, and it was a chance to stand up for a while. Her eyes flicked over to the floor counter. Ninth floor.
If Amy had been paying attention to anything other than the aether, she might have noticed a ripple in the fabric of the universe, almost like a pebble being dropped into still waters. Alas, she was not, so when someone blundered into the elevator with her, it took Amy a bit to realize that first, this person was openly staring at her, and second, that said individual looked an awful lot like she did. “Who are you?” Amy asked. “Um,” the stranger said. Amy narrowed her eyes. “You aren’t me from the future, are you?” “No! That’s crazy. What led you to that conclusion?” the other said, surprised. “You’re not wearing office-friendly clothing,” Amy said. She and the stranger glanced down at the other woman’s clothing, taking in professional-enough casual and ragged clothes, a cross between sci-fi and whatever their wearer had found that fit. “That’s not enough to condemn someone as your future self,” The stranger argued back. “You look like the world just ended and I know that the secretaries would not have let you take two steps past the front doors in that 45
getup. Also you’ve got that scar on your face from when I decided to kiss an anemone when I was five.” The stranger thought for a second, then swore quietly. “ Fine, I’m you from the future. Happy now?” “Not really, no,” Amy answered truthfully. Future-Amy sighed and scuffed the relativelyclean floors with a boot. “I wouldn’t either. The world ended, most of humanity had been wiped out, yada yada. A friend of mine figured out time travel, so I went back in time to hopefully avert the event that doomed earth and all. Honestly,” she looked up through messy bangs, “It’s all fairly predictable.” “Oh.” Amy thought for a while. “Well, do you know what caused the world to basically end?” Future-Amy shrugged. “Not really, no. But I thought I might see the warning signs and be able to do something. And it’s nice to not breathe in miasma-choked air. The future makes Beijing look like the mountains.” As Amy opened her mouth to reply, The universe trembled again, this time more like a rock being chucked into a pond than anything else. She shut her mouth and frowned up at the ceiling of the slow moving elevator. Fourteenth floor. “Did you feel something?” she asked her future self.
“Maybe? My senses are kind of wacked up at the moment because of the time travel, honestly.” “Newsflash,” a new voice grumbled, “It didn’t work, and the future went to hell again.” Future-Amy jumped violently and spun around to face the origin of the voice, which turned out to be a familiar face, though missing an eye. “Good Lord, what happened to your face?” Both Amys exclaimed at roughly the same time. “The future happened,” the one-eyed Amy responded. She was dressed in clothes not as ruined as Future-Amy’s, but it was still really, really obvious that the one-eyed woman came from a future where humanity had met its match. “That’s really not helpful,” Future-Amy commented. “Look,” one-eyed Amy shot back, “the specifics don’t really matter because we can all agree that it was something stupid, like the one on our face from kissing an anemone or the one on your stomach that you got while trying to pick flowers next to a not-asdead-as-you-thought centurion husk.” Future-Amy groaned. “You don’t have to remind me of that.” “Okay,” Amy interjected, “We’ve settled that I make terrible life decisions. But seriously, what happened and who are you.” 46
One-eyed Amy rolled her shoulders. “She,” pointing at Future-Amy, “didn’t catch the calaticsm in time, so the future is still a place of darkness and despair and all that. So here I am, again, to maybe fix it and not have to worry about the water turning your friends into giant mutant bunnies.” “Okay,” Amy said, “But you know what to do this time, right?” “We knocked one course of action off.” “And that is…?” “Hers.” One-eyed Amy’s thumb jerked towards FutureAmy. “Can you stop calling me out now?” Future-Amy complained, “Besides, I’m not you yet, so it’s actually your fault.” “Actually-” The doors swung open on the seventeenth floor, and in came another one-eyed Amy. The only difference between her and the original one-eyed Amy was that the former had with her a small child. “Guess what you forgot?” she said to the other oneeyed woman. The first one eyed amy sighed. “The kid?” The second one-eyed Amy nodded, then turned and ran a finger over the elevator buttons, stopping at the button marked fourteen. Amy opened her mouth to say something, but then a flickering light emerged from
a previously unseen device on the second one-eyed Amy’s wrist. The lit-up button for the fiftieth floor flickered and faded, and then the second one-eyed Amy jabbed the button for the fourteenth floor. The elevator jerked, and then began to descend. “What was that?” FutureAmy asked. “Did you just hack the elevator? You can do that?” Amy asked, shocked. “Yes, I did. It comes in handy when it doesn’t want to budge because of the apoplectic future that basically devastated everything,” the second one-eyed amy responded distractedly, watching the floor numbers slowly decrease. “Okay.” Amy frowned. “But where is all of this sci-fi stuff coming from? “The future?” “That’s really not helpful.” The first one-eyed amy shrugged. “I don’t know, the government? Let me know if you ever find out.” “Isn’t the government destroyed in the future if just about everyone dies?” Amy asked. “You would think so, but for all they’re not politicians are surprisingly resilient.” The first one-eyed Amy responded. The doors slid open, and the second one-eyed Amy shoved the first one-eyed amy out the door. The she practi-
cally jammed the doors shut and pressed the button for the fiftieth floor. They started going up again. The now only one-eyed Amy let out a sigh of relief. “Good. now the commander won’t chew my head off. I knew I’d forgotten something.” “Won’t the other you get the same treatment anyway so it’s already happened to you?” Future Amy reasonably pointed out.
“Was that telekenisis?”Amy paused. “You know what, it probably was. I’m ready to accept just about anything at this point.” “I don’t like to think about that.” “Fair.” The child-who looked like she was five or so-began to tug on the tattered ends of the one-eyed Amy’s jacket. When the older woman finally looked down, the child gave her a pleading look. One-eyed Amy sighed. “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to eat. I’ll get you something soon, okay?” Amy thought for a moment, then pulled out a small bag of animal crackers. “Would this be okay?” 47
The girl’s eyes lit up when she spotted the bag, and it suddenly zoomed out of Amy’s grip and into the child’s hands. She-with a little difficulty-pried it open and popped the first cracker into her mouth, making soft and contented sounds as she munched on it. “Was that telekinesis?” Amy paused. “You know what, it probably was. I’m ready to accept just about anything at this point.” “What’s the deal with the kid anyway?” Future-Amy asked. The one-eyed Amy softly patted the girl’s head. “She was created by smashing a bunch of genetics together to try and create someone who could end the future’s enemies before they rose to their full power. Since they already kind of are at full strength, at least when I was there, I was supposed to take her back with me because I’m not as able to prevent the ruined future.” “Oh.” Future Amy said. “Also she was kind of stuck in those lab situations that generally turn out poorly in the sci-fi books, so I took her and then found out that they used a lot of my genetics because apparently I’m prime material for this.” “Oh.” Amy winced. Future Amy opened her mouth to“They named her Amy.” Future Amy ended with a long sigh.
The three women watched the little Amy eat blissfully eat crackers for a while, barely noticing the shuddering of the universe, this time like a small car flipping off a bridge and landing heavily into the river below. They looked up for a second (well, Amy and Future Amy did, one eyed Amy was having to calm a panicking, physically active child). “I’m pretty sure I felt something there,” Amy commented. “Me too, I think. She,” Future-Amy pointed at the young girl, “definitely did.” “What’s causing it?” Amy wondered. “Maybe something to do with the time travel?” Future Amy responded. “Then why didn’t we feel anything when the kid and Amy came along?” “I think there was, but we weren’t really focusing on that. I think it might have been like a rubber band being shot and rebounding off a wall into your face.” The doors opened on the thirty-second floor, revealing a young man, again dressed like everyone dies in the future and he was one of few survivors. His eyes flicked to each of the occupants, spending a long second on the oneeyed Amy. He timidly pulled a hand back. “I’m sorry, am I interrupting anything?” Everyone in the elevator turned and stared at him.
He eeped softly and took a step back. “Didn’t mean to bother you, I’ll-” “You’re not.” The oneeyed amy assured him as she caught his arm and dragged him in. “Mom! You don’t have to drag me!” “MOM?” both Future Amy and Amy exclaimed, drawing back dramatically. Even little Amy stared at the newcomer in shock, almost dropping her bag of crackers. The one-eyed Amy let go of him and shoved him into a reasonably clear space. With five people in one small box, four of them fully grown, it was getting a little crowded in there. “Explain,” She growled. “Well,” he started, glancing at the ceiling of the elevator as he thought, “I was created in the lab by mixing you and this other guy’s genetics together (I think he was some kind of hero or something) and kept secret for a good third of my life until you-and by that I mean the one-eyed grizzly over there-found out and dragged me out. Since she was a significant part of my genetic code, She’s kind of my mother and then decided to raise me as her own. Things stayed that way for almost sixteen years until she decided to tell me about time travel and give me a chance to avert the terrible future. I took it, so here I am.” “That explains that, but why are all of you appear48
ing right here, right now, in the same place?” Amy asked, pushing Future-Amy a little to the left so her elbow wasn’t digging into Amy’s side anymore. “The time travel machine stays in the same place when it travels back in time, so I stuck mine in the husk of the corporate skyscraper. There’s a storage room that nobody uses that fits it. You know, the one by the bathrooms,” Future-Amy said, finally feeling like she had something useful to add to the discussion. She wiggled as close as she could to the wall, trying to find some more space between Amy and her oneeyed counterpart. “I did the same thing.” The one-eyed Amy added while trying to maneuver into a more comfortable position without squishing little Amy. “I thought the old building had some sort of sentimental value to my mother.” “It doesn’t.” The oneeyed Amy told the young man. Amy blinked. “Can I not escape the corporation even when the future ends up a ruined wreck and everyone dies? Really? Do I still technically work there too or something?” The one-eyed Amy groaned. “I hope not. This was one of the worst times of my life, and I’ve lived through the end of the world twice, three times if you count that guy’s future.”
“They never actually fired us, did they?” FutureAmy mused. “The buildings and the people were just destroyed. We might still technically work there if the paperwork is intact.” The one-eyed Amy groaned and buried her head in her hands. Amy let out a long suffering sigh and absentmindedly shuffled her papers back into a more orderly shape. On her part, little Amy contemplated her last cracker, then stuck it back into the bag, unaffected by the current conversation. “Is this really that horrible?” The young man asked. “Anything would be better than everyone being slaughtered or subjugated by aliens and being carried off for who knows what.” “You’ve never faced the almost-reality of being forever crushed by the rich while only a little of your work actually pays you and not the sharks in charge,” Amy said. “That, and what’s your name? It never came up.” “My name’s Amy. I took it when I found out who my mother was but hadn’t met her yet,” Amy’s son offered in an attempt to change the mood of the room for the better. It instead had the opposite effect. Almost everyone in the small box made some sound of suffering and distress. “How are we this bad at names that aren’t ‘Amy’?” Amy commented.
“If it helps you’re something of a legend in the future,” Amy’s son added desperately, “friend and foe alike marvel at your fortitude and the fact that you’re still alive after witnessing the world end three times!”
“You’ve never faced the almostreality of being forever crushed by the rich while only a little of your work actually pays you and not the sharks in charge.” “That makes me feel a little better,” Future-Amy said. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to die of old age. Your hair was all gray when I left.” “I can’t believe that I’m now registering that as a compliment.” Amy added. “Hey,” Future-Amy poked Amy in the side to get her attention (it wasn’t hard to do considering she was rammed partially into her past self’s side), “Maybe we’ll have to rethink our policy on having kids. I mean, polite and kind. Clearly we did something right.” “I don’t know. Maybe.” Amy frowned. “I’m not guaranteed a son like him, considering lab children are kind of 49
considered unethical in the modern day.” Sensing where this conversation was heading and wanting no part of it, Amy’s son quickly butted in before Future-Amy could respond. “Who’s she?” thankfully, little Amy provided an excellent diversion. “Your younger sister,” the one-eyed Amy responded distractedly. To Amy she motioned at the folder in Amy’s hands. “Could you hand me that?” “I have a sister?” Amy’s son yelled in shock, giving little Amy a strange look. On her part, she just waved. “Why?” Amy asked, completely ignoring Amy’s son. “Because I just remembered that the report in your hands managed to get us demoted, and if the future is going to die we’re not going to experience it as a secretary,” the one-eyed Amy growled, snatching the folder from her past counterpart. “How are you-” The hidden device on the oneeyed Amy’s wrist lit up and the text began to change. “You know what, never mind.” Future-Amy looked at the floor counter. “You don’t have that much time, we’re on the forty-seventh floor. You better finish soon.” “I’m almost done.” “In five minutes?” “Yes!” The updated manilla folder was shoved into Amy’s
hands just as the doors opened to the lobby of the fifth floor. All of the Amys piled out into the waiting room (the elevator wasn’t just going to conveniently wait up there for them and it was really crowded in there) and almost shoved Amy into the office. The door ominously swung shut behind her. They waited while incurring the stares of every single person in the room. They waited some more. Amy came back. “So he said that he was surprised that I turned in something legible, not with his words, but with his face. But hey, I haven’t been demoted.”
Cheering started up, which was quickly shushed by the other office workers and who were just as soon ignored. “Hey, you know how the aliens that I just can’t seem to remember the name of sense emotions and were attracted by a spike in despair to our planet?” “Yeah?” “And how the earth quaked just as I left the manager’s office that was eventually found out to be caused by their planetfall?” “Yes?” “That didn’t happen, so did we just save the future?” The small group considered.
“I think so.” “By not getting demoted because of our poor english skills and therefore apparently not adding that last crucial bit of despair to the aether?” “Look, are you complaining?” “No…” Before the Amys could begin to celebrate anew, Amy’s son spoke up. “Where are we going to stay though? I don’t seem to be disappearing because the events that led up to my existence never happened.” Future-Amy thought for a second. “Let’s stay at Amy’s apartment.” “What? No!”h
Jennifer Blanco 50
Blooming In Love
â€œBeing deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.â€? Lao Tzu
Mother and Son
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
Fem Molly Duke [ October 17th, 2015 ] ern walked around the small third story apartment, the socks on her feet gliding across the linoleum flooring with little issue. A long t-shirt bearing a vintage band logo was cast over her torso, going down to her mid-thigh and covering the faded flower print underwear she currently was wearing. Her socks reached the kitchen, and finally a soft smile broke the otherwise stone cold expression which held her face captive. Her hands, covered with faded henna designs, reached up to the open faced shelves in their kitchen; fingertips looping around the handle of her well-worn white mug, which was stained a vibrant yellow on the inside. She pulled it down into her grasp, holding it close to her body as she then turned her attention to the container of turmeric tea that was supposed to be in the shelf parallel to her. The container, however, wasn’t resting in it’s usual place. Instead, it was empty and thrown haphazardly into the sink, leaving the bright yellow residue strewn across the counters and cascading around the edges of the metal basin. The hair on the back of Fern’s neck raised in anger, her grip on the mug clenching so tight she feared that another chip would adorn it’s collection by the end of today. Letting out a frustrated sigh, Fern slammed the mug down on the counter and began storming back
towards the study; her roommates favorite location. “Summer!” she shouted, slamming open the door to look at the other girl. “What the hell did we talk about, huh? If you finish the tea, you go and buy some to place it. Simple as that! Instead, I’m here with no tea, and then I have to go work for eight more goddamn hours while you sit here reading some crappy vampire romance!” Summer, however, did not respond. Instead she sat quietly in her papasan chair, hazel eyes focusing on the book wedged between her hands. This sudden cold shoulder caused Fern’s anger to reach dangerous territories, as she grabbed a pillow off of one of the chairs in the room and threw it at her, hitting Summer in the leg. “If you’re just going to sit there and act like nothing’s wrong, at least look me in the eye!” Fern spat, her two toned eyes burning with fury. Her rage that had begun as a boiling anger reduced to a simmer sitting under her skin, tinting her cheeks pink. Summer only looked up at the end of her roommate’s rant, placing the bookmark, which was adored with images of stars and planets, in her book to preserve her place. Tucking a strand of her waist-length blonde hair behind her ear, she sighed and tapped the tips of her green painted fingernails against the cover of her current read. Her dark brown eyes looked 53
up to Fern, as per her request, and she stayed silent for another moment. When she opened her mouth to reply, the guilty yellow color on her tongue was revealed, determining her as the culprit. “Fern, listen. There was only enough for just a cup anyways. I didn’t think that you would want it, you usually do coffee on Monday’s. I’ll go and grab some form the market if you’d like. Honestly hun, you’re overreacting.” Fern looked at her roommate, looking at her. Unlike herself, no stress was apparent in the taller girl’s body. Letting out a withdrawn sigh, she took a deep breath and waited for Summer to act on her words. “Fern, you’ve known me for over five years now. Do I honestly seem like the kind of girl to drink all of the tea and leave you with none?” Summer teased, sending a wink Fern’s way. She stood and tossed the hardcover novel back down onto her seat before straightening up her floor length olive colored maxi-dress. Lace delicately lined the bottom of her dress, sitting stark white against her evenly tanned skin. Her steps seemed elegant, matching her tall figure as she talked towards Fern, who so enraged by the entire tea fiasco, was left with her mouth frozen open with silence. “Relax, I’ll go get your tea.” Summer reassured, tucking a strand of Ferns hair
behind her ear with a smile before turning to the small nightstand beside the chair. Reaching over, her nimble fingers picked up the silver ring with a single jade crystal embedded in the center that always took residence on her ring finger, as well as the cloth wallet with faded paintings of trees. The edges of the wallet were well worn, but the scene of a violet and orange tinted sunset behind monterey cypress trees remained clinging to the rucksack fabric. “Do you want anything else while I’m out?” She called as she walked towards the door, slipping on her black velvet boots. “Maybe you should consider purchasing a new attitude!” Fern called after her, clearly still angered over the encounter. The only response she got was the echo of laughter and the sound of a shutting door. [July 2nd, 2014] ey Sum?” A voice inquired, getting lost in the dark. It had been two hours since the lights in the apartment had gone out, leaving the only lighting to the candles and the lightning occasionally flickering through the linen curtains. The muddled scents that the candles provided filled the space between the walls, smelling of clove and balsam.
“Yeah?” Summer replied, turning her body on the couch to face the direction of the voice, even if her basil green eyes couldn’t locate a body to match. “How did you know you liked girls?” the voice replied, hesitance lingering on every syllable. The question hung in the air, as if it was debating its relevance in the room. The silence it created was only cut when a crack of thunder shook the room. The shadows danced on the walls, mocking the tension lingering in the room before steadying as silence reemerged. “I mean- I suppose I’ve always known to an extent. My mom always told me that I would get over that ‘disgusted by boys’ phase, but by high school I was still thinking boys had cooties,” Summer finally replied, a faint giggle interrupting the faux seriousness in her tone. “Seriously, I just never found myself with interest in a man. Sure some guys are nice- and some are even cute- but I can’t see myself dating one.” Fern stared at the window for a moment, watching the lightning ricochet off the building before landing in the living room. Spinning the dainty ring adored with jade that lay on her ring finger absentmindedly, the she let a soft smile appear on her lips and she turned her head to face the other voice.
“Why do you ask? Something on your mind?” Summer asked, her brow furrowing in concern. “Just curious is all.” Fern responded, looking to the couch as the smile still took residence on her lips. A crack of thunder shook the walls again, spurring the lamps and ceiling fan back to life. The warm yellow light spread over the room revealing two pairs of eyes locked together and two pairs of smiling lips. Summer purred and stretched before sitting up, shrugging her stiff shoulders. The remains of henna scrawled over her shoulders and down her arms revealed that Fern had successfully gotten her to play test subject to her artistic tendencies. “Come on you dork, go ahead and get the movie started back up, I’ll go make some fresh popcorn.” Summer purred, wiggling her socked toes before beginning to pad her way to the kitchen. “Bring back some coconut ice cream!” Fern called squirming with excitement as she fiddled with the remote control, flipping to their favorite film without a second thought.
Fern, who had disappeared into the living room. “Yep! Thank you!” Fern shouted in response as she steadied the needle on the rich black circle of plastic before making her way back towards the heated kitchen. The sound of socked feet padding across the floor intertwined with the music for a moment before the petite girl ran into the kitchen, glancing at the steaming cast iron pan that was now glistening with oil. Turning, she took a small paring knife in her left hand and a small sweet potato in her right. Carefully, she sliced the starch into thin strips, resembling the thickness of a half dollar.
“Fern glanced at Summer with a soft smile.”
Her hips shimmied to the soft mumbled words of Sarah Vaughan, which was playing in the background, her socked feet sliding across the ground for a moment before she settled into a rhythm at her cooking station. Jazz had always been her favorite [August 30th, 2011] music genre. ey- the pan’s “How was work today?” hot, do you want Summer enquired, “I know me to add the you mentioned this morning oil?” Summer called from the that you thought it would be kitchen, sticking her head a long day.” around the corner to look for Fern glanced at Summer with a soft smile, laying the
slices of sweet potato down on the oil filled sizzling pan before responding. “It was actually alright, Jeremy let me go on my lunch break a little earlier. The new drink is selling well too- I was worried I was the only one who liked lavender in my tea.” “I’m glad. You deserve a relaxed day.” Summer smiled, glancing at Fern before turning her attention to the beautiful harvest from their personal garden; roma tomatoes. The fresh pile of tomatoes called her name, and soon she was finely dicing the bursting juicy vegetable. Her henna stained hands scooped the cut pieces into a wooden bowl, tossing in a handful of chopped thyme from earlier as well. “Do you think we can watch a movie tonight?” Fern began, turning her attention away from the pan for a moment. “We haven’t gotten a chance to see that one your mom recommended to us.” Using a pair of tongs she flipped the sweet potato, letting a smile show as the crisp golden color was revealed. The aroma wafted into the kitchen, twirling into blonde and brunette hair, dancing along the crevices of their home. “Sure! I think it’s on Netflix- That’s what she said at least. We still have some of the ice-cream you made a couple days ago if you wanted to make milkshakes.” Summer responded, eyes sparkling
with excitement. She was a sucker for a good milkshake. Fern removed the now crisp slices of sweet potato from the pan and set them on a plate, using a cheese cloth to gently pat the oils away from the surface so they wouldn’t grow soggy. Summer kicked into action, taking the mixture that she had been working on earlier and depositing a heaping teaspoons worth on each slice. The pair let out a relieved sigh, looking down at the complete dish. The work showed, the vibrant colors of the vegetables pairing well with the burnt caramel color of the sweet potatoes. Suddenly Summer turned to Fern, scooping her into a hug, her chest bouncing with laughter. “Let me down you dork!” Fern shouted, kicking her feet before shimmying her way out of her roomates grasp and grabbing her plate of food, although a smile still lingering on her lip, her cheeks carrying a hint of rose. “First meal cooked together, I don’t think we did half bad!” Fern said, turning around to send Summer a beaming grin. Summer simply smiled back and grabbed her food, going to join her in the living room.
onto the floor of her living room. She arched her back, rubbing the soreness away as another girl came bustling into the room, adding another box to the growing pile. “Why do you have so much crap?” Fern groaned, looking over to her soon-tobe-roommate. “I don’t have a lot of crap, you just have a tiny apartment. I don’t know why you insisted on moving into your place, mine had much more space.” Summer retorted, looking to the shorter girl with a sassy upturn of her lips. Fern rolled her eyes and unraveled the hair tie from her wrist before raking her painted fingernails through her hair. She quickly tied up the mass of tight curls before looking around at the graveyard of overfilled boxes filling her living room. Adding someone into her home was something she had wanted to do, she had even brought it up, but seeing the mess now was causing her nervousness to spike. “We’re closer to my work. Besides, the view here is so much better. Yours was too close to the city. I can’t relax with all that noise.” Fern said, sending her new roommate an apologetic look before opening one box labeled ‘kitchen’ with neat, level cursive. The box bore rich, solid [June 15th, 2011] wooden bowls. The grain still ern groaned, her arms shining clearly through the straining as she dropped clear glaze caught the light another overflowing box filtered through her linen
curtains revealing fiery red undertones. Fern’s breath caught in her throat and she turned to look at Summer, whose attention had been stolen by another box. “What are the odds, you have the same bowls as me.” Fern murmured softly, smiling to herself and lifting the stack into her arms. “Huh, that is pretty neat. I thought they were gorgeous, I found them at a garage sale not too far from that little town we went to last week.” Summer replied without turning around, digging her greedy hands into her own box of goodies. After pulling a woven tapestry out of the box the taller female walked behind Fern to head to the bedroom, fingerly touching the small of her back with her undecorated fingers as she passed. Fern walked the bowls into the kitchen, tipping them up onto the open shelves that adored her kitchen, looking at her own stack next to it. Maybe taking this step wouldn’t be so scary after all. [February 14th, 2010] Fern took a deep breath, her eyes closed with focus and her nose close to the scent itself. All at once the thought approached her, and just like that her eyelids burst open like firecrackers, igniting the brightly colored iris’ held captive underneath. She pushed the container away from herself, eyes studying the label before allowing a slightly disgruntled huff to escape her.
It was no good. Those leaves wouldn’t make tea that was rich or flavorful, Fern could tell by the faint bitter smell that caused her nose to wrinkle like a pug. Letting a sigh approach her red painted lips, she pushed the container gingerly away and back onto its original home on the shelf that was just high enough where she had to tilt up on her toes, the tips of her boots supporting her weight. Settling back on the ground, her heterochromia iridum eyes, which she carried from her mother, looked around the shelves in hopes of locating something with turmeric; it was her favorite drink. The black pepper that was generally infused with the yellow spice made her throat tingle, a feeling she was now almost addicted to, and the bright yellow that it stained everything was something she had grown to embrace. Scanning the overlystocked shelves, Fern began to feel the weight of defeat on her shoulders, the box of golden delight nowhere to be found. Another sag of her shoulders and she was walking away from the tea section, hoping to possibly find something else to curve her craving. However, before that could be accomplished a vacant spot on the shelf caught her eye, and the single box of Golden Salvation was enough to cause her to stumble to a stop.
ern’s hand reached out greedily; however, when it reached the tea, it felt both the box and another hand. Quickly retracting her grip, she looked to her right, finding that another girl at the same time had reached for the last box. Instantly Fern’s cheeks burned a rosy crimson, and she attempted to sputter out an apology; however, the girl across from her beat her to it. “Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Please- go ahead and take it,” she stuttered, laugher entwined in her tone. Fern’s voice, once previously caught in her throat but now unlodged, wavered as she spoke in response to the stranger.
“She tried not to focus on how beautifully elegant the stranger’s smile was.”
“No no, you go ahead. I can- I’ll just get some next week.” Fern offered in return, swallowing as she tried not to focus on how beautifully elegant the stranger's smile was, or how the blonde hair so carefully braided behind her head resembled the rays of the sun. The silence between them lingered for a brief moment, and in that time it seemed as though the other girl had begun to pick apart 57
Fern’s appearance as well. She took note of her two-toned eyes, of the freckles that were scattered like stars against the bridge of her nose and on her forehead. She noticed how her thick curls were cut right below her ears, with half of it tied up in a neat bun. Lastly, she saw the red lipstick that covered her thin lips that suited her rounded face, and how it was slightly smudged around the edges as she chewed at them. “Alright, cool. Thanks.” the stranger chimed with a smile, turning and tossing the box haphazardly into her cart. She took a few steps forward to continue on her shopping trip, but hesitance pulled at her legs and she finally stopped and turned back around to look at the brunette. “Would you maybe want to come by my apartment and have a cup?”, the blonde haired girl started, “It’s only fair, I did steal it from you after all.” Fern felt the adrenaline rush into her head, her mouth dry like cotton. Her eyes looked into the hazel eyes in front of her, searching for a sign that what she was saying might be a joke; however, she couldn’t find one. All Fern could manage was a feeble nod, her cheeks burning pink but her eyes sparkling. The stranger laughed softly, tucking a strand of
hair behind her ear before motioning with her head for her to follow. As she walked with her cart full of organic produce and tea, she turned to glance back at the brunette. “My name’s Summer, by the way. ” She practically purred, turning her attention back to the front as she pushed her cart into the checkout line and delicately began unloading her groceries onto the belt.
“I’m Fern, like the plant,” Fern responded, letting a smile appear her lips as she slid her empty hands in her pockets, which tugged at the loose threads anxiously. Summer returned the smiles as she pulled out her cloth wallet, the rucksack outside of it distinctly having been decorated with vivid hand-done paintings of trees. She paid for her groceries and lugged the reusable bags back
into her cart before turning to Fern. The taller female smiled and gently held the small of Fern’s back, guiding her towards the door. Summer sent a confident smile to the girl, content sitting high on her cheekbones. That was the day that Fern learned she loved two things; hand-painted trees and Summer. '
A Dress A dress sparkled in the daylight behind the store front window. Its skirt spread out flowing like a river down the small step the mannequin was on. The dress had never been worn. Its beauty never truly known by anyone. Tiny flowers bloomed from the sweetheart neckline and traveled in great clusters to the hem. The blush pink tulle was never stepped on, the flowers never wilted. Straps keeping the layers up were pulled taught under the weight. The maker of it was long gone. Their legacy was left behind the glass window. No lights in the store were ever turned on. The click clacking of machines never heard. The life of the once busy Tailor’s workshop had left. Fabric still draped around mannequins leaving unfinished dresses calling out to be loved. It stayed like this for years. Dust collecting and cobwebs made, until one day the lock clicked and a young man walked in. He began finishing the dresses one by one, he hummed while working and smiled when he finished a dress. People started filing in, welcomed by the man’s kind grin. One day an old woman walked up and stared at the dress in the window. She smiled as if looking into a marvelous distant memory. He went to greet her, but found only a note in her place. ‘Thank you for reviving my shop. May it impart as much happiness to you as it did for me.’ Emma Beatty
Love Her Anyways She is a big mess You can see it in her eyes But you still love her Jocelyn Melendez
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
he was cleaning. It was the first time in ages, and she desperately wished it was for a better reason. Well, her subconscious did. She refused to think about the reason she was cleaning. Instead she let her mind wander to other non-dangerous thoughts. And that worked. At least until she found it sitting underneath a pile of stuff. She pulled it out wondering what it was, for the image was buried so deeply under dust that it was impossible to decipher. Then she sneezed and the dust flew off the picture and into the depths of the room. She looked down at the image and froze. She remembered this picture. The three of them had bought it on one of their trips to the island. A sad smile appeared on her face as she let the memory surface. It had been a rather fun trip ever since they had arrived. They had spent most of their days relaxing on the beach, and their nights at various restaurants. However, he had wanted to explore the island. So, one morning, they set out to do so. They wandered around, visiting many places from the outskirts of villages—where the inhabitants didn’t speak a word of English—to cute little tourist shops. At the far end of one group of tourist shops, there was a vast outdoor market. They had spent all afternoon wandering the stalls, admiring the trinkets. It had been there, in a small booth about three vendors away from the edge of the market that they had found it. The tiny stall was filled with elegant samples of artwork. They had all interested her. But he had had eyes for only one painting. It was at the very back, featuring a bright yellow sun shining out over an ocean onto the land covered with rocks. He had found it enchanting. When the vendor noticed him studying the painting,
he told him the story behind it. It had something to do with a girl, the colors of the sky, and a wide ocean. She couldn’t remember it now. But she could remember his face. It had lit up when he’d first seen the painting and had stayed lit all the way through the story. However, it had dimmed when he’d asked the price of the painting. He couldn’t afford it. She had hated the way the smile had fallen off his face. So, she had intervened with the conversation and bought the painting. She told him as they walked away that it was an early birthday present. He had been so happy. She was distracted from her memory when a tear hit the painting. It was then that she realized she was crying. Crying for him. They hadn’t always had the best relationship, but they were still close. She had known that his father’s death had hurt him, but she hadn’t seen the enormity of it. She knew now that his sleepless nights and his deep sadness weren’t just stages of regular grief. She had cursed herself the first few days for not noticing the signs. It wasn’t until a friend had talked to her that logic finally broke through. She had also been grieving. There was no way she could have known. But, while that helped with her own guilt, it didn’t shake the memories. Of trying to be cheerful when she got home from the store the day after the funeral. Of calling to him to come down and help her. Of the silence that echoed in response. Of the dread that stirred deep inside her when she tried again. Of rushing up the stairs and searching and calling for him. Of finding him hanging from the bathroom ceiling. Of weeping and crying because now he was gone too. Of calling for help, and the funeral that soon followed. Of talking to people about him, but really only 60
wanting to be left alone. Of finally being left alone, or as alone as a woman could be when people were constantly checking in to make sure she didn’t follow their footsteps. She had considered doing so, in the early days of it all, but then one day, she had suddenly known that she wouldn’t. Couldn’t. She had been on the side of those left behind twice, and she had seen and felt what it did
to people. She would never do it. She would bear her pain, no matter how much it hurt. But, that decision had been made weeks ago, so she did not dwell on it. Instead she focused on the present. Studying the painting, she brushed her tears off it, and then carried it out of the room. She hung it up on the wall in the entryway. There she gazed at it again, marveling at the fact that something
this beautiful held something so terrible, and how you’d never know just by looking at it. Slowly, she forced herself to look away and head back up to his room. There she picked up where she had left off. She was cleaning. Only this time, she was covered in tears, as her subconscious had been released and she was free to remember and cry for him. She was free to remember her son. t
Lilac Lady She had violet lips with a violent jawline sharpened by the shadows from her neck. Lilac eyes grew wide as she glanced up from under the blue shadows. The clouds covered the sun as it was now her time to shine instead. The soil below hugged her feet as they gripped down with every step. Molly Martin
The Dance Stepping into the room she’s awed. The music calls and colored beams of light dance in answer. The insignificant past life of the room has been transformed, Tables decked in holiday themes fill half of it, While the dance floor lays empty like a clearing on the other, surrounded by rings of students. Their group breaks the mold, And she feels herself give into the pressure of the music and lights. Her rhythm breaking only once, When a star enters the room, It’s glow filling her senses, and paleing the other decor. She alone is blinded, yet others notice the star’s arrival. Nudges, winks, smirks and whispered comments surround her Falling from the lips of friends filled to the brim with too many secrets. She just smiles, all the while thinking to herself that it doesn’t matter, As she is just another meteor speeding through space. Entering, he’s all a flush, not seeing the details. The world is just a huge rushing blur Racing to the soundtrack of panicked heartbeats. Internally, he’s cursing everything, From the way he styled his hair, To the tie his mother forced him to wear. Cursing the guys for wanting to stay longer at the arcade, And himself for giving them their called for “five more minutes”. Externally, he’s laughing at a joke he didn’t even hear, And playing follow the leader with handing over his ticket. Everything’s moving so fast, He doesn’t realize where he is Until it all comes crashing to a stop. Dazed, he takes in the wonder of it all, The music, lights, decorations, food, and the dancers. He studies them all, not consciously Recognizing what he is searching for, Until he sees her. Emitting soft golden rays, Cloaking the room like Midas’s Palace. Then a smile, a burst of light, And he feels the warmth of a sun. His sun. 62
If only he wasn’t an asteroid. They collide. Neither quite sure how, Not understanding the magnetic pull between them. It’s as though gravity was drawing them together, Waiting for the perfect point of impact. Music slows. Time slows. He decides that even if he goes down in flames it will be worth it. She figures it’s better to burn than never know. A meteor and an asteroid crash into one another Smack dab in the center of the dance floor. Pieces fly as he asks her to dance. They crumble when she replies yes. No longer do two rocks fly through space, Two stars have taken their place, Waltzing through the deep realms of the universe, Past all the paparazzi planets, Into the realm of hearts. Mia Iandolo Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Julia Pearce 63
Fate and a Side of Fries He really did look like a tourist, with his sunglasses and that camera around his neck. The man sat on the patio sipping an iced tea with a slice of lemon, reading a glossy magazine he didn’t look to be interested in. As I brought him his cheeseburger and a side of fries, he said “Thank you” quietly and barely looked up at me. I tried not to stare at the scar by his right eye. I walked back inside with the empty tray. He seemed familiar but I couldn’t figure out why. Then it hit me. The car accident. He was the man that helped me out of my smashed car. I sped back to his table but I was too late. I moved the plate and found his tip with a card which read: “I owe it to you. I was on my way to rob a store. Saving your life changed my perspective, and now I try to live my life in a more positive way. Thank you. -Mr. W” I shivered. The night of my car accident I was on my way to an interview at a club downtown. Seeing his act of kindness turned my life around and let me restart as well. I picked up the tip he left and noticed a streak of black underlining “In God We Trust”. I put it in my pocket and walked back with a smile. Molly Martin
Candles Sleek glass containing the stiff wax The tops perfectly serene and silky The fair wick still immune from flames The creamy hue of aqua Reminds oneself of frothy sea waves Pounding on shores of white sand Something this impeccable Makes lighting it seem cruel But what other purpose is it for The aureate light of the match Crawls closer to the still perfect wick The illumination less than a light bulb The faint light giving the crepuscular room a tint of gold The colors of the room soften As the aroma of vanilla fill the space, Everything is at peace. Trinity Ozias
My Sun Moments like these are picture perfect. The sound of your laughter is like a beautiful song. Your soft smell soothes me from the negativity of the world. The sun shines on us like a spot light, as if nothing else matters. But nothing shines as bright as your smile. Warmth glimmers through the air as my love fills my heart. You’re the only thing that matters in every moment. I treasure the time I have with you. When your bubbly giggles suffuse my ears, hearing you shout “mama” makes my eyes fill with tears of delight. Baby please don’t ever grow up... Vanessa Pineda
Tower Tall and Mighty At the top of the tower, a perch above the rest, there stood a duo at the edge as city stretched far below. Bitter breeze, choppy and cold, nipped at their cheeks, grinning widely. Sounds of streets crescendoed from below, background track to the day. Clouds from above covered the sky, grays muting any possible light, yet their eyes shone brighter than the sun, spilling over with joy. The girl with inky hair and caramel skin nestled into the crook of her fatherâ€™s shoulder, vying for evasive warmth. Her father held out one arm far in front of the pair, snapping a memory and pausing the moment. While both were tired from their long day of adventures, from trekking up stairs, from exploring the city, their hearts were full with excite and content. Neha Sridhar Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
When I Was Young When I was young, a wax rainbow was littered around my dinner table. When I was young, I would lose the knots in my stomach and migraines in my head with a stroke of Robin’s Egg Blue. My mother would rush around the kitchen combining masalas to create paneer and rajma concocting spicy aromas that mixed with the musky smell of crayons and tickled my nostrils as I combined hues to create scenes from cartoons. When I was young, she would ask me how I was, and I would complain about my math worksheet and friends fighting. When I was young, the squeaky sound of my skin rubbing against the pigment on the paper was an unpreventable nuisance. When I was young, I would take those crayons and put dreams of princesses who lived happily ever after on paper. When I was young, the sky was always a clear blue, with no stormy cloud in sight. When I was young, I could turn any rainy day bright again with my favorite Laser Lemon Yellow filled into the sun. Now I am old, and my dinner table is somewhere we congregate every Friday to reconnect with our scattered family. Now I am old, and the knots in my stomach and migraines in my head are entities that have made a home there. My mother, rushes around the house attempting to once again awaken the life we once had in us, but is met with closed doors, like the blockaded doors to hearts. Now I am old, and when she asks how I am I reply with an “I’m fine.” Hiding the sorrow and helplessness that dwell inside me. I can no longer turn my sky blue and color over rainy days. But sometimes I pull out those broken crayons, a memory of a distant past. I smell the artificial, waxy smell of childhood dreams and feel the slick plastic against my skin And then, I color, color the sky blue, and the sun Laser Lemon Yellow. I listen to the comforting squeak of my skin against the paper Temporarily forgetting that I am old and going back to when I was young. Khushi Parsai
Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
Violets Paiton Stith (A lone man, middle-aged, stands before a long table of men in suits. There’s a powerpoint projected behind him. He re-organizes his notecards, looks up once at the gathered men, and he tucks them into a pocket lining the inside of his suit) ’m going to begin this presentation with a small anecdote. Yesterday I bought my wife flowers, the purple ones. You know. No occasion. Just thought I’d be nice and I saw this cute little place on my way home from work, so I stepped in and— (He breaks off to command the gathered men to sit with a wave of his hand) I know you’re confused right now, but I’d like you all to sit till the end. (He looks over them and nods once before continuing with more hand motions than before, becoming more thoughtful and quietly passionate) The smell of flowers is…. Let me put it this way. Have you ever been going through your life and it’s a real slog? Like everything’s going in slow motion, but your heart’s pounding a mile a minute and you’re so out of sync with everything that you can feel the dissonance ringin’ and ringin’ in your chest like a goddamn bell. With every moment you wonder if you can feel it cracking. (He adjusts the collar of his shirt and narrows his eyes at his audience) It’s like all you’ve been seeing is gray all week and most times you go home and everything is warm and gold again, but this time you go home only to take your coat off and you find this thing on the back, gray and wrinkled and just clinging there like that’s all it ever wants to do and it’s never gonna let go. It’s like a moment of terror ‘cause you’re like “God
how could I ever let this thing find out where I live.” (He pauses a moment, unsure) Maybe I’m losing you here, but everything’s gray and you’re so scared just wondering when the warm’s gonna come back. Your dogs fall all over themselves to get to you because they love you so goddamn much, but you can’t tell them apart even though one’s chestnut brown and the other’s red. You think your wife’s gonna be there smiling at you, just got home from work herself, but she’s gone. Out in the country somewhere, living with her parents because she can’t stand this place anymore. She says the air is toxic and the people rushing around are all breaking themselves trying to get through the day. Says she can’t pretend not to see it anymore. You had no idea what she was talking about at the time. Now, maybe you’re thinking she was talking about herself. You’re thinking maybe she was talking about you. So the next day when your driving home and you see that cute little shop in the middle of so much cement and asphalt, the flowers in the window are so purple. You stop the car and when you walk in the smell is thicker than water, slowing you down until the bells stop ringin’ and your heart stops running from nothing. You laugh. You laugh right there in that empty shop with that empty counter and all the flowers swaying around you with their beautiful, colorful faces, singing songs you have to take in with your nose. And that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes things are so gray and slow and empty that you just need something beautiful to knock you on
your ass. Make you realize what you’ve been missing. Yesterday I bought my wife flowers, the purple ones. Or that’s what I told the woman who came out of the back because there’s something so small and open about buying yourself something beautiful just because you need it like you needed your teddy when you were young. My wife wasn’t there when I came in cradling the bundle like the baby we’d never had. Been too busy
for. I gave my dogs a pat each now that I could tell them apart and I went into the bedroom I’d shared with her. I put them on the sill like we’d grown them there. And I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at them until the sun went down, thinking that what I really wanted most was for her to get to see these wonderful purple flowers. (The man straightens his suit and his shoulders. His eyes are piercing, look-
Coffee Stained Paper Off-white lined paper curling at the corners as rich brown bitter delicacy seeps into the fibers of knowledge. Coffee and ink intertwine. Tan melding into red overtaking the words. Lettering flees the mocha tsunami only to submit to it’s dominance. As the paper slowly dries waves appear, caressing the red lines smudging the lettering. Cold and dry, the coffee avenges its spilled self claiming the paper as it’s home; if only for the length of a storm. Molly Duke
ing beyond his audience as if he’s speaking to someone else) Yesterday I bought my wife violets. Tomorrow I intend to give them to her. (The man takes a single, vibrant petal out of his pocket, holding it in two fingers before dropping it like a calling card and walking away. He speaks as he walks out the door) I hope this presentation was worth your time. Don’t wait for me. I won’t be coming back. 2
Symphony In a destroyed town, burnt With the fire of hate. A melody of bullets rings out, followed By the chorus of piercing screams Sharp Staccato Notes fly through the air Along with bullets. A crescendo of violence takes over the field Midst the destruction a song fills the air Sweet notes dance softly And float like sunken ships to the ground. The chords surround your mind and advance in gracefully transporting you away. each vibration is precisely chosen Strung together with gentle hands. This is the symphony of life. The fortissimo of anger and hate Woven together with the pianissimo of love and forgiveness The fragile harmony of the world. Trinity Mozingo
Beauty A goddess, lounging upon her throne, beauty in human form. Hair of starry night, a petite form doting on her loyal apostles. Short legs covered, freckled arms sheltered, a chill in the air. Poison fills the room, a pungent scar upon the scene. The goddess holds cotton in delicate fingers, wiping the varnish from her long nails. The smell like frustrated tears, a sensation similar to biting your own cheek, flesh trapped between two firm surfaces. The goddess continues on, unbothered by the poison. The woman, lounging on her bed, the most beautiful person in the world. Salt and pepper hair, her petite body warmed by dogs. Short legs under blankets, freckled arms in warm sleeves, a chill in the air. Lillian Long Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
The Two Sides of Water Hey! A new year has begun Sunshine and rainbows all around Look! There’s a drop of water In a lake, that’s Gradually getting hotter The radiation from the sun Instills motivation Into the lake, Radiating goals to pursue And aspirations to die for A purpose now to fulfill A plan is concocted And with a burning desire The water droplet emerges Sprouting its wings into the air To soar with vigor Toward a lofty goal high into the clouds above The droplet continues its ascent Surrounded by an aroma Of fierce inspiration With everything going according to plan Wait! There’s someone Pulling down on the droplet Yikes! It’s Aergia Greek goddess of idleness She has come calling With a whistle - like voice Beckoning the droplet to give up And fall back to the ground Yet the droplet persists And with determination as its fuel It blasts off To continue its journey Casting off Aergia’s attacks, and pressing on toward the goal But she hasn’t given up yet Clawing her way back She changes her tactics, offering Her homegrown sweets of procrastination And throwing darts of laziness Many miss, but some connect The droplet stops, condensation begins 72
And with its ascent abruptly hindered The goal that looked So clear many eons ago Has suddenly become muddled, fuzzy, and lost Then, when it seems the situation Seemingly can’t get worse Aergia unleashes the floodgates Of dread, anxiety, worry A plethora of tasks, events, plans Burdens, and conflicts Latch upon the water drop, one by one The goal is abandoned All focus is on the present Fighting off each attack But with no avail, until finally Precipitation arrives The droplet falls Weighed down by the chains of Aergia It fights desperately and passionately To stay airborne But alas, it was not meant to be The goal that the water droplet Set out to achieve Amounted to nothing Back in the lake is the droplet, waiting For the sun to shine its rays again Caleb Lim
The Fireworks of Our Lives Two best friends sit on the cold ground, spiky and hard, Listening to the booming of fireworks, colorful explosions above their heads, Watching bright colors, so soft and smooth, bursting through the dark night sky. The fireworks short and sweet. Lasting for a split second, Before diffusing into the air as if they had never even existed, Only to be remembered by the memory created. We are patient as we wait for the next firework to erupt before our eyes But with each firework, the display drawing nearer to the end. We have been enjoying the show, Yet, at this moment itâ€™s nearly over. However, before it concludes, there must be a finale. The sky, for the final time of the night, illuminated with a brilliance of zesty color, Ears filled with the jagged crackling of explosions, Then finally with the explosion of the last firework, The show concluded, the spectators disheartened. The fireworks are like days you see. Limited, lasting for a brief moment before they are gone. We must enjoy them while they last, Because each day we live is a day closer to the end, And we never know when our final firework will come. Alyssa Thompson
Legend Care free, the legend laughed. With his laugh, singing in my mind. The memories we made forever there, bound to my heart like a vine. The times we would drive around, backways and highways, racing in sharp lines, trying to keep this night alive. The music blaring as we went, past cars with only paint chips and dents. The time we swam at Olathe Lake, throwing mud, frantically trying to run. AND The last time we had together, Laying on his car, deep in conversation. Staring at the stars, the air crisp, our teeth chattering. The feeling of summer, cherished until the end. The laughter and the tears, the sound of the news report as they spoke of a wreck. In my mind it all started to set, for the legend was gone. Peacefully, the legend rested. With his laugh singing in my mind. The memories we made forever there, bound to my heart like a vine. Ellie Laufenberg
“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul” George Bernard Slaw 77
Cup & Flower
Made Like a Lady
Mikaela Navarro 79
Tymber Marsh 80
Flower Detrik Ortiz
Fall in Snow
Dewdrops on Daffodils
â€œAdopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.â€? Ralph Waldo Emerson 83
Rain I remember the rain. The smell, the way it fell from leaf to leaf gaining size and speed until it hit the ground. When I was young, they told me raindrops were the tears of God. But they were wrong, I thought, God can’t cry. If raindrops were God-tears, what does that make thunder and lightning? A God footstomp or a God sneeze? It’s okay, I told myself. It wasn’t the first time they had lied to me, and it would be far from the last. I remember you said you would stay, quoting the old Ben E. King song we used to play in the car, you said you would stand by me. But these, among other lies lay with the broken promises you left behind. The rain fell harder, striking against the roof. You promised to fight for me and protect me. But now, I know better. I remember to check the weather. If raindrops are God-tears, then what is he crying for? Didn’t he create the storm? I step outside to escape, every raindrop pounds against my skin, but gently, lightly. The driveway was empty, your yellow tail lights already escaped down the street. I watched them shrink and blend into the falling rain until you turned the corner darkness swallowed up the last I ever saw of you. Together, our tears hit the ground. I was wrong, when I was young. God can cry, and he does often because he knows nothing can grow without rain. Alyssa McCue Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
Ocean Oasis Carolina Bermudez
or as long as I can remember the ocean has been a major part of my life. It has connected my mixed-race culture and helped me heal through difficult times in a way that nothing else has. The ocean is a whole other world that I have wanted to submerge myself into since a young age. At times I was truly convinced I was a mermaid, my parents even called me one since I was always in the water. My love for the water grew from a young age as Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to experience the coast of South Carolina and many other beaches in Puerto Rico many times. Each location is unique in their own way just like the different sides of my family. My alarm clock startled me as I rose from my deep slumber. It was early in the morning, no birds were singing their songs and even the sun was just beginning to wake up. It was too early for my liking, but I would do it any day to continue to go on adventures like these. It was the beginning of a long but spectacular day. My family and I had spent the night at my abuelaâ€™s house in San Juan, Puerto Rico and we are now in our car on our way to our favorite surfing spot. The drive there was quiet and dark, but still very calming. Soft spanish music played in the car as my mother and brothers slept, however I lay awake in my seat and gaze out the window watching as the warm sunrise shines above the horizon, happily setting the mood for the day. I was too excited to sleep. The drive took about 2 hours, but the time flew by. The whole time I was daydreaming about the ocean and the long-lasting memories to come. As soon as we parked on the side of a little road my brothers and I leaped from
our seats and raced out of the car. The sun was shining happily in the sky as we ran down to the beach with our surfboards. The dry, soft sand became gritty and wet as I become closer and closer to the shore. I could hear the waves crashing as I ran, it seemed as if they were calling me closer. Time was against us today, as the day moved on and on not caring about what we wished for that day. The best surfing waves tend to be in the morning and we were ready to enjoy every single one for as long as it would last. My board slapped against the water as I dove onto it and I began to paddle through the waves. I could feel the cool water glide through my fingers as I got farther and farther away from the shore. As I wait for the next big wave to come my body sways back and forth from the waves rolling under me. I look ahead trying to plan my next move, I then spot a perfect wave making its way towards me. I was eager to ride the soothing wave as it made its rough path towards me. I could tell that my brother Pedro Jose was just as excited to have it as he paddled next to me. We locked eyes and without saying a word we knew we were fighting to have this wave. As the glorious wave bounded closer to us with every passing second, we both turned our boards at the same time and began to paddle as fast as we could. My heart was pounding and my arms burned from paddling so hard, but I was determined to not let him have this wave. I somehow managed to get ahead of my much stronger brother and cut him off right as the wave reached us. I push up on my board and quickly drag up my feet, as I squat to maintain
my balance. The wave feels powerful but gentle under my feet. I begin to push down my right leg to make my board turn and before I know it I’m gliding down the side of the wave as the water pulses under me. As I’m flying peacefully on the water I stick out my right hand and slowly push it through the wall of water rushing next to me. The water is flowing through my fingers as I drag my hand across the wave. I begin to reach the end of the wave and jump off my board, diving into the water. When I reach the surface, I cling onto my board as the water burns my eyes. I lick my lips to taste the familiar saltiness. I look to my left and see my parents, who were cheering wildly at my accomplishment clapping and waving at me. Beaming smiles on their faces. Even my brother pushes his pride aside as he gives me a high five while claiming he’ll beat me next time. I look to my right to see my youngest brother Nicolas practicing his surfing skills as he learns with the other beginners. One day I’ll be able to beat him to a wave too. Moments like these are the ones that I will cherish forever. It’s a hot humid day in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. My dark hair was becoming wavier as each minute passed from the thick and sticky air. I’m sitting on my abuela’s back patio -one of my favorite places in the world- as I watch the bright and colorful
Macaws on a nearby orange tree. The sweet smell of the fruit fills the air as a fresh cooling breeze passes my face, blowing my hair behind my tanned shoulders. I continue to wait for the rest of my family to pack as we prepare for our next adventure and before I know it we are in the car on our way to our family’s boat. We arrive at the dock and are immediately met with the welcoming smile of my father’s cousin, who we all refer to as, ‘Captain Paco’. Laughter, hugs, and smiles are shared as I greet Paco’s wife Rosa, and their two sons Paquito and Ignacio.
“Wave by wave we made our way to the shore of the island and the real fun begins.” Once our happy greetings are done we begin to board our boat. We climb to the top deck and strap on our life vests, all of us feeling very puffy and very silly while wearing them. We soon leave the doc and begin our journey towards another island offshore. The water is sparkling in the sunshine as it hangs high in the sky. As we look out over the glistening sea I notice something between the dancing waves. My excitement takes over me as I begin to shout “DOLPHINS!” at 87
the top of my lungs to everybody. The moment seemed to magical to be real, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wave by wave we made our way to the shore of the island and the real fun begins. As we anchor the boat I strap on my snorkeling gear as fast as I could. I’m the first one to dive into the water and begin swimming towards the coral reefs below. The colors were bright and vibrant, eagerly waiting for me to look at every detail. The creatures and fish swim in and out of their homes and some curious ones swim up to me to say hello. Hours later after searching as much of the reefs as I could, I swam back to the boat to begin paddle boarding. Ignacio joins me on his own board was we paddle and explore the rest of the shore. While wandering around we came across what seemed like hundreds of sea urchins, all bunched together. Their dark color and prickly bodies don’t seem too welcoming, so we decide to continue on our path. A few minutes later we look down at the sea floor below, the floor was about 25 feet down but the water was crystal clear. When we look down we see a group of the most beautiful starfish I’ve ever seen. They were so beautiful we couldn’t resist not getting a closer look. We abandon our boards and dive through the water and begin to swim to them. Ignacio and I each grab two of the stunning
creatures and place them on our boards, as we float on the sides making sure to provide them with water. They all had their own unique color and pattern, they vary from golden yellows, to scarlet red, and bright orange. These starfish were massive, each one at least a foot wide. They were so glorious we decide to bring them back to the boat for everyone to see. As the day grew shorter I decided to take one last trip paddle boarding
alone, before our adventure ends. I reach a little area on a calm shore nearby where the waves are just barely bouncing instead of rolling with power. I decide to watch the surroundings around me as I lay on my board. The tropical forest that is on the main land close to me, allows my mind to wander as I imagine different stories. I am quickly reminded of Neverland and the boys who never wanted to grow up. In that moment
I could definitely relate to them. I never wanted to leave this moment. Laying their floating on my board, my hand glides above the water’s surface as I the cool liquid dances between my fingers. I realized then that the ocean is my Neverland. It is my oasis, it is my safe place, and my home. I will always go back to it, because it always calls out to me. It is where I belong.X
Trees Instead of Gravestones It looks like you. At least, I think it does. Maybe it’s my imagination but that seed they planted in your chest cavity grew into a tree that feels familiar. It has a way of swaying with steady footing that reminds me of you, always moving. I swear it’s branches are twisted to the tune of the song you used to hum as you fell asleep. The birds that nest in its new canopy hear the melody whispered by the leaves and sing it back to me. As if to say We’re sorry. She makes a beautiful home. I know. When I visit in the spring I smile at the flowers, a dash of bitter lemon and buttercream between its roots. I imagine those roots deep beneath my feet burrowing into your brain and soaking up your soul. Turning our memories to leaves. Sometimes I have dreams about forgetting. About burying these memories in ashes. I burn the trees and all their branches. Not quite nightmares. In the waking world I walk along the neat rows of souls nourished by the earth. I listen to their creaks and groans and know that’s the sound this ache would make if it could be heard. I think about all the people they used to be. I think about all the trees that will have been me. I loved and am loving you. When I see you in this tree that tells me where your empty body is buried I miss you. And I love you. Time heals all wounds but it leaves scars. Time heals all wounds, but if you’re lucky it grows trees too. Haley Renee Born Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key (Excerpt)
Fly High A brown hawk whose feathers jumped around in the afternoon wind sat perched on one of the many telephone wires that were draped in tangled messes across the bustling city But among the shuffling crowds and the zooming cars I stood, staring up at the hawk as the hawk looks down on me and I find myself lost in thought Reminded of the one who made hawks so fascinating The one whose laugh was contagious Whose take on life was encouraging Whose intelligence was awe-inspiring And whose smile could illuminate a room But that room is darker now Since the adventurerâ€™s journey came to a screeching halt But I suppose it never truly ends, for the adventurer will never let anything drag him down Which is why Iâ€™ll let you get back to flying high and climbing those great tall mountains in the sky And with that the hawk spread its wings and it was then that Iâ€™d known that between us, there is no goodbye. Ashanti Moore
The Shore and The Waves The Shore fumed at the Waves: that constant tease that would brush his lips against her sandy beaches before running back to the safety of the depths. The two were bitter enemies, the closest friends, and the most passionate lovers, forever existed only to be together. The Waves easily became wild and fierce, his energy a liquid forest fire. There were days where heâ€™d grow violent, breaking his peace with the Shore to rain terror on the land she protected, destroying everything she had held dear. Yet he also knew how to nurture: to care for the abundant life beneath his surface or play with the humans that chose to venture into the shallows. The Shore was greedy, snatching up every shelled wonder the Waves gifted her. Sheâ€™d adorn herself with the dazzling offerings, vain as she could be, and delight in humanityâ€™s praises. So full of herself was she that she would snatch any bare land left behind by the Waves in his frequent retreats, growing bigger as she reclaimed the sands. For all their shortcomings the two could not exist without the other, opposing forces tied together in tangent. Yes, they would push and pull, battling against the other, but they would also dance and sing together, making love wherever they were to meet. It was a beautiful thing to see: these two powerful beings and bitter enemies, these two close friends and passionate lovers. Katelyn Gillette Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
A Winged Heart A mother bird flying away Only to provide for her loved ones Soon to make a gracious return Leaving the abandoned, relieved A firm, sincere embrace Warm to the touch But never to be felt again By a grandmother mourned By creation itself Her wings soaring to single destination Captive in gloom denial Longing for the only deceptive lie Thatâ€™s capable of bringing comfort Crooning the same melody Grimacing for her return Dissimulating the sorrow Taken aback, chilled By a departure least expected Only to discover the exit is temporary Wings will be once again reunited In a valid caress never To be undervalued Addyson Edmonds
Windy Beaches The breeze brought calm waves, Washing over the hills of the sea. Smoothing out their bumps and craters, Slowly whittling them smaller. The water was dancing. Taking one step forward, And two steps back. A waltz, going from adagio to allegro. Always moving, Never stopping. The sky turned sullen, Bringing light devoid clouds. Rain struck the thrashing waves, Turing the ocean violent. Lightning battered,
Thunder reverberated. Then they leaped away, Leaving the sandy border in silence. Soon seagulls sung, White Rays shone down. The tide returned, Leaving sparkling sand behind. Emma Beatty
The trees above, extending their arms, create a canopy of shade. Through the gaps gleam rays of sunshine, glistening off the slow flowing creek. The soft, leaf covered ground crunches and squishes beneath walking feet. As the wind blows, it whistles through the trees above. Drifting down, the breeze stirs the still tranquility of the fresh, earthy valley. Below, a pinecone comes into view, its fragile shell crunching in hand. More pinecones from above, cascading all around, land with a crash. On the ground, a beetle scurries across the leaves. A close examination of the insect reveals its diminutive, vibrant exoskeleton. Further on, a tree is seen fallen over the creek. Although long dead, the log thrives with soft, spongy moss. While crossing, arms extended outward for balance, the trickle of the creek, slow and steady, can be heard below. On the other side lies a stretch of rocks. Scaling the boulders, massive and slick, gives way to a never ending meadow of fresh flowers that fill the air with a soft, calm fragrance. Turning back, one can bask in the sunlight reflecting off the vast valley creating an unearthly glow, comparable to the aura of an angel.
Rain You were the Sky I was Rain. we mingled high above In the
atmosphere. I came to be so warm in your company. Always together always conversing in the cover of the clouds a new presence emerged Gravity, my kryptonite weighing me down toward earth. So enamored, I was. distracted. I left you. Rain. Then the high was gone. I became a puddle, trampled on, splashed in abandoned. you cleared the clouds, brought me the sun Then pulled me back home. Kailey Schlink Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
Roses Growing in the Ground I grow back Like the thorns pricking my skin But You hurt me With a skin ...deep cut But Because you left me My growth will still prevail It was for the best Because I knew I was only hurting myself the wound that has exposed my flesh with tears of blood remains to endanger me emotionally with Heartbreak If I don’t forgive myself I am not willing to forgive you If I can’t expect to let your wings soar But I refuse to believe you used me you’ll only hurt me more Unless I grow from the past and retract Sean Richardson
*This is a reverse poem that can be read both forwards and backwards.
When the Tide Draws Back The cerulean surrounds me as the swish of tranquility glides through my ears. The sun gleams above me, yet the air is immaculate, the sweet smell of sunscreen shielding me from all troubles. O the silken, white, powder which shifts under my step while children trot in the sand, creations sprouting up all around me Savor your childhood, I think. Saltwater sprinkles my lips, not repulsive, yet satisfying The waves roll past me and at that instant I know When the tide draws back, sadness will engulf me, gazing into the horizon I will kiss this paradise goodbye, since all good things will dissolve in the end. Amrith Samuel
Under the Coconut Trees A little girl races down the stairs, Light feet thumping against the granite steps Arriving in the kitchen, she spots her target A tall glass of grandmaâ€™s lemonade The glass glows in the morning light A muted yellow fluid inside With sparkling ice cubes floating on top The girl clutches the glass, hands sticky with sugar And runs to the front of the house She steps outside into a garden, Nearly suffocated by the intense heat Sitting down beneath some coconut trees, She quietly sips her lemonade A bright taste entering her mouth And a lemony smell entering her nose She looks up at the palm trees, Taking in this captivating world The leaves rustle in the morning breeze, Honeyed dew glistening on the thin green spikes Her bare feet graze the dirt, wet and soft While she smells the sweet aroma of the nearby jackfruit trees The hot, stuffy air speaks in a muffled voice With roosters crowing like the sharp sun in the sky Almost done with her drink, The girl scrapes the bottom of her cup Scooping out the thin layer of sugar And licks her finger, The course, gritty sugar filling her mouth with pleasure As she savors the sweetness, She stands up, Coconut trees towering over her And a syrupy feeling inside of her Trisha Nair
Flowerboy He’s a wildflower cropping up in different places every spring. If you look close enough you might find the brittle bodies he leaves behind, the petals turned brown with rot. You might think, sometimes, of taking him inside, away from the black-massed asphalt, to put him in a pot on the windowsill where he won’t strain to put root into rock, where the ice cannot touch him. But he’s a wildflower, with roots that won’t take to your domestic soil no matter how warm that soft earth may be. Paiton Stith
Detrik Ortiz 99
A Lightbulb and a Seedling A broken soul of sharp, smooth glass lies shattered in an empty field of crisp copper grass. The sun hides behind the bundles of trees, scarcely warming and illuminating the clear bulb of glass. The wind whistles through the air, gently stroking the rustling leaves with its delicate fingers. Soil lies in brown clusters in the glass, looking like clumps of crumpled chocolate pastry. Gracefully, a fragile seedling, emerald stems as thin as can be, sprouts from the broken soul, embracing it with gentle, heart-shaped leaves. The shattered bulb is not alone any longer and shall never be. Someday, the seedling will sprout into a strong tree, sending the earthy, dirt-like smell of bark lovingly through the air, bringing cool shade and protection to the broken soul, reminding it that it will never be alone. Bethany Robertson
Still Life With Glass 100
Hidden in the Shadows
â€œSomeone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.â€? Mary Oliver 101
Persistence It’s a Tuesday afternoon. The sky is clear and bright, yet no sun shines. It’s 3:27 p.m.,and raindrops from the mist lay scattered on the windshield, painting a small picture, though almost no one cares enough to take notice. Pulling into the parking spot (terribly, of course), she feels a familiar tug in her stomach.She is lost. Of course she isn’t lost, she knows exactly where she is. She’s on Santa Fe, and rush hour traffic meanders by in front of her. Yet, the feeling persists. Attempting to ground herself, she shifts restlessly, and takes a long breath. Not a steady one, but a long one. And she caresses the steering wheel, up and down, up and down. And she runs her hand through her hair, and over her face, blinking hard, telling herself to snap out of it. Once she eats, surely she’ll feel fine. But even after walking inside by putting one foot in front of the other on the steady, real ground, everything still feels a little off. She gets back to her car, gladly welcoming the warm embrace of the heating vents. She takes another long, unsteady breath. It’s 3:45 p.m. as her car becomes one with the flow of traffic on the dark asphalt. Tiny raindrops decorate the windshield. The sky is clear and bright. Yet, the feeling persists. Bella Wasson Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
National Scholastic Literary Silver Metal Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Lonesome Lands Paiton Stith
at him with double the fury and he stumbled rnest wiped a fleck of ash from back, nearly losing his balance. his overgrown eyebrow. It seemed “No,” he cried, eyes appearing from that the hair at the top of his head beneath his hairy white brow. A brow now had, like his grandchildren, unceremoniously singed at the edges. ripped out its roots and relocated elsewhere. His grandchildren left for places like Colorado He hurried back to his home and fumbled or New York, and his hair fled to his brow once with the hose until he could refill the bucket, his age had surpassed 60. One of his suspender but every moment was another second lost to straps had fell off his shoulder and hung useless the fire. The thought of it made his hands shake at his hip. Red, orange, and yellow reflected in until he poured more water onto the ground his watery gray eyes, and it shimmered across than into the bucket. When it was filled, he the surface of the metal bucket he held in one looked back to the raging flames and decided spotted hand. The night crackled with flame. that he needed another bucket. On and on the plains of swaying grass He was the kind of old man that didn’t stretched, his crops a small part but the only use a cane, but stooped over as if he might section on fire. He looked down at the bucket be using one anyway and, needless to say, his of water he held and back at the flames. His progress into the sagging farmhouse was slow. pants were only half-tucked into his boots, He gripped the peeling rails for support as he and he wore an expression of bewilderment ascended, huffing and puffing onto the porch like he couldn’t believe the flames would and into the hall. An unfolded letter from his pull such a stunt at this late stage in his life. daughter, begging him to give up the farm Finally, he decided it was a personal insult and and move to Seattle, sat on the coffee table, compressed his loose lips into a frown. along with a few other papers and envelopes. “Jeremy! Aidan!” He called in the vain Pictures of children and grandchildren took hope that they might’ve lingered after the day’s up every possible inch of space. Each picture work, but neither made an appearance. When containing a different background of somehe climbed down the porch stairs and peered where very, very far away. around the side of his house to the drive, their He emerged victorious from a storage rusted truck was gone. closet armed with a second tin bucket and He hobbled over to the edge of the hurried out, stopping only briefly to call the flames and struggled to toss his bucketful of mothers of the two farm boys he hired. It water on them, skinny arms wavering. When only took a moment to fill the second bucket. he finally managed, the flames only leapt out Swiping the sweat from his brow with his loose
shirtsleeve, he marched to the fire, a pail in each hand. He struggled for a long while with each collection of precious water and when both had been hurled, he took in the lowering flames, already dying down after their hunger had been satiated. The
red reflections danced in his eyes like malicious imps. With a cry he hurled a bucket into the flames as far as he could before collapsing onto the ground to stare at the stars. He had no choice but to wait for the farm boys to come back from their separate lives.
No care at all for Old Man Ernest left behind on his farm in the blistering night. The fields stretched on for miles, and he was in the center, his house nothing to no one. A stubborn island in the swaying country sea. w
Redemption The dingy carpet was weathered by years, much like her soul. The windows were all boarded up; large bifocals distorted her vision. The crumbling church a reflection of her broken faith. When she was young, she believed the walls of the church were held together by redemption. Towering over her, they created a fortress, overgrown with secrets and stories. She danced with the kaleidoscope sun beaming through stained glass windows. The sky was her confidante, a vessel where she would pour out her secrets and stories, ones she couldnâ€™t bear to admit aloud. Accompanied by tears, her sins and regrets cascaded into the blue valley of the sky. The remains of the window pane created sharp, jagged shadows against the crumbled walls. No longer did the kaleidoscope sun comfort her. The sky once filled her empty heart and gave it purpose, now she felt nothing, she was nothing. The walls finally collapsed under the weight of every sinnerâ€™s history. Broken glass clouded the past, pieces of sunlight lost in the wreckage. The sky had forgotten her name, along with her regrets. Like her they were lost forever, abandoned in the deep sapphire sky. Alyssa McCue Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
Broken Apart* Families are doomed from the start Because I refuse to believe They can experience joy and laughter, “Families can change” Is false Our genetics prove to carry on and on with no mercy on anyone The idea that Our families can surpass this ruthless curse Is a lie We tug, tear, and wear from the inside out until we are left as broken as our hearts feel inside To believe that We can be different, It’s a fantasy We are constantly creating false assumptions I am not willing to learn to laugh and live in the moment If I can’t expect to bring myself to forgive and forget All families break apart eventually I refuse to believe Families are beautiful creations filled with love and warmth Families will never feel safe or supportive unless we chose to reverse it. Irina Honc
*This is a reverse poem that can be read both forwards and backwards.
National Scholastic Literary Gold Metal Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
Death and I Katelyn Gillette
he awoke with a splitting headache and a chemical taste in her mouth. Looking around, it was hard to place where she was; a blinding darkness surrounded her on three sides, and she was able to see a tall figure in front of her, silhouetted by a blinding light. She looked up from her spot on the floor – though could she call it that if she couldn’t tell where ground and sky split? – to the figure’s face. She stifled a scream as a boney face stared back at her, emotionless. Death himself. “Allison,” he said, not much of a proper greeting. He reached a skeletal hand down to her, and refusing to think of her discomfort at the state of his hand, Allison allowed him to pull her up. Next to him and looking face to face, Death wasn’t too intimidating; he no longer towered over her and stood only a couple inches taller. “So, I’m dead now, aren’t I?” Allison asked, not bothering to beat around the bush. Death shrugged. “Not quiet. You’re still down there in the world. A part of you at least is still holding on.” “Then why am I here?” She continued to question him, never having been patient when she didn’t have all the facts. “To wait, and listen,” he answered, “maybe even to think – if that’s what you truly want.” “Think about what?” Allison snapped, growing tired of his peaceful demeanor when he spoke to her as if it were all so obvious to him. Ignoring her increasingly upset tone, Death continued with all the serenity of a saint. “Everything, nothing, all that’s in between. It’s up to you.”
Allison remained silent at that, not knowing how to question him further. Death seemed fine with this, allowing the silence to mingle with the darkness as the two wrapped around the pair. Her mind no longer focused on conversation, Allison allowed it to wonder to memories of life: making the school’s basketball team and celebrating with friends; breaking her leg and her mother rushing her to the hospital; all the well wishes as she healed over the next few months, yet still couldn’t run up the court like she had; the overwhelming feeling that she had lost her chance at her dream and the need to just get that voice in her head to be quiet. Without realizing it, tears had slowly traced their way down her face, framing her nose and lips before falling off her cheeks. New thoughts began to fill her mind, not her own memories but ideas of what would now come: her mother noticing all the pain pills were gone as realization dawned on her; finding Allison cold on the ground and frantically trying to wake her; having to tell her friends the news; black outfits and umbrellas in the rain as her body is lowered into the cold ground. Overcome by emotions, she fell to her knees, burying her head in her hands as the tears turned from a small stream to a gushing river. Death lowered himself to the ground next to her, a silent observer to her display of sorrow. “Can I go back?” she asked, voice muffled by her hands and tears. Death merely hummed in reply, prompting her to elaborate even if she didn’t need to. “Back there. To my body. To my friends, my family, my life.” “But I thought you didn’t want any of that anymore. Otherwise you wouldn’t have come to see me in the first place.” Though not cold
or mean, his words stung. They were another reminder that this was her choice, that all of this had been her doing. “I don’t want that anymore!” She said, a spark of anger bursting in her, not directed at him but at herself. “I just want to go home,” Allison murmured, deflating where she sat. “Well, it seems to me you’ve finally made up your mind.” Death stood, their
positions now mirroring when she had first met him, his hand outstretched towards her. This time though, she did not take the offering, remaining where she was. She was not ready to move on and felt that taking his hand would mean giving up in death as she had in life. Death leaned in closer, his boney fingertips barely brushing her warm hand. “I’m not going to stop you.”
She looked up at him, surprised as she felt herself pulled to her feet. “Really?” Death nodded and pointed to the light that had outlined him before, now shining bright at what appeared to be the opening of a long tunnel. “Just follow the light. All the people who’d joked about not looking into it simply didn’t comprehend the importance of continuing the fight.” v
Katrina They say she’s out of control, dangerous, a “freak of nature.” Everything she touches gives way into oblivion. With one sway of her hips she levels cities, a flutter of her lashes sends men spinning. Some say she’s the reckoning sent down from God; their punishment. One thing’s certain, she truly is a category 5. Airianna O’Donohue
Freezing Rain Rain pounds on the ground, demanding to be heard, to be seen. The grey drops sprint from the sky and charge towards their enemy below. They shoot down like missiles as they fall with high pitched shrieks, becoming louder and louder until they hit their enemy, landing with a crash as they shatter like sharp glass. Amidst the chaos, the grey sky blackens, the sun fleeing the scene. Warmth abandons the shattered ground and the missiles suddenly halt their attacks. The air becomes colder and colder, the frigid air as sharp as a knife, the frost biting with its bitter teeth. The shattered ground finds no relief and it only shivers from the abandonment of its shining ally. The fallen missiles havenâ€™t given up on their attack. Their clear, plastic-like remains freeze, harden, slicken. The ground suffocates under the ruthlessness of the transparent torture as it stills and gives up its defense. Bethany Robertson Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Gold Key
The Boy Who Was a Soldier In the car, we sat at the stop sign And I waited for the news. Then suddenly I got it. Those words, the ones that screamed in my ears, Told me that you were Gone. At that moment time stopped. Reason had run away from my mind Cold, hard leather dug under my fingernails And the cool wind chilled me to the bone. Puffy red eyes, a clogged throat, And salt stained tears brush my lips. Quiet sniffles slowly drifted across the car and Bring me out of my haze. Foreshadowing “I love you”s singed my mind And flooding thoughts wailed: “Why?” “What didn’t I do?” “What could I have done?” “If only I had known.” I knew a boy who was a soldier Who was hardworking and strong He fought every battle And never said goodbye A life has ended But, how many lives have changed? I had a friend who was soldier In the midst of battle That I never knew he had to fight A life cut short By his own scissors. A battle he had lost But I had just begun. Anonymous
The Burden of an Artist He prepares his canvas, the background of the alley puts off a grey cast that reflects off the surface; he frowns. He tries to reposition his muse, but the dead weight of the body gives him some difficulty. Just as he gets the street lamp to cast the perfect shadow across her collarbone, the sun begins to rise. He scoffs, remembering the headlines on the paper this morning, summing his craft up to “dreadful mutilation.” They didn’t see the effort he put in. They call him “The Ripper.” A rather careless and sloppy title. He knows this doesn’t describe him at all. Each move he makes is precise, calculated. Nothing like the “brutal hacking” the papers claim he does to his “victims.” He uses the skill of a surgeon and the eye of an artist to transform each one of his so called “victims” into something beautiful, something they could never achieve while still breathing. Still he wonders what hack reporter will write about his newest installment; critics always made him sweat a little, but then again, what artist didn’t face a little bit of criticism. Again focusing on the task at hand, slicing into her skin sends chills down his spine, the thrill almost too much to bear as he smears her blood on the wall of the alley titling his latest piece: w-h-o-r-e. Airianna O’Donohue
National Scholastic Literary Silver Metal Missouri Region Literary Gold Key
Haley Renee Born
ou can’t take it another minute, the shift of tight packed bodies, tobacco fog thick in your nose. Bottles in customers’ hands clink like chains tying you here with their emptiness. “I’m taking my fifteen,” You call to the shapes at the bar, knowing one of them is likely your manager. “The hell you are, we’re too busy!” He shouts back but you’ve already grabbed your jacket, swinging it up and over your shoulder. “You’ll manage.” Replying through gritted teeth. “Get your ass back here!” You ignore, blowing through the heavy double doors. Your pupils dilate in reverse, shrinking from the bar’s dull light to the flare of setting sun sparked on low-hanging clouds. Pulling a pack from your jacket, you read the boldface warning but slip a cigarette past your lips anyway. You quit a few years ago, at your girlfriend’s request, but it’s all just too much. Working wears down your nerves until your self-control is in shreds. Maybe that’s why, when you hear the barker call Carnival, free entry! you wander from beyond the awning and approach the pop-up fair. Music plays from a few staticky speakers and flashing florescent lights battle the sun for dominance over the sky. You take an acrid drag of smoke and imagine tar clinging to your lungs like the black crust where asphalt gives way to dirt. On a whim you begin down the path, looking at the ticket booth and Ferris wheel, the hall of mirrors you want nothing to do with. Something catches your eye and in a moment your ear.
“Step right up and take your shot! One dollar a blow, this old car has got to go! Who doesn’t want to let loose for such a low price?!” A middle-aged woman stands in front of a piece of junk car. Her eyes have light sketched wrinkles and her hair is graying. No, not graying, silvering. She wears a red striped blazer to match the chipped paint job of the Chevy Malibu. Four once-ruby doors. “Let off a week’s worth of steam cheap?” She beckons you forward. You fish around in your back pocket for the dollar bill you tucked there half an hour ago. You look at the car, imagining it belongs to the man who gave you the one. He had shoved it down the front of your shirt when you leaned forward to grab his plate, which now you suspect he purposefully left out of your reach. It took all your selfcontrol not to let the dish clatter back down in front of him. Seeking refuge, you leaned your back against the kitchen wall and removed the bill from the lip of your bra. That was when you noticed his phone number scribbled in the upper right-hand corner. It was the only tip he left. You hand the woman the dollar and she hands you the bat. “You’ve got one swing, use it wisely,” She says jovially and winks. You heft the bat experimentally, heavier than the ones you used for softball in high school. You like the solid weight in your hands. In your head, you’re still trying to pick where to hit but your hands have already decided. The side-view mirror is the weakest. The connection of bat to mirror is unexpectedly satisfying, like a hit of nicotine. You
almost feel your heart tighten, but it’s not even broken. It hangs at an odd angle and the reflection of the draining sky is splintered, but it’s not enough. Not yet. Again, before you know what you’ll do next you hand the silvered woman a five, trying to buy yourself peace in pieces. This time you shift your feet and tighten your grip. The mirror comes clean off with a plasticky snap, spinning out of sight, out of mind. The fluorescents catch on the perfect, unburdened curve of the car’s hood. You’re reminded of the way men talk about their machines, about how long you have to listen to a conversation before you can tell if it’s about a woman or a car. Usually what gives it away is how much they care about breaking it. You bring the bat down over your head and into the hood once, twice, three times before it’s misshapen enough for you. You’ve got one swing left. Somewhere you know it’s been fifteen minutes, but nothing matters except the blinding moment, the song of this second. A cloud of breath and a crack as the bat hits the windshield. The glass is thick, you knew that, but you were unprepared for the new claws in your lungs. You barely consider letting go, going back to work and suffocating, before the bat is resting on your shoulder and you’re leafing through your wallet. Not
something you can afford but you fork over the twenty. “Who’s is it?” She asks. “What?” You’re distracted by the continued wholeness of the windshield. “Whose car do you wish you were beating on?” “No one in particular. Some guys from work I guess.” You almost don’t notice her knowing nod. You can’t leave until there’s a hole in the glass. If you tried you don’t know what you’d do. As the cracks grow and meet to make fault lines in the windshield, you’re reminded of the not infrequent urge to grab a grimy piece of cutlery or shatter a bottle and bury it in one of the customers’ roaming hands. Just to make them feel it, how far they push you, how much it hurts, but it’d never work. That knowledge, the only thing that stops you. Right now nothing does. Finally, the glass collapses, sending shards into the soft cushions of the seat. You flinch from memories of being pinched. Gritting your teeth against the flare of helplessness you do to the brake light what you wish you had done to the man who cornered your girlfriend when she came to visit you at work. This time she’s not here to talk you down. Your arms are tired but your blood is fire, rancid as gasoline and sparked. You can’t stop until every piece is as twisted and broken and useless as you. You can’t see 115
anything but the dent you left in the hood, a dent like bruised hips and breasts. You hit their hands away, marring, scrapping red paint. Your nails dig into the grain of the wood. Thoughts race, eating up the memory of your manager talking to a table, saying She’s nothing special but she’s all we’ve got. Your hands, with the help of the bat, begin to dismantle the driver’s side window. Like you were a dish served lukewarm. Now it’s his car and you slam down the bat until the window’s nothing but a web of cuts. What had he said? That time some drunk shoved you up against the wall and knocked a glass out of your hand? It scattered into pieces that you spent ages picking up, a thousand tiny cuts. Then you were naïve enough to ask him why he was taking it out of your paycheck. What had he said to you? Twenty hits and the window’s more cracks than glass, but still not broken. One more, just one more swing, and you know it would buckle. Nothing breaks for free. That’s what he had told you. You break the fucking window. “Don’t think I wasn’t counting, young lady,” The bat drifts, top landing between your feet in the dirt, handle loose in your hands. You expect you’ve got blisters. Your hands aren’t the
only things that feel stripped raw. You let rage flicker and fade, returning to the slow simmer. You retrieve another dollar, leaving only a five and some checks that would bounce in the wake of your breakdown. “Nothing breaks for free,” You mutter bitterly, holding it
out. She eyes it for a moment but doesn’t move to take it. “How about this,” she says. Her skin has lines like smiles, but she’s serious now. “I’ll give you that last one probono and you’ll make me a promise,” Remembering a halfhearted warning about selling
Belvita it’s kind of a mystery to me these little brown ovals of crumb and cracker and meal replacement. not that i’ve had one before, but The Belvita Breakfast Biscuit Sometimes written belVita or BelVita Is the perfect source of steady nutrition Specially baked to release FOUR HEALTHY HOURS fo SUSTAINED ENERGY, according to wikipedia anyway and i think i’d like that to choose substance over sleep and convert cracker to convenience. i’d like that a lot, because if i’m lacking in something, anything i’d say there’s a definite defecit in SUSTAINED ENERGY and MOTIVATION here. i don’t take care of myself like i should but i think i’d like to Kylie Volavongsa Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
away your soul you raise an eyebrow. “You keep the one if you promise to quit your damn job,” You take a breath. A breath and a moment to look past everything at the freshly turned night sky. Put away your money. Walk home. t
Two Different Coffees The morning was cold. I held the coffee, warm and bitter-sweet, close to my chest. Its warmth embraced my body and hands. As I neared the entrance the doors slid open. The dry oxygen filled the halls From wing to wing From floor to floor The elevator was an escape No stale alkaline air No cold cream tiled floors Alas it was only temporary The sharp air stabbed my nostrils. I held my breath as we approached room 19. The blurry glass window revealed a thin man, frail and weak, Laying in a hospital bed. His room was empty. Except for the humidifier that relieved my suffocation, The smell it emitted was A faint and airy kind, Yet it reeked of menthol. A man of my distant childhood Had seen us through his right eye. His right hand shot up A greeting maybe He immediately pointed to a nearby doorway, The restroom probably, But his depth perception Was not quite calculated. My parents looked in the general direction And saw the humidifier. They turned it off. I sat to the left of the man, For he could not see through his left eye. My hands left the lukewarm coffee And touched the arms of the chair, A cold metal--reflective and lifeless. Despite the warmth of the air, 118
I had never felt so cold in my life. The coffee went cold The doctor arrived And my parents left with him to talk about the will. The room was empty. My hand reaching over, Trembling, Wanted to feel close, Close to the person in the bed. They returned. My hand was at my side, My blood racing through its veins. Shame Raced through my veins The man, upon seeing the return of my parents, moved. He reached his right hand over to the left side of his neck, And slowly dragged his calloused hand, A hard-worked and weary hand, Across his entire neck. The room felt heavy with sorrow. With gentles gasps of air, He repeated this Again and again. “Kill me.” Completing the message, His hand and arm went limp And fell at the side of his bed. The sweetness had left the coffee. My parents looked for my reaction. The man, who’s a distant memory, Followed their eyes. Slowly Moving his head toward his left shoulder I came into his perspective. I showed no emotion. 119
I tried not to. He stared me in eye. Empty, Not lifeless, But empty. The heavy gaze Dragged a mural down, One repressing memories. He turned away They waved goodbye. I looked back at The man of my not-so distant childhood, A man of my parentsâ€™ memories A man of kindness To friends and families. A man who was standing And full of life in memories, Now sat with slim chances of living. Were they the same man? In the elevator, I took a long sip of the coffee. It had gone cold And no longer was sweet. Its bitterness skyrocketed, Kicking my tastebuds Over and over again. It was disgusting. Was it the same coffee? Sarah Montes
Looking Cold autumn air. A sky like broken glass. His back to the earth, his eyes held open. “Have you seen the sky, Al?” He asks. Al is on his side. “Yesterday, the day before, the day before that,” Al mutters. Al doesn’t want to open his eyes to look. “Look again,” he says. Al forces his eyelids up, but he is very tired. “Looks cold.” Al lets his eyes close. “Feels cold, looks clear. I’ve never seen this many stars.” He wishes he could open his eyes wider because he knows there’s more to see, just out of his reach. “My mate Sam, you know Sam, said he’d never really stopped to look. Not till I pointed the night sky out to him. Sometimes we just sit and stare at it. I wonder if Sam’s here. You think he’s here, Al?” “Probably,” Al said, almost too quiet. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “I think, if the sky was a paper and the stars were little holes, the paper would fall apart. It’d just be in shreds. What do you think Al?” Al didn’t respond. “Asleep?” No sound. “I’ll go soon, just want to watch the stars a little longer,” He said and smiled. Grey dawn turns bloodied ground black. A field full of soldiers, now just bodies. Haley Renee Born Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
Annabel Lee Airianna O’Donohue (The scene opens on a man, his back is to the audience. He’s dressed in a gray suit and as the spotlight rises he clasps his hands behind his back; in them he holds a white scarf with red dots around the edge.) I fell in love with a woman by the name of Annabel Lee. (He turns stage right and walks downstage, the right side of his face is not visible. He unclasps his hands) She worked in the cubicle next to mine, and my was she stunning. (He smiles to himself and glances down at the scarf.) She was 22, the most beautiful girl you’ve ever met and a personality to match. I still remember the days she would come into work. Her thick raven hair curled and pulled back into a tight ponytail, red heels clicking softly as she made her way to her desk. (he chuckles) Her bright blue eyes would flicker up to mine as our pigheaded boss stormed down the aisles of the office. Yelling at an intern who put one too many sugars in his coffee or throwing a tantrum about an upcoming deadline till he was red in the face. We’d laugh in the break room, convinced that the steam wafting from his coffee would be more fitting pouring from his ears. My Annabel Lee was perfect. My one true love. The only problem is... (He faces the audience, something deep red splattered across the right side of his face is now visible) she didn’t love me back. (He turns and begins pacing back and forth.) Believe me, it wasn’t from my lack of trying. I asked her to see a film with me, and she said that she didn’t think that was “appropriate.” I invited her to a show but she “was busy that night” (he scoffs) I hadn’t even told her which night it was playing. I asked
Annabel Lee out 172 times over the course of 3 years, and each time she shut me down. I still can’t piece together why she would do something like that. (He stops, returning his focus to the audience.) I’m a handsome enough guy. I mean come on (he gestures to himself.) look at me. (he sighs) I was patient with her. As patient as any man can be, that was… until I saw her leave one night with Tom from two cubicles over. (he returns to stage right, once again hiding his face) I followed them to the station, I knew the route well; it led to Annabel’s small apartment on 51st street. I went to confront them before the train came. Ask her why, of all people, she chose Tom. (he again begins to pace) He was in my way. I went to grab my dear Annabel Lee’s arm, just to gain her attention, but Tom stepped in between us. He called me a freak, told me Annabel had asked him to accompany her on her way home because she knew i’d been “stalking her.” I knew my Annabel would never say such a thing, she knew what we had was special, that we were in love. He pushed me. (he stops in place) He pushed me away from her. I couldnt let that slide, what man could? Someone embarrases you in front of your woman, you have to take a stand; push back. (He turns to the audience.) So I did, I pushed him back. I pushed him and he fell over the ledge of the station, right onto the tracks. (he faces stage right, his stained face on full display) Just as the 6:30 train came hurling down the tracks. Poor Tom didnt stand a chance. It was his own fault, pushing me in front of Annabel Lee. It was his own fault that he was severed in two and his blood stained the tracks, my poor Annabel Lee got a spot on
her face. I went to wipe it, it was right above her brow(he reaches his hand out and mimics the motion) She was still screaming when she turned to me, look-
ing at me with abject horror in those beautiful blue eyes. She slapped my hand away. I tried to grab her, and could feel our relationship slipping through my fingers. I caught on to
her scarf as she ran away (he brings the scarf up to his face and takes a deep inhale) She slipped through my fingers. (he brings the scarf down, lights fade to black). u
Eight Steaming Plates The sunlight shining through the small window illuminated the dim kitchen and made the sweat on the chef’s forehead glisten. The kitchen timer rang, and he rushed over to the oven, bringing the hefty turkey out and placing it on the metal island. His thin hair bounced on his head as he maneuvered his way around the marble-floored kitchen, trying to maintain the many courses he needed to have prepared by nightfall. He scratched his beard as he nervously watched the sunlight sink deeper into the abyss and looked at the eight steaming dishes that now sat randomly placed around the kitchen. He sunk down into the stool that sat in the corner of the room, impressed at the fact that he’d successfully completed his task before the moon rose and he could feel his rapid heartbeat begin to slow. He watched as the sky transitioned from a beautiful array of colors to the mysterious dark of night and he knew his time of rest would soon be interrupted. He hopped up from his stool and organized the plates of steaming food onto a rolling tray and wheeled it out of the kitchen, his short legs moving quicker than his heart was beating. He made a quick left and picked up the plate bearing the lobster. Eager hands extended through the bars and the chef smiled sympathetically. “I hope you enjoy your last meal,” he said, and he pushed the cart into the next cell block. Ashanti Moore
Eighty-Five Thousand Eighty-five thousand born into a world of hunger, stare into their mothersâ€™ eyes, silent, but their bellies sigh because all they know is hunger. We refuse the apple when offered so generously. Afraid to be exposed to the cold, cold truth of the insatiable world Empty eyes empty hearts mothers, lost children gone stolen by a slow, lucid pain caused by a war, one fed by gain The serpent may be sly, but he has good intent for we turn a blind eye and refuse to relent hoping to avoid our demise admitting what we represent. Eighty-five thousand children have died Eighty-five thousand mothers have cried Eighty-five thousand empty white eyes Eighty-five thousand and we still have pride Eighty-five thousand and we still decide that itâ€™s worth it. How can we not be mortified petrified terrified I knew this was genocide when I looked into those empty white eyes. Emma Sandbothe 124
Departed Mind’s Lament
To lose one’s mind is the ultimate tragedy; one must continue without truly living, without knowing, persisting as a husk of a being, nothing more, nothing less. To lose one’s mind is to sleep for an interminable eternity with no hope of ultimate recourse. It is to plummet into a dark abyss of uncertainty, an inscrutable void of nonentity. To lose all comprehension. To cease all conjecture. To end. Joe Mirakian
Daisy in the Night
Smiles Have Secrets Too A smile. A smile can hide the nights I lay awake, unable to sleep. A smile can hide the tears I shed in the shower so nobody can see me cry. A smile hides the constant weight on my chest, crushing me, choking me. Oh, the suffocation. This smile is a mask I wear to hide these things. I wear it to protect my loved ones from all my burdens. The burdens I drag in my backpack every day. The agony that spreads through my back from the crushing weight, Like a ball and chain, they follow me and I can’t shake it off. I wonder what I did to deserve this silent, suffering prison. What crime did I commit? What sin did I succumb to? I grow numb from the pain because it’s too much to bear, Like being naked in a hail storm. The cold dulls my senses so much, I can’t feel it anymore. I put up walls to shield everyone from the storm. My storm. But I have a window on one of my walls. I like to watch children bounding outside my prison. Sometimes they wave or smile. Every so often someone will come around and open my window. Sunlight will pour in. It blinds me but the warmth feels so good I can’t shy away. I soak up every ray as we talk. Hope wells inside my chest as I try to make my escape. I begin to climb out the window and I can see people outside with open arms. A smile starts to creep upon my face but it’s wiped away as something tugs at my leg. My ball and chain. It restrains me, trapping me inside this hell hole. The window slams down on my face. I’m alone again. Isolated. I hear banging on my walls. My friends, family. But the loud noises scare me. I shrink into a ball and stay there. 126
Everything seems to stand still for me but outside time flies. I try to distract myself with the toys within my walls. They seem to work but the hail keeps beating down on my head. Never ending. Iâ€™m bloodied and broken. Shattered and scarred. But I still smile when people look through my window. And I tell them Iâ€™m fine. Ally Meyer
Lighthouse The waves whisper secrets in my ear, brushing my subconscious like the legs of silverfish. If only I spoke their language. I live in a spiral of teal tile and smooth stone stairs. My lighthouse had been abandoned by all but ghosts when I made it my home. Still, I light the lantern just to watch the gold glitter on dark water as it bends and breaks to the will of the rocky shore, guiding imaginary ships to me. Sometimes I think about leaving. Then the sun sets and the glass at the top of my tower catches the shades of the sky as it dies, I remember why I chose to be alone. In my nightmares I stray too far from removed safety. The salty waves fill my lungs and dash my head against the rocks, bloody sea foam washing me away. Isolation is easier than uncertainty. So I stay, alongside the long dead, walking day after day up and down my spiral staircase safe to watch the world glitter through the glass. I am at peace at last, though not for free. Peace can be so very lonely. Haley Renee Born Missouri Region Scholastic Gold Key
Caecus the Hated
Pencils New school, new set of pencils, each one perfectly sharp and full of potential. In every class you say hello, exchange names and past lives. In first hour, there’s a cheetah print Annie from Staples, fourth, a neon orange Jack from Walmart, and seventh, a lavender floral Lacey from Dollar Tree. Calendar pages fly by, and soon you know Annie’s in love with chocolate but can’t stand brownies, Jack plays both soccer and trumpet (and football because his parents make him), and Lacey dreams of becoming an actress if medicine doesn’t work out. Every interaction clear and kept with sharp records. Then lead breaks away leaving only a gaping maw caused by a simple note stenciled with only four words: I love you. - Lacey The paper crumples roughly in your hand as tears rush to your eyes. A fear grows for the chance that friendship could be forgotten or lost, all because of a little crush. Pages fall. You told her you didn’t feel the same way, and felt your lead snap off in the process. Days of short silence turn into weeks until quietly uttered words pierce the void. Friendship returns, sharp as ever, just several inches shorter. Another crack. Annie’s grandmother dies from a rare form of cancer and she learns that she’s next. She breaks, after weeks of attempts at coping. You all hold her close; your foursome doesn’t die, but she remains split down the side. The days turn, and so does the car in front of your sister on the highway, so split second that there was no way out. She lies broken in a hospital bed, 130
alive but unresponsive, all her colorful graphite spiraling around her. Your lead cracks, and chinks appear in your wood, yet they hold you tight, re-sharpening you as you did them. Your colors combine in a beautiful etched mural as you weather it all together, never letting go. During the big game one guy wouldn’t let go, forcing Jack down on the spot, shattering his right ankle, erasing everything: soccer, football, his scholarship, and his foot. Through Lacey’s coming out, Annie’s diagnosis, your sister’s coma, and Jack’s relearning to walk, your canvas gained colorful designs, depictions of a foursome so close they could never become splinters. It was an argument that ruined everything. One of those simple ones you don’t remember what, only that you’d cross out your words if you could. But you’ll never get the chance. Annie went home that day full of purpose. According to her penciled note, she believed she was doing the world a favor by no longer adding her words to its tale. You all didn’t even get to see her one last time, as they kept her casket closed. Like the image of your best friend’s mangled body would beckon. You bury the broken pieces of yourselves with her. Attempts to rekindle as a trio are made, but relationships are so cracked that they cannot be re-sharpened. 131
High school comes to a close, and your foursome is erased. The freshmen who walked the halls together wouldnâ€™t understand the seniors here now: A depressed lesbian on suicide watch, a crippled, ex-athlete, drum major, and an only child carrying the burden of the world. The sole string tying the three together lies under the Earth in a box of decaying bones and wood. New year, new school, new set of pencils, each one perfectly sharp and full of potential, lying in place next to the cracked nubs of others long lost. Mia Iandolo
Stone Bodies Stone bodies Waiting and watching Tears dripping down Their lifeless skin A box of flesh Kissed by death Carried by the strong And gazed at by the weak A son of God Murmurs words of sympathy But the bodies are unphased Frozen in a frown The souls that once lived Are gone with the box Hearts filled with sorrow Bodies made of stone. Allie Stipsits
Darkness Turns to Light Her feet propelled her down the dark and chilly alley, away from the darkness that threatened to swallow her whenever close by. The darkness was overwhelming and suffocating. Constantly drowning her. She dropped her umbrella and embraced the feeling of the cool, crisp rain against her skin. Welcoming the smell of fresh rain into her nose, for the first time in years, she truly breathed. And for the first time she noticed the light, the light that she had been longing for, the light that was once hidden behind the clouds, but now shined bright. The rain ended, and she ran to the sunshine she felt the cool, refreshing splash of the puddles against her legs, but she didnâ€™t care. She reached the sunshine and just stood, taking in the warmth as the sun rays dried up the rain left on her face. The light had reached her and washed all the pain away, and nothing remained, not even a trace. Jordan Farmer
Summer It is a hot summer day, the kids are here to swim in the cool pool, parents are tanning, and sipping on their ice cold drinks, a young boy at the age of five at the bottom of the dark blue dive-well, he has been floating in the cold water for hours. Later announced dead. Shaylin Nguyen
Eroteme Whose figure can compare with your t h i c k, bold curves and s l e e k, slim turns? For not even the hourglass rivals your smooth outline. What else stands so TALL and with such dignity on top of its own round planet? For you tower over your dominion as God casts a shadow over his earth. When, besides with you, will there be such drama and emotion created from the addition of a single character? For your presence brews mystery, conjures fear, and strikes intimidation. Where would society be without your generous contributions to education and academia? For you adorn each line of Socratic dialogue and the initiation of the scientific method. Why, oh WHY, are you so often truncated from Google search queries, people abandoning you without consideration? For your physical beauty and metaphysical significance must never be taken for granted. Eddie Dai
Olathe North Poetry Contest
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder; with a dash of the dictionary.” Khalil Gibran
Unusual Self Portrait
A Feeling Like Hunger I want to be bruised. I want the universe to pin me to a board and light me up next to butterflies, but without the glass. To take a blind step in the dark sky and fall, wheeling wildly down through stars and broken where I land. I want the world to pour her majesty in my eyes and ears until Iâ€™m full and it starts to spill out my mouth. Swaths of paint and secrets on my tongue, the taste of madness. I want to peel back the membrane between me and everything, bursts of citrus as my skin separates from my body, leaving me raw and red to feel what I want life to be; purpled skin and bee stings, a series of painful, beautiful things. Haley Renee Born 1st Place Junior Division 1st Place Overall Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key (Excerpt)
King of Crows Black feathers, slick from his forehead pulled to a soft curve that dives down the slope of head and into glittering onyx back, wings tucked tight. Oversized, gawky, perched on a wet iron rail that scrapes grime onto his sharp little bird feet, his beady eyes watch her, perfect stones call to her, an unyielding concentration of dark but for the single star of reflected light. The city is neon behind him. She brings her face close, where the smell of him is pine and earth and evergreen and her hand is a tremble-feathered dove reaching for his as he unfurls his body to put booted human legs on balcony, to look into inhuman features with whole black eyes. He buttons his coat, takes a step over the pocked holes while city stretches on forever, for centuries, but he shakes out his wings and tells her, â€œI know how to find the sun.â€? Paiton Stith 2nd Place Junior Division 2nd Place Overall
The Sharpness of a Lie It sits so casually in her back pocket ready to be used at any time. Its sharp and sly and it will hurt anyone she brings it near. As she brings it out she doesn’t know how easy it will be to start or how hard it will be to end. One wound caused by the lie will take a lot of time to heal. But she doesn’t stop at one. One lie to one person just wasn’t enough. The little pocket knife of a lie won’t go back into her pocket until multiple people are hurt to the point where they can’t be saved. Kimberlynne Hazen 1st Place Sophomore Division 3rd Place Overall
(Dedicated to the Little Rock Nine who showed true bravery in the face of great adversity, for Elizabeth Eckford)
I hear you America. I hear your trepidation to accept me. I hear the shouts and jeers as I make my way through your streets an intruder, the sweltering heat and spittle from your mouths commingling as you scream at me to “go home” to “turn around” to “watch my back,” I see you America. I see the way you look at me pure hatred in your eyes I see the way your people drag mine through the streets ropes around their necks dignity trampled by your feet. I feel you America. I feel your apprehension towards me feel your stark white hands pushing me feel your women as they gawk at me feel your men as they threaten me feel your children as they scream at me I can taste it America. the bitterness of over 300 years for 300 years I’ve been told I was less than for 300 years you’ve viewed me as less than for 300 years I’ve felt as though I am less than America, you gave me the sense that I am less than but as I walk through your streets as I see your people You’ve shown me that I am not As I remain calm and collected you grow frantic and panicked Scared by the idea that I have woken up Terrified by the realization my people have woken up We the People now recognize that you are not our “Superiors” As I walk up the steps of your high school I don’t hear you I hear the old America and as I cross the threshold I bring with me the beginning of a new America Airianna O’Donohue 3rd Place Junior Division 4th Place Overall 142
And I Grow I start as a seed, small, fragile I strive to grow powerful I grasp knowledge and relationships, they are my light, my food I drink memories and lessons into my roots And I grow During terrible storms, the rain pours on my face and my tears plummet, Plop, plop, plop Slipping through my lips, salty and sorrowful Yet I stand tall and I take a deep breath I learn to be as strong as the barks of my skin And I grow As I age, I observe the beauty around me I sniff the fresh flowers of spring As I begin to go far, far, far away I take my memories, each of my leaves are a story I take my pain, each crack on my bark is a story I take my wisdom, each of my roots are a story And if you glance at my bare Home after my passing you will notice I left A very little seed of my own And it begins to grow Abuk Yor 2nd Place Sophomore Division 5th Place Overall
Snap The last clump of snow was placed upon the temple of my crystal white snowman. Though built with tedious intent, he was missing a crucial element. Ahead, I spotted a freshly fallen, flawlessly formed pair of twigs. “Brother, could you fetch me those twigs?” “Sure,” he claimed mischievously. He was usually dependable, for an eldest brother at least. Last year, our snowman stood proud, invincible to the storms. This year, he stands unsteady, hastily placed coal eyes and carrot nose hang on with tired obligation, ready to fall at any moment. Then, a pair of snaps pinches my ears. I turn to find my flawless twigs, on which my snowman depended, ruined, broken, snapped in two. No glue from our parents could fix it. My brother, smirking, tossed me the broken pieces. Reliability shattered at my feet. The flurries the following year would reach the stable ground but would melt, untouched, immaculate, free from the forced formations of before. The snowman, now vulnerable, lacking the limbs he so desired, stood shivering in the cold, like me, waiting for summer to return and relieve him from his frostbite. Elizabeth Schuler 3rd Place Sophomore Division
Bare Are we all a mask of what we wish to be? My mask fell once, I revealed myself to another Now I wear a mask with cracks in it The jagged edges cruelly dig into my skin Reveling in the tiny stream of blood it causes That trails down my face like cautious tears To fix my mask I must take it off Ask someone to help fix the well The idea of that scares me Vulnerability at its finest To stand there stripped bare in front of them And ask them to save me From what I know I caused Because what if instead of fixing me They cast my mask away Content with it being treated like garbage And it would lay there Cracked on the floor Looking like a fallen angel Broken beyond wear And I would be forced to walk into the real world, bare Isabella Ceruzzi 5th Place Sophomore Division
Fear Fear is façade -the bright white light that glares at you as you enter the world, the monster lurking in the shadows, causing endless sleepless nights, only shooed away by your Appa’s goodnight The scream that gets stuck in your throat as you see a spider, It is the absurd things you see as you navigate the dark, the tight clutch on ma’s hand, as you struggle to stay under their protection for your entire life. Fear is the world around you creating panic in your heart that you don’t fit in, murmuring you aren’t skinny enough, pretty enough, popular enough, you will never be enough. The student sitting next to you in Pre-Calc, the one with a 4.7, a perfect family, lots of friends, colleges screaming that you need to give up your life, the childhood you once enjoyed, snatched away by the expectations weighing your shoulders. Fear is you. It is the pile of bills on your counter tops And the credit card swipe at the grocery store. It is the clench of your fist when you swallow your pride, Taking bullying at work, because you need the money. And it is the responsibility of keeping that sweet smile on your little one’s face. It is the anxiety produced when you see your child struggling And the helplessness when they just reply with “I’m fine”. It is the need to always be smiling for your family, friends, and the world While you slowly wither away on the inside. Fear is the inevitable. It is the wrinkling of your hands and the thinning of your skin, And it is the ache in your knees as you walk. The shrinking of your height. The distress of being forgotten. It is the pills you take, hoping they will give you just one more day. And the diagnosis that doctor gives you, illness after illness. Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Diabetes On and on until you are but a shell with a dysfunctional heart and lungs, begging for another chance at life. And it is the shooting pain in your heart As you fall to the ground, knowing the moment has come.
Fear is gone. As you take your last breaths. And memorize the faces of the ones you love the most. You see your life’s most precious moments flash before your eyes. Not the ones with the monsters, and society, and bills But the ones spent with your family and friends, smiling, laughing. Suddenly, the bright white light is gone And the fear that you once had disappears with it, As darkness overcomes you and you finally feel at peace. Khushi Parsai 4th Place Sophomore Division
Faithful Waves The cold hard leather pews beneath my kneeling knees remind me of my past – stranded in the deepest depths surrounded by the freezing loneliness struck with incessant waves of self-doubt that fill my head with lies. My sight of hope, that sliver of shoreline, stripped away only a blue abyss pulling me down. Yet, scenes of gloom quickly evaporate after he appears with mercy, his love radiates warmth and safety throughout my once shivering body, strong arms lifting me from the waves. I am now revived by waves of his passion and forgiveness. The lonely silence of drowning broken by truth, winds whispering words of beauty and worship. “I will lie down” He has saved me from the darkest of depths and led me to his embrace, brought me to pastures filled “dwelling in safety” I am reminded He is my Father and I am his child. Rachel Hamlin Sophomore Honorable Mention 147
Lost Angel Holiday music plays gently from my sisterâ€™s phone The melting candles spread the sharp scent of pine Snow falls lightly outside Masking the blue sky with threatening clouds As my family chatters noiselessly While we string up lights and tinsel On what should have been a joyous occasion But is now only bittersweet As we sit, my mother, my siblings, my aunt, and I All looking for our angel More than a month And yet my mother still cried When we discovered my fatherâ€™s stocking Now that there was no one to hang it The box went back into the garage The rest of the boxes followed, one by one Until the room, like the boxes, was empty The tree heaved under the weight of all the colorful memories But the top stood bare For not one, but two angels Had been lost that year Sofia McCoy Sophomore Honorable Mention
Your Words Tattooed my cheeks with tears, pierced my ears, left a bitter aroma in my sheets Why does anyone even pay attention to you? you whispered. my happiness— cut, sliced, shredded, and cleaved. As I prepare this meal, I hold my knife, the cruel cutlery reminds me of your words, I look at the creation I’ve devised, wiped the unwanted pieces to the side— remembering that without them there’s no meal Your words sever others, but you spare them for better use. You aren’t worth a sparing, you muttered. The knife you used deemed me the unwanted piece, it slashed me raw, but the knife you used, your words, lacerated me and left me battered and bruised. Abigail Davey Sophomore Honorable Mention
A Field of Suns When you face away from the sun, you see only their bright yellow faces, smiling back at you In full bloom, they themselves, a radiant sun facing toward their maker. They follow her as she tracks the sky, never once shying away from her brilliance, A sea of suns, reflecting the light. Your legs brush the scratchy leaves, reaching out to touch you, as they rustle in the wind. The breeze brings the sweet smell of the flowers to your nose, arms outstretched, the warm evening sun plays warmly on your shoulders. Ahead, they are a beacon to light your way, leading you into the unknown, but never abandoning your side. They give off a sort of bliss, A carefree energy you canâ€™t help but absorb. You, too, become a sun, reflecting the joyful light that you take in, following the maker, sharing the light, a beacon for the world to see. Grace Hansen 4th Place Junior Division
in the front seat of a car each time the all-too-real threat of graduation creeps up on my mind, i close my eyes and recount the countless memories i’ve made and continue to make. although the most prevalent memory is driving to and from our destinations, somehow this simple act is seen as life changing to me. overlooked at the time, i firmly believe the most heartfelt and truly meaningful interactions happen within the confines of the place that’s neither outside nor in, neither home nor the final destination. something about the passenger seat makes the tears flow harder the laughter louder and the conversations deeper. whether it’s the taste of Taco Bell at two am, or my vision blurring as i reveal my deepest insecurities, the front seat is the gateway to new places (figuratively and literally). the car being in motion isn’t even necessary. when i think of the people closest to me, and how they’ll soon be miles and miles from our city, i must remember that they are never more than a simple car ride away. Bella Wasson 5th Place Junior Division
There Stands a Catalpa There stands a catalpa outside my bedroom window. She stands tall and sturdy, surrounded by a bed of purple and green flowers. Itâ€™s giant elephant leaves provide shelter and protection against angry storms and sly pests. Much like the leaves clustered around my heart to protect me. Yet fears and doubts trickle in through the bare branches from which leaves have fallen, like icy snow slipping down your neck on a cold, weary day. In tempestuous storms she sways on her feet, leaves falling, branches breaking, trunk bending so precariously close to crashing to the wet ground, the cracks ripping through the trunk like lightning splitting the sky. But her trunk stays intact, and soon the storm dissipates and i wipe the tears off my face and cover my cracked bark with emerald green leaves once again. After the storm, the catalpaâ€™s flowers bloom from hidden seed pods and happily wear her flowers like jewels. Who knew she could look so collected and beautiful with so many cracks in her bark? There stands a catalpa outside my bedroom window. She stands tall and sturdy, surrounded by a bed of purple and green flowers. She has been through so much adversity. But it is through the adversity that I learn how to be happy. Tymber Marsh 1st Place Senior Division
Mouth and Face Madeline Prickette
those persons who love roses will have patience with their thorns. As the sun goes down and the sky spills over hues of pink and white I will sit with you and wait, wait for you to find the decency to look me in face and tell me the truth. Weâ€™ve grown too apathetic while the sweet smell of rose filled and dampened our lungs until it poisoned the bush-like fibers inside them. But even as the sun sets and the birds circle into a seance I will sit and wait with you, grazing the rose tinge of bruised knuckles that pounded against concrete in a vain pursuit to feel alive or die trying. Weâ€™ve grown too accustomed to the sweet rot of rose as it prickled our nostrils and melted brains into the warmth of the human spirit. While the sky burns with color and the cars huddle across the road we will sit and wait for you to find your sanity and grace as you try to gift me waxy smiles and glazed over eyes. Iâ€™ve grown too patient with the bloody mess your thorns have made of my fingers while I tried to care for you my beautiful rose. Kirsten Osei Bonsu 2nd Place Senior Division
Death Keeps No Calendar The snow
fell like whispering ashes outside the classroom window. I watched the flakes with anxious and tired eyes, following the sleepy sinking snow down to the frigid ground and drown In a brown half-frozen puddle. My phone buzzes, pulling me from my reverie, hands quaking and as I look. shaking Tears trickled
down my pale cheeks and drip, drip, dropped onto my cloudy grey desk. It was four days before Christmas. He was supposed to come home and safe sound. But instead heâ€™ll be coming in a wide, wooden, box for Christmas. Tymber Marsh 3rd Place Senior Division
Light The pinkish tint to the sky as the sun crests the horizon, reflecting off the clouds and coloring them like fairy floss. The way it feels when you get an idea And that bulb goes off in your head. The pulsing of a firefly. The meadow alit with dancing bugs. The flicker of a candle As they finish the words â€œHappy Birthdayâ€? and he blows. The sight of a thousand lanterns aloft, Sailing off to join the stars. That twinkle in her eyes, and her smile as she enters a room. The beam of a beacon as it patrols the dark sea, welcoming the lost as they find their way home. A river of colors floating through the North, As the Aurora dances across the night sky. Grace Hansen Junior Honorable Mention
â€œWe all belong to an ancient identity. Stories are the rivers that take us there.â€? Frank Delany 157
Escuela del Horror Hay numeros y equacioness que me dan pesadillas Cuando me siento en la banca me dan escalofrios El ojo de la computadora me observa todo el tiempo Cuando camino por los pasillos los casilleros hablan y sosurran Las libretas esconden secretos que son dificiles de desifrar. Eduardo Renteria Diaz 1st Place Spanish The School of Horror There are numbers and also equations that give me nightmares When I sit in my seat, it gives me chicken skin The computer eye stares at me Lockers whisper and talk as I walk down the hallway Spirals hide secrets that are hard to find (English Translation)
Naturaleza y musica Inmensos pedazos de tierra en el mundo. Estando en un solo lugar Los árboles crecen, el aire sopla y los ríos fluyen. Los ríos fluyen, las aves cantan creando una de las mejores melodías de la vida. Libertad en la naturaleza El cielo es azul el sol brilla en la distancia alineado a la tierra brillando para iluminar nuestro camino en la vida. El camino es la respuesta a la libertad. Las elecciones serán tomadas No hay vuelta atrás Solo tenemos un tiro en la vida. Será el final cuando las flores se marchiten. Ya no abra mas las melodías de la vida . La ruina está cerca, pero la libertad está lejos. Hay dos caminos Todos tomamos el camino facil Nadie quiere hacer la diferencia. Estamos desnudos en la naturaleza decidimos tomar el camino facil la gente tiene miedo de tomar el camino difícil 159
Estoy asustado en medio del camino. Decidiendo qué camino tomar Pensando si seré el único. La unica persona en hacer la diferencia. En este colapso de la sociedad. Mi eleccion esta hecha Estoy tomando ese camino si quiero hacer la diferencia. Ese camino lleno de espinas y obstáculos. Primeros tres segundos de vida y me rindo. Pero eso no está pasando yo seré el único. El chico elegido por la vida para hacer una mejora. Mi cuerpo es derribado quiero volver Pero la vida me derriba un par de veces. En este camino lleno de espinas. En mi mente estoy pensando ¿Es esto realmente lo que quería? Cambio de opinión Solo hay una palabra Mejora Mi mano se está arrugando Y en mi espalda, he crecido una joroba Veo mi reflejo en el agua. Ahora estoy viejo pero hice una mejora No me puedo mover Estoy tratando de arrastrarme Un chico joven está pasando Me ve arrastrándome hasta el final Me ayuda llevandome Pero es tarde para mi Él es un buen tipo Le pasé mi búsqueda a él Todos podemos hacer la diferencia. Simplemente noslo temenos que proponer Para hacer la diferencia. Sebastian Escareño M. 2nd Place Spanish
Nature and Music Immense pieces of land in the world Held in a single place Trees grow, air blows and rivers flow Rivers flow, birds sing creating one of the best melodies of life Freedom in nature The sky is blue
the sun shines in the distance aligned to the earth shining to illuminate our path in life The path is the answer to freedom Choices shall be taken There is no turning back We only get one shot in life It will be the end when the flowers wither There will no longer be the beautiful melodies of life The ruin is close, but freedom is far There are two roads We all take the easy way Nobody wants to make the difference We are naked in nature we decided to take the easy way people are afraid of taking the hard way I am frightened in the middle of the road Deciding which road to take Thinking if I will be the one That one person to make the difference In this collapsed society My choice is done I am taking that road if I want to make the difference That road full of thorns and obstacles First three seconds of life and I am giving up But that is not happening I will be the one The guy chosen by life to make an improvement My body is torn down I want to go back But life has thrown me down a couple of times On this road full of thorns In my mind I am thinking Is this really what I wanted I change my mind There is only one word Improvement My hand is getting wrinkled And in my back, I’ve grown a hump I see my reflex in the water Now I’m old but I made an improvement I can’t move I am trying to crawl A young guy is passing by He sees me crawling to the end He helps me by carrying me But it is late for me He is a nice guy I passed on my quest to him We all can make the difference We must make ourselves To be the difference (English Translation)
Ella Ella piensa que para ser atractiva O hacer que alguien la ame Ella tiene que ser delgada Operarse los labios Como las mujeres famosas en Instagram Tener cabello largo y perfecto Usar maquillaje todo el tiempo O usar solo ropa y zapatos caros y de marca Porque eso es lo que la Sociedad le ha hecho creer que es la belleza Ella olvida que la belleza interior es lo que realmente importa Tu puedes ser bella por fuera y todo lo que quieras Por las cosas que usas Pero si el mundo fuera ciego Cuantas personas te amarian Porque la belleza es una sonrisa amable Un Corazon de oro solo con buenas intenciones La belleza es ser confidente, es tener amor propio Es la manera en que tus ojos brillan al hablar de algo que tu amas Tu historia esta en las paginas d entro de el libro, no en tu portada Jocelyn MelĂŠndez Hernandez 3rd Place Spanish
She She thinks to be attractive or make someone love her She has to be shiny get her lips done like the famous girls on Instagram have long and perfect hair wear makeup all the time or just wear fancy clothes and shoes because that is what society makes her think beauty is
She forgets that internal beauty is what really matters You maybe can be beautiful on the outside all you want because of the things you wear but if the world was blind How many people would love you Because beauty is a kind smile A gold heart with just good intentions Beauty is confidence, love yourself Beauty is the way your eyes shine when you talk about something that you love Your story is on the pages inside the book not on the cover (English Translation) 162
o corredor Ele está nervoso seu coração é como um carro esporte Ele se sente pronto, mas no fundo ele não sabe A arma se apaga é tão alto que ele não pode se concentrar Há tantas opções para escolher, mas ele não pode decidir Tudo o que ele aprende começa a fazer sentido Suas pernas são como um vulcão quente respirando como um touro Tantos nomes sendo gritado em voz alta Ele se sente como se estivese voando agora o seu por conta própria do nada, ele ouviu uma voz Ele não sabe por que, mas ele se sente mais forte, então ele só sai para a linha reta Ele cruza a linha e cair no chão Jeferson Pereira Goncalves 4th Place Portuguese The Run He is nervous, his heart is like a sport car He feels ready but deep down he doesn’t know The gun goes off; it is so loud he can’t focus There are so many options to pick But he can’t decide Everything he learned starts making sense His legs are like a hot volcano Breathing like a bull So many names being yelled out loud He feels like he’s flying Now he’s on his own Out of nowhere he hears a voice He doesn’t know why, but he feels stronger So he just takes off to the straight line He crosses the line and drops on the ground (English Translation)
Emociones Mi familia es mi tesoro Si alguien les lastima, el dolor es lo que van a soportar Hace mucho tiempo cuando era una niña, yo era la chica más feliz Mi padre y yo tuvimos una fuerte conexión Pero él no iba en la dirección correcta Un cartel local lo mató Ese día sentí esas balas en mi corazón En su ataúd se descansa Me dejó como una aturdida Mi felicidad murió, ahora vivo en gris desde entonces las cosas no han sido las mismas Mi mamá llora, mi hermano y yo estamos sufriendo 9 años que pasamos las cosas de luto siguen siendo lo mismo Tengo el hábito de comer mi estrés La gente no puede dejar de darme prensa Traté de ser una mejor persona ayudando a otros A cambio nada mas que comentarios de odio Soy una cual quiera que soy una gordita que soy una criminal Los medios propagan rumores y mentiras Desperdiciando mi tiempo dándoles mi palabra Pero, sé lo que hago y lo que no Sé quién soy, qué haré y qué no. Brenda Calderon 5th Place Spanish
Emotions My family is my treasure If someone is to hurt them, pain is what they will endure Long ago when I was a kid, I was the happiest girl My father and I had a strong connection But he did not go in the right direction A local cartel killed him That day, I felt those bullets in my own heart In his casket he lays He left me in a daze My happiness died, now I live in gray Since then things have not been the same My mom crying, my brother and I are in pain 9 years we spent mourning things that still quite remain Got in the habit of eating my stress People canâ€™t stop giving me press I tried being a better person by helping others In return nothing but comments of hate I am a wench; I am bulky; I am a criminal Media spreads rumors and lies Wasting my time, giving them my word But I know what I do and what I donâ€™t I know who I am, what I will do, and what I wonâ€™t. (English Translation)
Imigración Me desperté de un sueño Sobre todos los demás siendo diferentes Y no sobre mi familia sino sobre mi. Vi gente luchando y sin miedo. Con hambre de una vida mejor y felicidad. Al principio, tenía miedo y nervios. Miedo de hablar y comunicarme. O de no ser lo suficientemente fuerte. Aprendí su lengua y su cultura. Padres haciendo sacrificios para salvar a sus hijos. De la destrucción que está pasando su país. pero en el y no importa de dónde somos pero a donde nos dirigimos Carlos A. Breach 6th Place Spanish Immigration I awoke up from a dream About everyone else being different And not about my family but about me I saw people struggling and fearless With hunger of a better life and happiness At first, I was afraid and nervous Afraid to speak and communicate myself Or of not being strong enough I learned their language and their culture parents made sacrifices to save their kids from the destruction their country is going through but at the end, it doesn’t matter where we are from but where we are headed (English Translation)
â€œIn the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.â€? Erik Erikson 167
Buried Slowly, I opened the drawer while my heart danced with curiosity. The unknown treasures my grandpa stashed away had been hidden since the beginning of my life. I thought back to the pasts I spent wondering what the glossy-brown cabinet had contained. Finally, my interest took over. My grandfather had always been an antiquer, he purchased whatever he could. The accumulated collection practically engulfed my grandparentâ€™s home. I soon uncovered old-fashioned and partly ripped clothes that were a part of his collection. Everything from a genuine gold threaded cape to a dyed fur and leather jacket from the 70s, The variety was incredible. My grandfather, who is no longer present on Earthhad been one of the most brilliant and intelligent men among the rest. His personal miniscule museum told his life story. The memory I have of him and his residence will always remind me of the excited energy I emitted when I unearth timeless treasures. Jade Almsberger
trials of the female The moment I was conceived And my egg was fertilized to have XX chromosomes Instead of XY My body was taken away from me And placed in the hands of men The hands of men that control dress codes The fingers that will slap my ass as I walk down the street The nails that will scratch my skin and I shout No I am undressed by his claws And my psyche is torn to shreds When I was a child I was always told to tell an adult When I was being bullied When I was being mistreated When I was afraid So when he undressed me Against my will And touched my body Without permission I told an adult And all they did was make excuses “He was drunk.” “Did you say no?” “What were you wearing?” And when my trial went to court He got away with everything Because there is no physical proof Of what he did But if you stared into my soul You would see the proof Of a broken woman Who is afraid to fall asleep in her room (What if he comes through my window?) Who cannot walk alone at night (What if he takes me when nobody is around?) Who cannot go to school because He is there He is everywhere Praised for his Achievements in sports “This prison sentence will ruin his life!” Screams his mother But what about my life? Hasn’t it been ruined too? 170
He made a choice that night While mine was taken away Where is my justice? Where is the justice for the women of the world? My body was taken away from me When male lawmakers thought it was their job to to make laws Governing my body Telling me what I can and cannot do with it They say abortion is murder But what about the murder of my soul When I was impregnated by a monster Given a child I do not want Where is my justice? Oh, in that case, I can have my abortion See? They will only give me my rights back On their own accord Reminding me that they are above And I am below But I will gather all the women of the world And we will pound our fists on their doors And shout so loud They wonâ€™t be able to ignore us anymore Ashley Honey Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Silver Key
Culture Curry Karthik Kasarabada
ndia, the seventh largest nation in area and second largest in population, harbors a rich history of heritage, language, and religion. It is the largest nation in culture. Attempting to interpret this culture challenges even the brightest of historians and archeologists as it is quite immense, but as an Indian myself, I can offer some insight of what it means to me. To do this however, I must understand my culture and figure out my place in it, and I must clear the West’s glorified assumptions of Indian society and culture, including the Caste System. It is important to me to share the beauty of India- to cleanse her from the tarnish of assumption and to free her from the shackles of the West. Indian culture can be traced back to over 4000 years ago, a time in which the events of Hinduism took place. Although predominantly Hindu, Indian society accepted all religions and philosophies. They believed in liberty, honor, and justice long before any other civilization at the time, and they implemented that belief. Indian civilization pioneered in water technologies, weaponry, trade, and architecture and created beautiful, robust cities in the process. However, this apparently strong society India consisted of had one fatal flaw- a weak link-and such a flaw was the lack of unity. Quenching on conquest and scavenging for profit, the western world used this weak link against India. For two centuries, the British Empire diluted the largest economy in the world and tried to dilute the rich culture, but they failed to do so. Astonishingly, because India covered a vast area and harbored an immense population, Indian culture thrived through Britain’s brutal oppression; it sparked the unity India needed. With Gandhiji’s nonviolent movement and a
unified cultural uprising, the overwhelmed British fleed. The question is: how did India survive for so long? It all comes down to a yummy curry filled with many, many subcultures. I know… this may seem far fetched, but hear me out. From the delicious dosas of South India to the great Sankranti festival of North India, each subculture contributes towards the culture curry. For example, people regard the United States as the melting pot-a fusion of all cultures into one American culture-and although it sounds patriotic, it dilutes the integrity of each culture making up the one American culture. In India however, each culture thrives because society promotes it and that prevents heritage, language, and cultural loss. It is a united culture that is not fused together that makes Indian Culture. In the same way, curry-a famous Indian delicacyconsists of many ingredients that are not fused together, but when tasted, feels united, a taste of all ingredients working towards one goalyumminess. From this Indian culture curry is the origin of my identity. During the Age of Imperialism, the West did a fantastic job in creating false assumptions of the eastern world. In India, the most infamous assumption surrounded the caste system. Basically, the British blamed India for having a corrupt, biased, crippling, and a “whatever they wanted to call it” society to justify their occupation of India… and that assumption spread like wildfire. To this day, people still look down upon India, but they are doing so without legitimacy. Essentially, the caste system implied order in ancient India. Not an order of oppression, but an order of respect. In fact, each “caste,” no matter how high or low, was recognized as important to society.
To elaborate on this, I should mention all the castes. The Brahmins consisted of scholars and priests, the Kshatriyas consisted of warriors and soldiers, the Vaishyas were the merchants and shopkeepers, and last but certainly not least were the sudras, the cleaners and servants. Everyone in this society accepted that each class is vital to the community. Everyone understood that each class represented a pillar holding up India; the foundation for those pillars was acceptance. The British brutally misinterpreted this societal philosophy, and their hypocritical selves- because they had a class system of their own- encroached India with that misinterpretation. Now that I have cleared the air about my culture, it is imperative for me to share my personal feelings about India. India is a place of convoluted cities and endless countrysides, a place of obvious poverty and obvious wealth, and it is a place with many people, stray dogs, and mosquitoes; however, most of all, it is a place of much diversity. The moment I step outside the airport, I hear the honking
of cars and feel an immense amount heat accompanied with horrendous humidity. The moment I enter India’s streets, I smell the pollution, the trash, and the stagnant water. In the same moment, I notice a scrawny man crawling abnormally, almost doglike, along the ground. I also notice lines of malnourished beggars occupying the streets and scavenging coins for survival. Sadness resonates the streets of Bangalore, India; hopelessness starts to suffocate me upon this realization of extreme poverty. Wealthy people swagger into superstores with an aloof attitude towards others, with a cold shoulder to the homeless. I wanted to help, but there were too many impoverished people. I wanted to help, but something forced me to keep walking, to give the same blind eye the wealthy gave to the poor. I was privileged, and although I wanted to defy this image of privilege to help, society did not allow me to help them. This societal gap between the wealthy and the poor conveys a sharp increase of disrespect in the modern community
of India. Historically, India survived invasion after invasion because it prioritized in respect and honor, but now that it is an emerging superpower economically and militarily, the people of this once beautiful nation are developing the same aloofness of which the British had during the Age of Imperialism. So what truly makes up India? I have shared the beauty of its culture, I have corrected the false assumptions tarnishing the image its culture, but I have also confessed that the modern society of India has fallen into the hands of greed and power. India, no matter how smelly, convoluted, or polluted it may be, is the most beautiful place in the world to me. Keep in mind that the city streets are still united with culture, that the greenery of nature still lives on in the southern tropics, and that the lush snow blankets the beastly presence of the Himalayas. No tarnish or shackles can harm India as long as her beauty is maintained through the culture she contains and the nature she holds so dearly.v
Branded Her wrists flooded red as the cold metal graced her skin. She shook her head, unsure if she could continue through the pain, but she knew this was something she’d wanted for too long. But soon, it was over, and she brought her wrist to her face, admiring the ink now embedded into her skin. Ashanti Moore 173
Best of Both Worlds I sit in a classroom Around me people speak the first language I’ve ever known But I am left confused Mi abuela is in my house She is helping mi mama with the chores She speaks to me But I hear few words I can understand And the rest is all but nonsense It’s recess Kids come up to me All of them ask variations of the same question I stumble through an unclear answer They walk away laughing I am in my aunt’s house All my family speaks rapidly in their native tongue Secrets and laughs are exchanged But I am left confused Sofia McCoy
2021 The school bell rings and The curtain rises, The show begins Many long and seemingly pointless Practices have built To a culminating moment The audience watches , judging Searching for the best stunts and stars The performers are asked to jump Through flaming hoops To do the impossible Tame wild beasts Throw menacing knives Juggling harsh expectations Concur intimidating assignments and tests As the trainers watch And teachers teach The expectations flash brightly Before you continually on a screen It has been done before The familiar roughness beneath your feet Balancing in midair You hear the audience roar You see the ground hundreds of feet Below you One mistake and it’s all over Everything has lead To this moment The acrobats conclude Their last extraordinary stunt The flamethrowers End as smells of The Fourth of July fill the arena And you take the last step Off that tightrope And end with a bow The graduate crosses the stage The final bell rings Jill Klusman
Sri Lanka I navigate the familiar cracks and impurities in the sidewalk like a veteran, Aromas that must number in the hundreds hit me simultaneously, Putrid fumes of exhaust, potent spices, sweet fruits, A cacophony of numerous sounds bombard me, The yells of vendors, the tolls from temple bells, the staccato of machetes chopping, The apparent entropy would overwhelm a stranger to this seemingly hostile land, My body drenched in warmth from equatorial sunlight, tropical breezes, biting insects, My eyes straining trying to absorb the sight of vendors, automobiles, animals, adverts, Yet as the world around me clatters and rumbles and blunders on, I feel calm within, as if this is where I truly belong, This hidden paradise of beauty within gruesomeness, of peace within chaos, This island called Sri Lanka is my home. Savi Buluwana
Better World Yellow and Orange blaze on the skyline. When her feet hit the water, the sand crunches underneath. The sight new The sight bold Hot sand, grainy and harsh, is now starting to cool to the touch The decaying sun starts slowly setting. Waves push back and forth saying goodbye to their light source. The sky vibrant The world dark Whispering, the cooling night air plays a tune of surrounding laughter. Her mind, filled with serenity, wanders off. How could such a beautiful sight be casted on such a harsh world? Her reflection ripples through the clear water the reflection of the new her. She looks back families laughing, couples in love, and the air so refreshing. This moment is her happiness. This moment is her better world. Nichole Harman
Fair Is Not Always Lovely Kruti Nataraj
air & Lovely was a cream from India that claimed to lighten your skin and make you beautiful, the cream that promoted skin bleaching. What is wrong with my skin color? Am I too dark? Why are they trying to change how I look instead of making me feel pretty just the way I am? All these thoughts flowing through my head brainwashed me, like a washing machine taking in a new load. My whole life, I was always taught by my parents that beauty is not skin deep and what’s on the inside matters most. If this was the case, then why was everyone claiming that beauty was truly about your skin? I started noticing things I never did before. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a face full of imperfections. When I was at school, I felt dozens of eyes stare at me when someone of my color was mentioned in class. I started to feel lost in the world where I didn’t fit in. Here, nobody looked like me, and in India, everybody who looked like me didn’t want to anymore. “Am I not beautiful?” I asked my mom one day, finally letting out my confusion. “How could you ever say that?!” She exclaimed. “You and your sister are the most beautiful kids in the world.” “I know you’re just saying that because you’re my mom. If I am so beautiful, then why does everyone who looks like me try to change their skin color? I want to be pretty like you.” Immediately, she knew that I was feeling this way because of Fair & Lovely. She sat me down and said, “That cream has been around since I was a teen in India. Even after all these years, there are still so many people with dark skin there. Sure, many people are trying to change, but there are also thousands of people proud of their color. Your color expresses your roots. It shows that you’re different from every-
one else. That is and will always be a strength, not a weakness. Everything revolves around your perspective.” This piece of advice has stuck with me ever since. I started to see the world in the same way I did before I knew about Fair & Lovely. Looking in the mirror, what used to be my imperfections turned into beauty marks, reflections of who I am as a person. People never stopped staring, but what did change was that I was no longer embarrassed when we learned about my heritage. Instead, I was proud to be Indian and embraced my roots. Right as I was becoming proud to be myself, I started noticing many videos with similar titles, all criticizing skin bleaching. While I was going through my self-image problems, I didn’t realize that thousands of other girls were also experiencing the same thing. Sure, Fair & Lovely was only in India, but many similar products were being sold all around the world. Many women wanted the same thing, for people to embrace their natural color because everyone is equally beautiful. The creamy texture and the floral smell of the white dreadful cream used to distress me. Fair & Lovely had caused me to lose self-esteem, but it has also shown me a different view on a problem that not only I was dealing with. Now I can embrace my natural self without worrying about this or any other ad. Ironically, without Fair & Lovely, I wouldn’t have the poise I have today. As that girl in the ad walks away believing her life is perfect because her skin has become lighter, I will walk on, aware that natural beauty is the best type of beauty, and it takes a lot more self-confidence to proudly show off your natural self than to hide behind a bleached face. d
Growing Up in Little Italy Mario Schneider
s I sat at the table, surrounded by as many relatives as there were pastas on the table, I knew that this would forever be my family. No matter what life threw at me, there would always be someone that had my back. It was a feeling like no other. I would do whatever it took to have a seat at that table. As the chilling wind broke through my jacket, I could not wait to dive into a plate of Grandma’s pasta. Her spaghetti was sure to do the trick and warm me up. Walking up to the house, I could see lights dancing on the tree and hear the laughter of family. All kinds of emotions rushed through my head as the heavy oak door was knocked on. Answering the door was my uncle, Tony Civella. Uncle Tony had a short, stocky build to him, as did every other man in the room. He placed his warm, beefy hand upon my shoulder and said with a booming voice, “Mar Joe, you have got to stop growing. You’ll pass the rest of us up”. Only to my family am I Mar Joe, short for Mario Joseph. There was as many as 30 people, all family, gathered at my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner. Being December, the whole house was decorated for the holiday season. Every room in the house was filled with relatives of all ages. My uncles were congregated throughout the living and hearth room, sharing stories and telling jokes to one another. All of the young children were running wild and free in the basement, creating sounds of pure chaos. And in the kitchen, the place of no return, were my aunts. The kitchen is a place where only the bravest of souls dare to enter. If you need a glass of water, you are better to go thirsty than to try and cross the warzone that is called a
kitchen. The magnificent smells of fresh bread and sauce often cause many wanderers to enter the kitchen. If one is not careful, you could be caught by one of the many aunts tending their pot of goodness, and forced to clean every pan you can imagine. Being a teenager, I am expected to be a dish dog at every family gathering. I sometimes arrive to dinner with my sleeves already rolled up, preparing myself for the joyous task of cleaning pots of sauce. There is nothing better than having every aunt give you a kiss. A large whiff of the same perfume cn always be tasted, ruining the taste of cannoli and Tu tu’s. Thankfully, the single peck is accepted in my family. But when Grandma Civella comes to see her favorite grandson, despite having 13 “favorites”, you better get ready to give her a smooch. If you don’t give her one, then she will, and I’m not willing to take that risk. Sunday dinners have always had such a huge impact on my life. Not many families get together as often as mine, and I am grateful that we do. It gives me the chance to spend time with my cousins and hear about all that has happened during the week. I will have plans on sunday night for the rest of my life. The Italian culture is something very familiar to me. Both of my parents were born in Italy. My mother’s family lives here in the Kansas City area, originally from Sicily. My father’s family still calls Italy home. I remember hearing stories of “home” when I was growing up. Italy sounded like such a beautiful place, and it was never made clear as to why my whole family moved to America, nor do I plan to ask.
The Italian culture has greatly influenced my life. Every member of my family is Catholic, and that is true in most Italian families. During Sunday morning mass, the whole church is filled with the people in my life. English is something that my grandparents chose to not adopt when they moved. I have had to learn little pieces and phrases of a new language to help them, as they have done the same with english.
My family was given me one of the best support systems I could ever ask for. They have shown me how to be a better person in everyday life. Countless life lessons and morals have been taught to me while baking cookies. I never knew that baking was a time to learn. My uncles have told me countless times how to handle problems I will face later in life, but my aunts have shown me how. I could not have asked for a better family. They will
always love and support me, no matter what I choose to do with my life. Coming from that stereotypical crazy, Italian family has been the best part of my life. It has given me so many memories and stories to pass down to my kids, then pass on to theirs. I could not imagine growing up any other way. And if you were curious, there is a fountain in my driveway. l
La Barridita Hannah Guzman (A young girl stands in the living room alone. She lives in a latino household. Arranging magazines on the coffee table then running around the room, she looks for things out of place. She stops in the center of the living room to address the audience. There is a broom, duster, vacuum, and other cleaning supplies scattered around the room. Throughout her rant, she is very overdramatic and sassy.) “Mom and dad aren’t home. (Singsongy) You know what that means? (Suddenly serious and speaking quickly) KEEP EVERYTHING JUST THE WAY YOU SEE IT. DONT TOUCH, MOVE, OR BREATHE ON ANYTHING, DON’T LET THEM KNOW YOU SAT ON THE COUCH, DON’T LET THEM KNOW YOU HAD A SNACK AND DO NOT SHOW ANY SIGNS OF LIVING IN THE LIVING ROOM. (Slowed down, more relaxed but still with a little urgency) Mom left ME in charge today so that means that if I am responsible and good and keep the house tidy, she will let me go to Daniella’s sleepover tomorrow. (Picks up the duster and carefully goes over the coffee table) This is a test and I have to pass if I want more privileges and freedom. Listen, I get it, you come from a household that has pets, your daily chore, (under their breath throwing shade) and I say chore without the “s” to emphasize you only do the bare minimum to keep your mom happy, (back to normal tone) is to make your bed or clean your room, but for me it’s very different. My mom expects a full cleaning service out of me. Every nook and cranny, every hair and dead skin particle GONE. And the worst job of them all is not cleaning the toilets, (With annoyance)
it’s not cleaning every single blind on every. single. window. No; it’s la barridita. (Glares at the broom then returns focus to audience) Now, what is la barridita you may ask. Let me explain. In Mexíco, the hot and humid weather is too much to handle by staying cooped up in the house so it’s not out of the ordinary to have doors and windows open as well as fans going. By doing this, the little breeze from the outdoors attracts a lot of dust and dirt into the house so a deep cleanse of the house is required everyday. (She grabs different cleaning supplies and moves around the room cleaning over all surfaces) So why don’t you just turn on the AC and shut out the dirt and dust? Okay well it’s because no one has AC. What’s the point of paying for expensive cool air to be on all day when you could just open a window for relief? Anyways, I see the point of cleaning everyday in Mexíco but I don’t see the point here. My friends families do this thing called “spring cleaning” and it’s when you dedicate a single day to clean the entire house. My mom calls that a Saturday morning. (She continues cleaning and being busy when the garage door can be heard. She pauses in her tracks and quickly looks over everything to make sure she’s perfectly cleaned the already clean living room. Her parents walk in and look around the room reviewing her work. There is a long pause and tension in the room. Her mother looks up sternly and addresses her.) ¿Y qué pasó con la barridita?* (Lights fade out.) *And what’s wrong with the broom?
YC Express Train YC Express train was scheduled to pull into the station at ten till noon; it always pulled into the station at exactly ten till noon every Monday. Rain or shine, peace or war, its punctuality was always a guaranteed constant. Nothing could ever faulter its course. Bundled up ladies, clad in their finest furs, sat drinking tea and gossiping amongst the friends they made on the journey. Their young ones ran underfoot, playing games they knew by heart. Old men sat in silence as they read through their morning papers. The younger men sat in quiet thought, not enraptured by reports of war and weather on papers, simply watching out the windows as mountains and forests blurred together. Some passengers â€“ their ranks compromised entirely by those that had never rode this particular train before - might even pull out their pocket watches to check if they were still on time; but of course they were, for the YC Express always pulled into the station at ten till noon, never being faltered by animals or debris on the track. Up in the engine, the conductor gave orders and blew the horn, its yell echoing as they entered a long tunnel. The engineers paused in their jobs of shoveling coal into the blaze to stretch their hunched backs, their hands sore and stained as deep a pitch black as their dark surroundings. But their pause in work didnâ€™t slow the train down, for the YC Express always pulls into the station at ten till noon and is never faltered by human error. Passengers in another train went about their trip: drinking, gossiping, playing, reading, thinking. Workers in another trainâ€™s engine went about their jobs: directing, ordering, shoveling. But they never would reach their destination on time, for the YC Express always pulls into the station at ten till noon and is never faltered by another train in its way. The YC Express pulled into the station at exactly ten till noon on Monday morning, never being faltered by the difference in life and death. Katelyn Gillette Missouri Region Scholastic Silver Key
Achingly Satisfied Fingers wrap tightly around the bowl; clutching desperately to steal its warmth Aching, stiff, hesitant in demands to rise They grasp at the buoyant slender ladle, tracing over its crimson lettering Bright and bold A soup spoon floating upon thick creamy noodles (Can you feel me floating away?) An exhale, a gust of sweltering wind, like that of a fire-breathing dragon’s The balmy sultry breath that encircles the hands Halts the wracking shivers, tremors, quivers A surge of searing heat that ripples and fades Through the smooth round surface of the bowl Into gentle warmth That leaves the fingers demanding for more (more, more, more) Dipping in the sea of spice Watch the ladle disappear Up, down, up, down; beneath the bubbly surface of the brine Chewy noodles, exquisite flavors rolling across the tongue The scrumptious seafood and oh! The crunchiness of delectable shrimp The swirling and dipping and searching Yes, searching, searching, searching For that single golden fish in a sea of thousands The first gulp of flavor: of zest A palatable aroma infused in the air, infused in your body, infused in your head Another heady, addictive warmth Down it goes and goes and goes And leaves the body aching for more (down, down, down) Until the warmth settles in the pit of the belly Until the fingers melodically drum and dance Until the cravings and longings impossible to ignore are— (achingly satisfied) Alija Koirala
â€œA day without laughter is a day wasted.â€? Charlie Chaplin 187
A Comedy of Errors MJ Ferguson
ll was quiet outside the small cottage. Gerald sat there in his car, waiting for the signal. He checked his fanny pack filled with supplies. A crackle came over his handheld radio. “Ready?” Fred’s voice came over the radio. “Yup.” “We go in on three, two, one . . . Go!” Gerald exited the vehicle and broke through the front door into the kitchen. “Get down on your knees! Hands on your head!” Fred yelled from the back door. The couple immediately jumped to the floor. Fred and Gerald raised their guns. “There will be no yelling, no calling, no nothing. You will do exactly as I say.” Fred glanced over at George and noticed that instead of the glock Fred had given him, George was holding a water gun. “Gerald, where’s your gun?” Fred whispered. “Right here.” Gerald motioned to his water gun. “No, you idiot, you’re gun.” Fred glanced out the front window at Gerald’s car. Fred’s eye began to twitch.
“Gerald,” Fred muttered. “Where’s the jeep?” “Oh,” Gerald grinned. He reached into his fanny pack and pulled out a toy jeep. “It’s here!” Fred placed his hand on his face. “Not a toy jeep, you imbecile. An actual jeep.” “Whoops, I’m sorry.” Gerald dejectedly placed the toy jeep back in his fanny pack. The kneeling young man spoke up. “What do yo-” “Don’t speak unless spoken to!” Fred shouted, re-aiming the gun at his head. He turned back to Gerald. “What did you actually bring with you?” “Well, I brought a kazoo, some spaghetti noodles, some licorice, a leotard . . . Oh! And a fluffy armadillo keychain.” Fred turned away from Gerald and noticed the alarm system box. Police sirens began to blare in the distance. Fred buried his hands in his face. “This is what I get for hiring someone online.”f
Beast Its shadow darkens the corner, curved edges unorthodox and terrifying. Claws as sharp as knives remain ready to draw blood and its sinister yellow eyes glow unnaturally, searching for a victim. The monster comes closer as I hide in the corner, hoping to survive. I scream in horror as the cat suddenly lunges at me. Bethany Robertson
A Wrinkle in Time
Three Feet, Two Feet, One... The pair crept with a chilling silence, making their way across without a sound. A hand halted stop, and the two kept their place. A few seconds passed by, and they were on their way again. Finally, they made it to the vault. “What do you kids think you’re doing? No more snacks after midnight!”
The Castle At last it was done! It was a glorious castle, one that took a lifetime to build! Beautiful vibrant colors cover the walls making the structure more unique than ever. Its high towers rise above the clouds, making its presence known from miles away. Citizens from villages all over would travel great lengths just to be able to catch a glimpse of this master creation. Guards are lined all around its walls, watching every move in front of them looking out for what lurks in the forest bellow. It seemed to be just another day, but the ground began to rumble, and giant stomps shook the homes in the village. All of a sudden missiles were being launched at the castle! “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!” shouted a guard. People begin to scatter seeking shelter from the hideous creature that’s now destroying the beautiful structure. Its hands dig into the walls crushing them with ease. It begins to shoot for missiles at the rumble, finishing off whatever is left of the once stunning structure. Once it is satisfied with its work the monster retreats back into the forest from which it came from. The town is devastated. The king will not be happy when he returns and sees his palace in pieces, scattered about the village. The Lego castle was no match for the little brother and his nerf gun today, but one day it will stand tall and strong again. Carolina Bermudez
Damn Technology! Tymber Marsh (Adult woman sitting at her dining room table at home, she’s watching her kids in the living room to her right, a quizzical look on her face. She takes a sip of her red wine and types something on her laptop then looks up.) (Exasperated:) You know what I don’t get? Technology. Everyone thinks technology is SO good and SO helpful and SO beneficial! I mean, yeah, it brings people together and it provides quicker access to information and makes it easier for work and provides ways to keep someone occupied, but it’s just becoming too much. My kids are sitting on their asses all day with their faces glued to their phones rather than going outside and playing! (Scoffs) The only way I can get my kids to go outside these days is to unplug the router! (Gestures to top of dresser to left of the dining table) Now you may be wondering, how do I get them to go outside if the router can be easily rebooted in just 5 minutes? (Crosses legs, folds hand, leans forward and says in a quiet voice) Well, I came up with a tiny fib that it takes two hours for our router to reboot. So, when they’ve been on their technology for too long, and I feel like I have to use an air horn to get their attention, I just covertly unplug the router and tell them to go outside and play. (Chuckles as she flips her hair:) Works every time. (Stares off in distance with
mischievous smile.) Anyways, I’m just so darn sick of it! My kids are like zombies now! They can’t go ANYWHERE without those damned phones! Hell, EVERYONE walks around with a phone now! I saw a third grader the other day with an iPhone X. A-A third-grader! Seriously! What has gotten into our generation?!? (Sighs defeatedly and sinks back in chair.) I don’t even use technology that much! Literally the only times I use technology is for work and for contacting co-workers and my family. That’s it, and I’m doing perfectly fine! (Takes sip from wine glass, contemplating expression on her face) You know what worries me? How much kids use Snapchat and how much they post on there! They literally post EVERYTHING. Just last week, my husband needed my son’s help with sawing wood, and all my son did was sit there and film the whole thing on Snapchat! One day I’m going to trip and hit my head on the corner of a coffee-table and die, and all my kids are going to do, is sit there and film the whole damn thing on Snapchat! I could die, and my own kids would film it rather than save me! (Runs hands through hair while groaning.) You know, my husband is addicted to technology too. Yeah. Sometimes he sits in bed after we’ve turned the lights off just scrollin’ through Instagram. And I know that he’s looking at other women’s pictures and liking them. (Pauses while nodding head) How do
I know? (Laughs nervously while gulping the last of her wine.) Weeelllllll, sometimes I snoop through his phone. Oh, don’t act like you haven’t done it before too! C’mon! The phone’s just sitting there, practically begging to be snooped through. And if you think about it, our husbands are kind of dumb, because they don’t have a password on their phone! It’s basically an invitation to snoop! Oh, and if he does have a password, then he’s DEFINITLEY hiding something.
(Sips from wine glass then realizes it’s empty and rolls eyes, setting it back down.) Come to think of it, my kids have been on their phones for farrrrr too long and it’s been a few days since I’ve unplugged the router. (Grinning, she gets up and unplugs the router, quickly sitting down after. And kids yell from offstage:) “MOM! THE INTERNET IS DOWN AGAIN!” (Woman grins) “Alright ill reboot it! Why don’t you guys go outside for awhile and play, okay?” “OKAY MOM!” (Woman
turns to audience, still grinning.) See? Works every time. (Picks up phone and starts scrolling, frustrated expression forming on her face and says with exasperated tone:) Ugh! There’s no internet. (Sadly) Now I can’t scroll through Instagram for hot guys. (Looks at floor, then quickly looks at audience with wide eyes, sheepishly laughs:) Uhm did I say hot guys? What I meant to say was hot fries...x
Razor Scooter The sidewalk passes; far from the foot of those, flying across the worn cement surface, gray centered by green. A bump in the cement causes an urge for a do-over. Flying across the worn cement surface, until a speed at which the tree’s turn to a swirling blur is ultimately reached. The side once previously so far is suddenly so close. Gray centered by green, the gray, interrupted by red, no longer provides the speed at which the tree’s turn to a swirling blur. It has caused the knee’s to skin; to burst open like pomegranate seeds. A bump in the cement causes an urge for a do-over. Molly Duke Missouri Region Scholastic Literary Honorable Mention
My Son is Missing E Ingraham Open to the bull room of a police station. Phones ringing, papers shuffling, busy cops everywhere. A detective sits on the corner of his desk, brow furrowed, flipping through some papers. Detective Porcelli skimmed through the police report, trying to familiarize himself with the situation. He was an older man, with broad shoulders and a crew cut. You could see the years on his face. Years full of drama, filled with paperwork and gruelling cases. Even after all these years of police work, he never could get used to crimes against children. But really any decent person despises people who hurt kids. From what he could tell, Mrs.Benson came into the station that afternoon to report her child, Jack, was kidnapped. He walked out to the lobby to interview her. “Mrs.Benson?”. He called out, scanning the room. Immediately a raven haired woman, no older than 30, sprang to her feet. She was red-eyed and puffy faced. Her makeup smeared from tears, and her clothes disheveled. She hurried over to him, clutching her bag. “Did you find him!”, she cried. “Did you find my Jack?” She looked at him with pleading eyes. “We have officers searching Morgan Park as we speak. Any breakthroughs, and I’ll be the first to know. I’m Detective Porcelli. I’ll be interviewing you about Jack’s disappearance.” He led her back to a small conference room. She sat parallel to him, watching as he prepared his notes. “Let’s start from the beginning. From the time you woke up this morning, to when Jack went missing. Any and all details are
important when it comes to a case like this.”. She nodded, took a deep breath, and began. “It all started yesterday morning. It was a nice day, ya’ know, so I decided to take Jack to the park.” She paused to wipe the tears from her face. His heart dropped. In front of him was a broken mother, experiencing the worst feeling in the world, a missing child. “We walked there, it’s only a few blocks from my house. As soon as we stepped through the gate, Jack bolted over to Sophie. He was so excited to see her.” Porcelli stopped and looked up from his notes. “And who is Sophie?”. “His best friend. She’s always there on saturdays.They where playing together, so I sat down on a bench and started to read my book.”. Her words became shaky, and more tears fell. Porcelli handed her a box of tissues, and gave her a minute to compose herself. “I only had my eyes off him for a minute! Just one minute! And he’s gone. When I noticed, I started to panic, I didn’t know what to do, I called his name but he didn’t respond.”. At this point, she began to sob uncontrollably. He was used to interviewing people in very emotional situations. He stood up to pour her a cup of water. Five minutes passed, she caught her breath and began to calm down some. “And was it then, that you ran across the street into the station?”, he questioned. “No, I went looking for him. Went through the park 10 times over. Checked the playground, parking lot, even went through the brush by the pound”, she looked down at her lap, in motherly guilt.
“At any point before his disappearance, did you notice any strange people? Anyone watching you or Jack?” “No, the park wasn’t that busy.”. She continued staring at her lap. “Most abductors turn out to be people we know, family, coworkers, friends. Do you have any bad relationships? Enemies?”. She looked up in thought. “My ex-boyfriend, Matt Maeson, maybe.” “Is he Jack’s father?” She rolled her eyes and let out a huff. “God no! He didn’t care if Jack ate, wouldn’t buy him toys. He was no good.”. She crossed her arms, and leaned on the back legs of her chair.
“ I ended it a couple months after Jack come along”. Detective Porcelli set down his pen and thought for a second. If they where going to find Jack, they’d have to get his picture on the news tonight. Spread word to the community. “Mrs. Benson, do you have a current photo of Jack, we need to get his photo on the news tonight.”. “Yeah of course”. She fumbled through her purse for her phone. She pulled up the picture and handed it to Porcelli. He looked at the screen, confused, and handed her back the phone. “I think you pulled up the wrong photos? Sorry, I’m not very tech savvy.”. he joked. But she wasn’t laughing.
“No this is him. This is my Jackie.”, she set the phone on the table, and frowned at him. Porcelli started for a few seconds, and then it hit him. He didn’t know what to say. Didn’t even know whether he should be laughing, or putting her in cuffs. On the screen was, as far as he could tell, a brown-ish labrador retriever mix. Cute dog, but not the little boy named Jack dozens of cops where searching the park for. “Is this some kind of joke, Mrs. Benson?”, he snapped at her. This was a police station, not animal control. “What do you mean a joke? Is kidnapping a joke to you, Detective?”. j
The Crash Yellow bus going 90 mph, over bumpy sand, grass, right through trees. Kids everywhere, screaming there’s “fire on the ground, don’t touch the ground! Call reinforcements!” Fire trucks came, zooming fast on the sand but before it reached the grass, the teachers called “kids!”They threw the toy buses down and came inside from recess. Arriona Shorter
A Sonnet A sonnet is so difficult to write Many complicated rules to follow You’ll try and try but still not get it right You do your best and still it is hollow Since you do not feel the warm sensation You’ll be opposite of being patient Of course, you will feel a great frustration, You’ll cry like a baby in your basement But when you have finished the fourteen lines You can tell that you will be very proud It is like when the bright of the sun shines When the sky is clear, without any cloud A sonnet might be very hard to do In the end, you’ll feel pretty strong and new Jorge Flores
I Hate Haikus Five syllables here Seven syllables here too Are you happy? Josmar De Jesus Perez Fausto
Snow Globe Somedays are like the Christmas cheer, Somedays I glued the bottom of a hole, Somedays my mind is unpredictable, But most days turn to a bore. I get shaken up just like a snow globe, Leading me to believe I can accomplish anything I put my mind too, and I forever Have more electricity in my body then battery. Then, my snow settles, burying me down Leaving me trapped, as my bed sheets do, The packed snow welcoming only darkness, Urging me to lay within my bed, And be imprisoned by my thoughts. Many people have inquired, With pure innocence in mind, “Are you sure something’s wrong?” And then the most ignorant response, “Well you don’t look like it.” My shell can be clean and glossy Like the wooden base Holding the orb of a miniature world, Trapping the snow within the glass. For that wooden shell is the mask I often hide behind, Truthfully, I am the little broken fawn, Frozen on the inside. Lillian Campbell
Time in the Timepiece Samuel Liu
ime has a way of sneaking out of your life when it is not fully appreciated. Ultimately leaving one filled with regret of what has been done and what could have been done. But you know what they say: “hindsight is twenty-twenty,” for everything becomes clear when seen with the wisdom of age. But in my youth, I saw the world from my father’s shoulders. His rootlike fingers would playfully wrap around my torso and swing my four-foot body upside down and onto his great shoulders, holding me steady there with his trunk-like arms. From there, perched like a bird on some great tree, I found security and shelter from all the predators and of the world. The only thing perhaps more attached to my father’s frame other than myself was the stainless-steel Fossil watch which he has worn from dawn to dusk every day in my living memory. It served as a constant reassurance, its hands making their routine journeys round and round again, every second of every minute of every hour. And with every revolution came a soft click of steel hitting steel: tick, tick, tick. And even today, if one opens the door to my room, two steps to the right lies a mahogany dresser upon which sits a picture from a family visit to China. It depicts my father, feet planted firmly into the Great Wall, a great smile filling his face, with my 3-year-old body hanging limp across his shoulders as he carried me across the world and back. And there also was the Fossil watch, its silver hands stopped, as if the moment were frozen in place forever. But it was not so - tick.
On a certain day around the middle of the February of my second-grade year, the arrival of spring was heralded by newborn grass poking through the last vestiges of winter storms, and red budding which had seemingly appeared overnight along the branches of every tree in my small neighborhood. After school that day, I went out into the newly green fields, and frolicked about with three or four compatriots, journeying to some far-off world using a worn cardboard box for a rocket. However, as the sun set into the distance, and the clouds were beginning to retreat into the horizon, I heard the voice of my father trumpet from across the field: “Samuel! It’s time to go home!” I reluctantly left my “spaceship,” trudged across the now muddy field, and set my head down began the long journey home. As the uniform concrete squares of the sidewalk passed underneath my feet, my mind wandered back to my intergalactic journey and I began to wander from side to side on the pavement, evading asteroids and aliens alike. However, once again my father’s voice interrupted my thoughts. And I felt his fingers wrap around my shoulders, the hard silver band of his watch wedged against my scapula as he said “Son, come walk beside me, I want to talk to you.” A crimson hue flooded across my face as I complied and joined him in stride. A few moments passed before he spoke again: “You may not understand it now, but you must learn be a good steward of your time and your childhood, for before you know it, time will seem to fly by and you’ll be left looking back on what you did with it, and also what you
didn’t.” pointing to the silver face of his watch he continued, saying: “See this watch? You may think that every day it simply resets and starts anew, but it is not so, every rotation, every flick of a hand, represents time lost that you can never get back. Therefore, you must work hard to make full use of all the time given to you, for it is a great gift. But,” he said chuckling “there is a time for work and there is also a time for play, so you go on with your adventures - enjoy them while you can, understand?” Simply wanting to return to play, I uttered “yes baba” and ran forward to resume my travels. And as fast as my rocket went, it could never quite reach the speed of light, so those years faded away as well - tick. In the midst of my seventh-grade year, my mind returned to earlier years and ultimately settled upon the fate of the Fossil watch, for my father had stopped wearing it a few years prior. When I inquired about it, he responded “Oh that old thing? It’s in the third draw of our old
dresser – the one in our closet. Why do you ask?” I hollered back “Nothing, just thinking” as I flew up the stairs, foot passing foot at a maddening rate until I reached the door of their closet. I passed through the threshold and immediately realized this would not be such an easy task after all: I would have to traverse countless mountains of brown cubes in order to reach my prize. Fifteen minutes later, after parting the sea of boxes, I was finally able pry open the drawer, and sure enough, there was the watch, with its band of interlocking steel pebbles lay thrown about haphazardly along the bottom of the drawer. A chill passed through my arm, down my spine, and settled at the base of my backbone: I had finally recovered my holy grail, my Rosetta stone – a precious artifact of my childhood. The watch seemed to be buried in a mountain of dust, but after a pair of Clorox wipes, its familiar face began to stare back at me. At first glance it seemed to be unchanged from the days of my youth, however,
closer examination revealed that its hands no longer ran with the same spring in their step. In fact, the minute hand had lost half of its previous vigor and the second about the same. But the watch was not the only thing which had been growing old. For by then my father could no longer swing me up on his shoulders, his branches had also thinned out a bit, and his roots were no longer as nimble. I myself, was no longer a small chick, but had by now was growing into a full eagle and thus, would have to ultimately fly on my own. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind, and the watch into the seat of my pocket, as I closed the drawer, thinking: “that time also will come, but it is not here yet, now is the time to love and hold dear”. I keep the watch to this day, cherishing every tick and making the most of every day. For though time always marches on, but one day, in thirty, maybe forty years, that silver watch face will stand still forever. s
t the top of a list of things I wish I had never said is this single word. Coolio. Somehow from a very early age I developed a romantic interest, and the object of my affection happened to follow with me through school from elementary school on. Always somewhere on the horizon, she would remain in the periphery of my life but somewhere just off center of the focus of my attention. I made no action on these feelings; I was a kid. What was I to do? I resorted to attempting to capitalize on the moments I would steal by presenting the best self I could muster in a fleeting moment. Yet I seem to never have played my cards right. I explicitly remember one elementary lunch period in which I was the first to find a seat, as my sack lunch meant I didnâ€™t need to visit the line. She, on the other hand, was the first in that line, and had a choice to sit wherever she pleased. Of course, the dynamics of a 10-bench 5-table lunch room mean one must either claim a seat in an empty area and hedge their bets on friends following them before some other group establishes itself tumorously in their territory, or join the camp of some established relatively friendly party. Evidently I was better than the unknowns of unfilled cafeteria tables, because she sat down right next to me. And I proceeded to be a complete nincompoop for the entire meal. Teeming with anxiety at the sheer number of prospects to be explored from this newfound position, I proceeded to share dull, anecdotal tidbits, then was paralyzed as others sat
down (primarily her friends) by the malicious complexity and frantic pace of alien group dynamics. I probably tripped getting up from the table, too. Years later in middle school there was a particular class we shared which required classroom resources be retrieved daily at the beginning of the hour. One day, following weeks of painstaking planning, the wind was blowing in just the right direction, and I sprung a plan into action. Knowing everyone would need their spiral notebook, and knowing I would get to class significantly ahead of most others, her included, I inconspicuously retrieved her spiral as well as mine and set it down at her desk before returning to my own. The only way this plan to do a small favor for a favored other could go wrong was for her to visit the crate of spirals before stopping at her desk â€“ the only unknown to my weeks of observation and foresight. It would seem I was too inconspicuous in my execution, as she turned to the teacher for guidance when she could not find her spiral where it should have been. Thus my plan backfired and only created stress. Nearing the end of middle school there was a field trip to Worlds of Fun in which I found myself joining her and her entourage for some time, the most intense period for me to display aspects of virtue to her eyes to date. The others happened to be a coincidentally mutual friend and a de facto friend for years from shared experience from elementary school, making group dynamics less threatening. The favorable situation allowed me to
capitalize until the bitter end. She had coupons for fudge from Worlds of Fun, so in the waning time of this trip our group went to make a purchase. We decided on two to split, as the portions were rather large, and we only had two coupons. Additionally the arrangement meant she and I would be sharing food, which could principally be described as a “score.” Beyond that I displayed financial wizardry by commanding the slush fund, balancing fives and ones so that everyone paid equitable portions of the final bill. Because of the time crunch I proposed the others return to the greater group rendezvous point in case she and I were a tad late, as the line was moving slowly. Everyone agreed, so there I was purchasing food with a long-term person of interest. Another “score,” if you will. We got to the counter, ordered, paid, then dug in to wait to be served. Such was the traffic and our beliefs about the itinerant nature of the trip sponsor that we simple could wait no more and left. So much for the gains involved with sharing food, piled onto by some responsibility for squandering joint funds. Adding insult to injury, our itinerant sponsor felt rather relaxed that day, and the rendezvous time was
pushed back significantly from the expectation – sufficient time to have retrieved fudge. Still, unable to let things go until the last, I took one last shot at exploiting the day’s opportunities, making a bold push and requesting the phone number, ultimately an overextension of my perceived influence, she obliged, and I engaged in a campaign to establish and grow propinquity. Over the next days I asked all the petty little personality questions I had never been able to divine by my casual stalking, severely stunted by my ideological abstention from social media of all forms. I picked up on many tidbits, but ultimately failed to spark ergonomic conversation. My last-ditch attempt revolved around the recently released Star Wars movie, and without much planning around eventualities I began a line of interrogation around it, hoping she hadn’t seen it, which could lead to the planning of a date. How presumptuous of myself. Turns out she had already seen it – several times – though not by expressly legal screening, and probably wouldn’t have seen anything with me any way I had cut it. Following the revelation of all but the most posterior of those events, I had two clever
ideas for dialogue pertaining to the dubious legality of her actions. One insinuated she was romantically unprincipled, and the other alluded to the “rebel” faction in the Star Wars universe. Clearly there was a superior option, but I wanted to share just how oh-so-clever I was with a friend, and so I wrote up a text presenting both as options with relative merit – and it went to the wrong recipient. This was promptly and appropriately addressed by putting me in the friendzone. I was livid. Mostly at myself, for making such a crass, tactless mistake. I suppose that result was fairly inevitable from the outset, upon reflection, but I made a snap decision. Coolio. That’s how I responded to the friendzone. I regret that diction for itself, but also for the greater series of events it represents in my history with her. It was not my proudest hour, and stung particularly for being my first time in the friendzone. They’re not wrong to say the first time is special. Today I don’t relive this sordid sequence in my past often, but occasionally I look back, and cringe instinctively. When I really think about it, I still find self-inflicted venom in a uncured wound. 3
Interracial marriage Skin the color of almond butter and short unbrushed black hair A soft and calm spoken voice desiring no attention Saying “Everything will be okay” in a mother like tone To her blonde crew cut, blue eyed, southern grown lover Terror and uncertainty drips down both faces They stand outside their aged house Trying to find a solution to their problem The hot Virginia heat presses against their different colored bodies The sun highlights her delicate yet tired face He however stands in her shadow Almost as if she’s light and he’s dark He tries to hide his doubtful thoughts But she knows him like the back of her over used hand The despaired look in his eyes that won’t look at her In fear of disappointment Is second nature to her His strong accent replies “We will figure this out we always do” The last strain of aspiration hangs on like the loose thread on his flannel They take a gulp of air The smell of fresh crops The sound of the children wailing The sun dancing over them Is home No words are said They are meant to be That is known Their love is not accepted in a cruel and hated fill place But that’s okay They won’t run in hope of saving their lives They’ll stay and fight Together Duvis Lopez
a moment in time i feel your quiet and tender presence even in this crowded room with so many obstacles of the mind your gaze meets mine a current of electricity instantly sprints through my veins your eyes, the color of a smooth honey so sweet i can almost taste as you run your fingers through your glistening ocean of hair, i wonder if i should run while i have the chance. light bobs on and off your face, tracing patterns in your delicate skin is it so wrong to be jealous of that light? i want to walk away, to forget. i see a smile so soft, it compliments your lips somewhere, an angel is smiling Leah Heeran
(Anonymous) 112 Iandolo, Mia 60, 62, 130 (Anonymous) 200 Ingraham, E. 194 Almsberger, Jade 169 Kasarabada, Karthik 172 Barry, AJ 2 ,9, 81, 84, 100, 105 Klusman, Jill 176 Banks, Nyle 81 Koirala, Alija 186 Beatty, Emma 59, 92 Laufenberg, Ellie 76 Bermudez, Carolina 86, 191 Lim, Caleb 72 Born, Haley Renee 11, 29, 32, 88, 114, 121, Liu, Samuel 198 Long, Lillian 71 128, 139 Lopez, Duvis 202 Breach, Carlos A. 166 Manuel, Sarah 1, 79, 137 Blanco, Jennifer 50 Marsh, Tymber 51, 58, 78, 80, 152, 155, 192 Buluwana, Savi 177 Martin, Molly 61, 64 Calderon, Brenda 164 Martinez, Fernando 22, 127, 133, 187 Campbell, Lillian 197 Martinez, Jesus 182 Ceruzzi, Isabella 145 Martinez, Levi 102, 129 Crawford, Ameilia 34 McCoy, Sofia 148, 174 Cruz, Dairyn 78 McCue, Alyssa 85, 106 Cruz, Jack 177 Melendez Hernandez, Jocelyn 59, 162 Cruz, Saurie 121 Meman, Elleanora 191 Dai, Eddie 136 Meyer, Ally 126 Davey, Abigail 149 Miles, Abigail 44, 79, 83, 157 Duke, Molly 17, 53, 69, 193 Mirakian, Joe 125 Edmonds, Addyson 91 Montes, Sarah 118 Embry, Mara 82 Moore, Ashanti 89, 123, 173, 190 Escareno M., Sebastian 159, 161 Mozingo, Trinity 70 Farmer, Jordan 134 Nair, Trisha 97 Ferguson, MJ 189 Nataraj, Kruti 180 Fisher, Maddy 34 Navarro, Mikaela 79 Flores, Jorge 196 Nuber, Hailey 80, 81, 117, 185, 190, Freund, Zack 82, 101 Nyugen, Shaylin 134 Genis, Claire 138 Gillette, Katelyn 30, 90, 108, 184 Oâ€™Donohue, Airianna 109, 113, 122, 142, Guzman, Hannah 183 175 Hall, Jenna 28, 45 Osei Bonsu, Kirsten 154 Hamlin, Rachel 147 Ortiz, Detrik 10, 81, 99, 111 Hansen, Grace 150, 156 Ozias, Trinity 65 Harman, Nichole 179 Parsai, Khushi 67, 146 Hart, Pippin 79 Pearce, Julia 63 Hayes, ZoĂŤ 135, 188 Peet, Adam 52 Hazen, Kimberlynne 141 Pereira Goncalves, Jeferson 163 Heeren, Leah 203 Perez Fausto, Josmar De Jesus 196 Honc, Irina 107 Perez, Hugo 78, 125, 178 Honey, Ashley 23, 170 Pineda, Vanessa 65 204
Phothisran, William 75 Polanco, Yolanda 81 Prickette, Madeline 8, 153 Renteria Diaz, Eduardo 159 Richardson, Sean 95 Robertson, Bethany 100, 110, 189 Samuel, Amrith 96 Sandbothe, Emma 124 Savoy, Kaitlyn 77 Schlink, Kailey 94 Schnieder, Mario 181 Schuler, Elizabeth 144 Shoemaker, Austin 93 Shorter, Arriona 64, 195 Snyder, Cosette 80, 158 Sridhar, Neha 66 Stahl, Brandon 16 Stipsits, Allie 132 Stith, Paiton 12, 18, 68, 98, 104, 140 Stultz, Xander 35 Thompson, Alyssa 74 Tobis, Sydney 82 UmaĂąa, Trinity 15 Volavongsa, Kylie 116 Wasson, Bella 103, 151 Wolde, Grace 80 Yor, Abuk 143 Illustrators Genis, Claire Genis, Grace Hayes, ZoĂŤ Perez, Hugo Stenson, Nicholas
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