SPRING 2021 | ISSUE NO. 1
THE PULSE Dwight Morrow High School, Academies @ Englewood Edited by the National English Honor Society
My very existence arose from the consummation Of two diverse peoples- a black man and latinx woman. Since my entrance into this world My identity has always been questioned. When you have been discredited your whole life You start to wonder, Am I worthy enough to claim either side? The discourse flows through my veins Every time I am asked "What are you?"
IDENTITY BY AIYANNAH LEWIS
COVID-19 BY: NAJUMA SCARLETT
Hospitals having more people than concerts, People dropping dead like flies. Everyone thought that it was all lies. Now that they truth is out its’s hard for them to believe! Even though it isn’t over a lot of people are relieve, Places opening and trying to get back up But nothing seems like enough. It doesn’t feel real at all. This pandemic changed more than just the mall. Countries closing, most try to smile. But their safety is jeopardized by many that just try, Rush the process and try to run a mile. Life isn’t something that we are currently taking gently, Something you have days, weeks, or even months to live. Jobs at stake if you don’t leave you home, People in shock and they start roaming. For food and resources that help prevent the virus, Facebook filled with remedies to strengthen your immune system, Toilet paper running out and if you're not there on time then you missed them.
Advice on How to Thrift By: Bella Carbone
Have you ever gone thrifting? Maybe you’ve heard about it from social media and wanted to go? Maybe you don’t know where to find local thrift stores or maybe the idea of thrifting may intimidate, I am no expert but I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I am willing to share! First let’s start off with how to find where to go. Thrifting is like a treasure hunt and finding the perfect store for your style and price point is the most important part. A few of my favorite thrift stores in New Jersey include the Goodwill Outlet in South Hackensack, MyUnique Thrift which has numerous locations, American Thrift in Passaic, and Red White & Blue Thrift in Paterson. There are a few differences between an outlet thrift store and a traditional store. The Goodwill Outlet for example prices clothing items by weight rather than individual price tags. It also sorts clothing in huge bins where you dig for items rather than sorted racks which is the set up for a traditional thrift store. Outlet stores are way cheaper but they can be hit or miss so it is important to never give up after one day of not finding anything because everyday they are putting out new items. Now that we have covered the basics of finding a location I want to share some of my own tips and tricks on thrifting. First of all come prepared, we are still in a pandemic so wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer, and even gloves as a safety precaution. Always wash your clothing after buying it before wearing it. Do your research and check the forms of payment that the thrift store you are going to accept because some stores may only accept cash or cards but many accept both. When you are at a thrift store you want to take your time to look at each section and thoroughly exam the items. Many designer pieces or just really cool items are hidden amongst the clutter of a thrift store. Check sections of the store you wouldn’t normally check af a retail store. Many women find amazing t-shirts and sweatshirts in the men’s sections and vice versa. Don’t be afraid to take risks and buy statement pieces because thrift stores are an inexpensive
way to take new fashion risks. Don’t gloss over the shoes and miscellaneous items because not only can you find amazing clothing but you can find cute room decor, shoes in good condition, purses or bags and technology. Many thrift stores have more valuable and better condition items on display at the front of the store where customers are not able to just grab at. Make sure to check these sections of the store because these items are more expensive but they are typically designer items for way cheaper so if you are willing to make the investment it is still worth it. The best part about thrifting is how fun of an activity it is. Make a day out of thrifting, invite a few friends and go to a few stores because you may find some pretty cool items or at least you will have fun memories of thrifting the day away with your friends!
Covid-19 By: Stephani Vargas
Covid came to everyone's life unexpectedly Whether you liked it or not you had to deal with it. School got even harder; life got harder My world became grey and gloomy There was never a happy day especially locked up home But I was like that because of my own choice. Life is how you view things. I viewed Covid as the worst thing ever It might have ruined a lot of things for me But it also taught me new things. It brought my family together I found new friends Learned new hobbies... Covid took a lot from us But it also gave us a lot of new things. It is now our choice if it keeps hurting us Or we just adapt to it and see the positive side of things.
Steve Jobs was a Good Boss Dylan Seo
There are many kinds of leaders today both great and terrible. Steve Jobs was the positive leader of Apple. Even though Steve Jobs has been a cruel leader, who fires people in his company that he doesn’t like, and takes credit for other’s works, he has invented many things that was beneficial to the world today. When Steve Jobs wanted to succeed in something, he risked his whole company to make his company come to the top once again. In the world today, people cannot live without the inventions that Steve Jobs has made. Steve Jobs was an effective, inspiring, and confident person because he was the best innovator of all time who thought about his company before him. First, Steve Jobs was an effective leader since he did not give up and tried as hard as if it was the last day of his life. Steve Jobs was a person who did not approve of a product until it was the best of the best. Furthermore, he wanted everything to be perfect so Steve Jobs thought about the product, how it can be better, and improved on it. According to Karen Blumenthal, the author of “Steve Jobs The Man Who Thought Different,” she stated, “He [Steve Jobs] noted that slashing ten seconds would save fifty million seconds every day. ‘Over a year, that’s probably dozens of lifetimes,’ he told them. Now on a roll, he made a particularly big leap: If you could make it boot ten seconds faster, you will save a dozen lives. That is really worth it, don’t you think?’ The team figured out how to shorten the boot-up time.” Karen states that Steve Jobs thought of ways to make lives better and if there was, he advanced on it. Additionally, from the same book, Karen stated, “When you first look at a problem, it seems easy because you do not know that much about it, he [Steve Jobs] said. Then, ‘you get into the problem and you see it’s really complicated, and you come up with all these convoluted solutions.’ Most people stop here. But the key is to keep going, he said, until you find the underlying principle of the problem and
sort of come full circle with a beautiful, elegant solution that works.’” This quote shows how Steve Jobs was a person who was different from others. He found the best solution for every problem he had with his products. If a person truly works hard, they can achieve many things in the same way as Steve Job did when he accomplished making his new creation. Second, Steve Jobs was an inspiring leader to many people because he composed many inventions and said many things that were true. Steve Jobs is a person who inspired others to do the things they love and not give up. Steve Jobs focused on the work he loved so much, and he wanted to lift Apple so it will always be on the top. An average person who invents things releases at most of one product, however, Steve Jobs made more than one development. In a video, Tim Cook’s Speech at Steve Jobs Memorial, Tim Cook has stated, “He [Steve Jobs] did some amazing things and he himself once said, ‘to get to work on one revolutionary product in a career is extraordinary.’ By my count, he worked on six.’” Tim Cook mentioned this at Steve Jobs’ memorial, and this shows people were emotionally touched by his actions and other things that he had invented. Furthermore, “People all over the world have been deeply moved by his passing and many have spoken about what he meant to them. You’ve probably seen characterizations; he’s been called a visionary, a creative genius, a rebel, a nonconformist, an original, the greatest CEO ever, the best innovator of all time.” This part of the speech shows how much Steve Jobs inspired people and the amount he was meant to them. All around the world, Steve Jobs is a leader who did amazing things that people cannot believe. Lastly, Steve Jobs was a confident leader because he was confident to take risky leaps and chances to make his new merchandise. Steve Jobs took many risks such as firing people or spending a lot of money that they might not be able to regain back. According to the article, “The Steve Jobs Way”, “He [Steve Jobs] was intensely focused when committed, confident enough to
take risky leaps, and charismatic enough to enlist legions of employees and customers in the relentless pursuit of his aspirations.” This sentence stated by Jon Katzenbach shows that Steve Jobs was a confident leader to take very risky risks which jeopardized his company to decline very horribly if it did not go well. Additionally, once, when Steve Jobs was about to give a speech to Apple’s boards why Apple is a failing company, “A few minutes later, Jobs walked in and sat down. He was wearing shorts, sneakers, and a few days of stubble. ‘Okay tell me what’s wrong with this place,’ he asked the group.” Karen Blumenthal had stated this in her book, “Steve Jobs The Man Who Thought Different.” This shows that when Steve Jobs returned to Apple to convince the leaders of Apple at that current time, he was confident enough to convince them without dressing properly and starting the speech in an informal way. Steve Jobs was a leader who was very confident enough to put his life and career on the line for his work to be successful. In contrast to Steve Jobs being a positive leader, he was often a negative leader. Steve Jobs made bad choices and was a terrible person to others. Steve Jobs made bad choices such as hiring John Sculley. John Sculley had fired Steve Jobs out of his own company and ruined everything that Steve Jobs have been working on for ten years. According to an article, “A young Steve Jobs brought in John Sculley to run Apple. Unfortunately, he got someone that did not understand Apple’s culture or brand. Eventually Sculley consolidated enough power and moved to have Jobs replaced. As a result, the Apple brand suffered. A decade later Jobs said, ‘What can I say? I hired the wrong guy. He destroyed everything I spent 10 years working for, starting with me.’” Bob Sanders had stated this in his article, “8 Unforgettable Leadership Mistakes Steve Jobs Made,” which clarifies that Steve Jobs was a person who was terrible at making important decisions for his company. After Jobs made difficult decisions that fired him, not only he
suffered, but also his company suffered too. Additionally, Steve Jobs did many horrible things such as firing random people in his company if he didn’t like the style they work or if they were not cooperating with him. Additionally, in the article by Bob Sanders, he had stated, “Steve Jobs never had any formal training: not in management, not in engineering, not in design. Almost everyone he worked with was amazed at his capacity to make decisions solely based on his instinct.” This part of the article stated by Bob Sanders shows Steve Jobs fired people based on his instincts instead of reviewing their own work with his own personal skills and firing them if their product was very terrible. Steve Jobs was never trained to do his work. He was a man who had the courage to start a company of the things he loved most without any experience or thought about how his company was going to be beneficial. In conclusion, Steve Jobs was both a positive and negative leader. In most cases, Steve Jobs was efficient, inspiring, and confident. He was a leader who never gave up in anything and found a solution for every single problem. Steve Jobs changed a lot of lives through his inventions. He never lost faith in a something he loved most, and neither should everyone else in the Earth. Steve Jobs is a great leader who shall never be forgotten of his legacy of Apple.
THE NIGHT BEFORE A SHORT STORY BY KIANA ONG
In the bedroom... “Phoebe, Phoebe, I need mac and cheese desperately. Bring me some now!!” Sorry, I am currently low battery, on my way to the charging station says Phoebe, the food robot. “UGHH. How long do you need to charge?” Approximately 7 minutes. “7 minutes?!?” At the door... Ding ding. Incorrect, please try again says Ebenezer, the eye scanner at our door. Ding ding. Incorrect, please try again. “BABY! Please ring me in the door still can not recognize me in my glasses!” Bzzz. On the couch… “Today was rough. I arrived right on time to work but then I realized I left my contacts here. Whipped out my glasses and boom, the scanner at work didn’t recognize me either! I wasn’t even promoted to the front office. Little Miss Coffee was. If I had known bringing coffee to the boss every morning would score me a promotion, I would have done that for the past, I don’t know, 16 years I have been working there?!” “There, there, lover…” she feeds him some mac and cheese then runs to the bedroom. “I have just the remedy for us.” “Tada!” She pulls out the blue bottle titled “Laughter” and sprays it around them. In their minds… It was Winter 2020. The first year of the pandemic. They were close friends. “Come on, let’s goooo! Snow only lasts so long and I will never talk to you again if you don’t make this snowman with me. Hmph.” “Fine, fine! Finish your hot chocolate first and don’t start crying to me when it gets too cold out there for you!”
THE NIGHT BEFORE A SHORT STORY BY KIANA ONG
She starts to roll a ball for the belly of the snowman and has a sudden, immediate, urge to throw her perfectly round balls of snow at him. Splat! Right. In. The. Face. “Revenge! Revenge!” He sprints towards her. They laugh hysterically as he chases her like a scene from Tom and Jerry. Later, they make snow angels and share their first kiss. Back on the Couch… They sit lifelessly with a dead look in their eyes. The pupils of their eyes are foggy and gray. Reality seems dull on the outside. But, the familiar smell of hot chocolate in the Winter felt warm and happy in their minds. The Week After… “You are going to kill me.” “Why…” “Turns out Little Miss Coffee sucks and they need someone new. Me! But that means I fly out to New York tomorrow to meet with the big bosses. I am going to try to be back the morning of our anniversary, but I can’t make any promises...mac and cheese?” He looks at her with puppy eyes and reaches out to give her a hearty bowl of mac and cheese. She rolls her eyes and grabs it, pulling him closer. “I am so proud of you. Even if you might be a little late for our anniversary.” Mwah. She kisses him on the cheek. The Night Before Their Anniversary… Ding ding. Incorrect, please try again, says Ebenezer, the eye scanner at our door. Ding ding. Incorrect, please try again. Bzzz. She dings him in. She’s sleeping, but groggily shouts, “You need to fix the damn door!” It’s pitch black in their room, she can’t sleep unless it’s completely dark. The man comes in and lays next to her. She cuddles him. “Can you bring me some tea...please?”
THE NIGHT BEFORE A SHORT STORY BY KIANA ONG
The man comes back and she tiredly sits up, rubbing her eyes. She has bad vision, too. The man hands her foggy lemon tea, avoiding her eyes. She drinks the tea and the man goes to lay next to her. The man kisses her neck, pulling her closer. Something in the tea made her less aware than ever before. They make love, passionately. Something felt off. The Next Morning… She wakes up to him the next morning. He looks tired. She thinks it is because they had a long night. She kisses him on the forehead and tells Phoebe to make breakfast. They go on a date and he gives her roses. She throws the roses on the floor intensely and they make love that night. 8 months later… Ding ding. Bzzz. “FINALLY. You fixed it!” “Of course, I did. Now that we have this little bean ready to pop, you won’t have time to ding me in.” She rolls her eyes. “I am a working woman and this ‘little bean’ won’t stop me from doing anything! Hmph.” “Yeah, yeah, but I have a surprise for us, for when we are too exhausted to do, you know, things.” “Tada!” He pulls out a red bottle titled “Romance and Passion” and sprays it around them. In their minds… This time it was different. They did not share the same memory, as they usually did. Hers was the scent of lemon tea. His was the scent of roses.
THE NIGHT BEFORE A SHORT STORY BY KIANA ONG
Back on the Couch… “Hmm. Yours smells different. I guess we just share different, um, preferences.” He smirks. She hits him and reminisces. “Something about doing it in the dark turns me on.” She smirks. “That’s why I preferred the night before.” “The night before?” THE END
Lost in the Desert Jay Gevariya
The desert is hot, the desert is steaming, A man is terrified, he is screaming. There was no hope for the man, For he had no plan, And the desert was hot, the desert was steaming. The night settled from the day, This was a cruel time not to play. A slithering, sly snake scared the man, And its fangs were the reason he ran, And the desert was hot, the desert was steaming. The morning arrived, and the man was very hungry, He had caught something very small and furry. But the snake had returned and demanded the food, And the man listened to his demands, as he did not want to be rude, And the desert was hot, the desert was steaming. As the man lost all his faith, he had gained hope, For he could see an oasis in the distance, full of croaks. The dancing palm trees warmly welcomed his arrival, The singing birds celebrated his survival, Yet the desert was hot, the desert was steaming.
TIME FLIES BY: SHAKEFA SPENCE
What are you trying to hide? What are you trying to protect? What are you keeping locked up in your chest? Are you full of fears or you full of dreams? Do you tuck away pain until you’re bursting into a scream? Do you think that no one understand? You think you will lose strength if you take their hand? Time is known to heal all wounds, And it would if only it could. Locked inside all the pain, Which can’t be washed away by even the heaviest rain. Yet these wounds cannot be healed, With permanent scars they have been sealed. Some nights it’s hard to sleep with my eyes close, Just to think about what we had bring a smile. I really wonder was this really meant to be. I wonder was this realty. You said different things in different ways,
And it caught for imagination. You were everything I've ever dreamed of. You taught me that love can be amazing and beautiful, But you also taught me that love will keep you up till midnight. Crying softly to yourself, wondering how much more pain someone can endure.
Lost soul Days after days he felt sorrow He didn't want to eat nor get out of bed The days went by dull and bitter He stayed to himself and was not intrigued by anyone's behavior. He stayed in his room and watched the sunset and the sunrise. Everyday wishing that his best friend Enkudi was there by his side Conquering all of eternity Why me, Why me Gilgamesh screamed one morning Ninsun came running in his headquarters Poor baby it was meant to be pleading to Gilgamesh Your fate is not over, you will be determined to succeed and be great you.
Just have to believe in yourself and stay humble. I don't have the patience mother My best friend, my other half was ripped right from my bear hands Like I said you just have to be patient with the universe, there will be a time that comes that you will get everything you deserve good or bad, the universe Is not done with you. They sit in silence and gilgamesh falls asleep in Ninsun’s arms I’m here I’m here take my hand, I will lead you please
take my hand cries out Gilgamesh you are strong you are a warrior just like me We will be strong together forever Gilgamesh wakes up in despair He looks around and notices it was another dream. He looks up and cries to the gods why oh why just let me suffer in peace. After 30 sunrises and sunsets he has a change in his behavior He feels a certain plus again gets up and freshens up He tells Ninsun to make him some breakfast and get his outfits ready. Why were do you must go As she gives him his belongings. I have to seek my fate Gilgamesh leaves his house and goes on a voyage He comes in contact with mountains, beers, lions.
He spends years in the wild looking for his fate only did he know that you can not seek out your fate it has to come to you. For it to be true On his journey across the lands He crosses a beautiful village The sky is as light as air As he walks into the village there It has the aroma of baked bread. Gilgamesh starts to wander around the sweet land And ends up bumping a lady She had so much clay in her hands.
This woman had beautiful long hair Eyes as golden as a sunset A body that looks like it was sculpted from the gods above She was perfect. They stopped and gazed at each other, They were both beautiful creatures. Who are you Gilgamesh asks The women did not speak Take me to your ruler now GIlgamesh demands She begins and he follows The walk was utterly long So your not going to speak women I am king Gilgamesh king of Uruk you must do as I say She says that does not matter here Gilgamesh was quiet the rest of the way.
They finally get to a village everyone was so cheerful As if they were having a feast As he looked around he was getting stared at but when he Would look there was nobody that caught his eye as the women did. They get to the empire as he wished the woman had brought him to see the ruler of her land. Who is this Sumer that you have brought with you He says he is a king father Gilgamesh is startled as he finds out that she is a daughter to the ruler he starts to get nervous, flashing back to when he yelled at her but he will never back down if the ruler ever wants to battle because he who holds power does anything to protect his loved ones. He had told the ruler why he has came and that he just needed a place to lay his head until sunrise so he can go on with his jounrey.
The ruler agreed and let him stay and Sumer had to stay with him As they walked to the room where Gilgamesh had to stay Sumer asked him where Uruk was Upon thy mountain tops and across the seas I have come along way She was so fascinated by the way GIlgamesh described his life and what he has been through and why is on his journey. She felt sorrow to hear what happened to his best friend.
They talked all night to the sunrise Gilgamesh has never felt this way before for another human being that was a woman he had never had this attraction and seduction to want to be with anyone over then himself. He loved her The woman that he had just met yet he had fallen in love in a day Love at first sight some might call it. He wanted to spend as much time as he could with the woman before he had to leave but then he noticed with himself that he had the urge to stay. He told her that he had to make his decision True love or his desire to find what was not to be found He thought about it hard and finally came to a decision. He was going to stay Sumer was so happy that he decided to stay she has never been with a man before, she had felt the same way GIlgamesh felt about her They were meant to be. They got married 2 weeks later after Gilgamesh
meet her mother and siblings And then had twins it was a girl and a boy Anki and Gizzal They were an exquisite couple They were looked upon as gods because of their beauty by the village people. GIlgamesh always thought to himself maybe this was my fate Enkidu would be happy for me, He would see the true happiness that lies within my soul He would see how beautiful my family is and how much work I put into my family Still wishing he was here to see it he knows that Enkidu is looking down upon him Watching over him
Somewhere Without You By: Tanim
Take me out to the ocean side and let’s makeout by the window of my oceanside home I could spend an eternity here without even batting an eye I could make it all come true I could write us into the very fabric of existence The ocean breeze is cold as death’s hand, but yet, I am warm Your presence Your heart Your love Something about this moment just doesn’t feel right Are we even here? Should I continue living this fantasy without a second thought? A flow of words A stream of memories Flashing lights I recall The cold embrace of a room full of people in green One blink and I’m here With you While life goes on outside of this concentration of thoughts I do not think of what could be Rather what is currently unfolding in front of me
Why care what happens in reality when fantasy feels better than Heaven? A blink is all it takes I’m here once more Cold, I’m freezing Again I’m back here again Surrounded by people who alter themselves for my love For my time For my money Why am I stuck here again? Somewhere without you?
Love the poem Ashley Soto
Love is such an unexplainable feeling. It can be many things just depends on how you describe it. It can be breathtaking and new, and it can also be everything and nothing. I think love is beautiful, it just depends on your perspective. It makes you want to do everything and beyond for this person. It’s makes you want to do the little things that are filled of compassion. It makes you not care if the whole world is against your attraction for this person. You’d risk everything for them not caring how anyone else will react. It’s just there it appears and takes over your heart you have no say. It consumes you and it's like your infected by this thing, your heart is under constant attack. Every time you try to open your mouth and say “I love you” nothing comes out. When I think of all these wonderful things, they are exactly how I feel about you without a doubt. I can’t breathe and I can't talk because every time I open my mouth it’s left a gape. Just this hole that just won’t move to shape the simple but nerve-racking words “I love you”.
And all of these feelings and emotions have made me conclude that no one ever has control of this thing called love, because love is how you perceive it, not everyone sees it the same. I think the way you talk about love is the same you’ll receive it. So yes, I love you and I have no way to show you how much I do. To think I could explain love in a poem, I hope you understood my view. In reality everyone has a different perception of love, it’s all up to you. And although this feeling amazes me in every way, there’s always a part of me worrying it’s not as beautiful as they say. The same way you can fall in love is the same way you can go through heartbreak, and that disappoints me so much to know something so beautiful can hurt in that way.
TWO SIDES OF THE SAME THING BY: ALEX FRANCO
Odd and Even Awake and Asleep Are we reborn every time we wake up? Is déjà vu really a coincidence or are we being given another chance at that situation? Truth be told everything is one half of their counterpart, Just like Einstein's theory of General Relativity. Space and Time go hand in hand and have been even before reality was considered. That fantasy in our dreams may be a darkened side of the coin not yet available to our reality that we wake up to everyday. That fantasy is locked up by an imbalance of the yin yang in our minds, Only one side of the coin is clear while the other is foggy. Only allowing us to accept the heads part of the coin as the default reality for our whole lives. In many things like money the top side is always seen as the normal side, but the back is seen as irrelevant just like fantasy. That fantasy seems to be closer to everyone every time one has a dream, I now sometimes mistake moments in my dreams as one that has occurred in real life. But we only live in a simple life and this may be casted off as a deranged disappointment by all.
Free! Esther Lee
Cassie’s eyes flashed open to a soaking awakening of ice-cold water across her back. It was Andy, with his glossy deer-like eyes staring back at her blankly. “Wake up,” he said with the same smart-aleck voice from yesterday and the day before. Without a word, Cassie peeled herself off of her mattress and stood up, crushing a beer can underneath her foot. She wondered why she had created such an annoying robot. It was a stupid invention. At first, it seemed like a good idea. As someone who lived alone, Cassie craved more socialization besides calling her dad in the hospital or bringing school friends over to her apartment to smoke weed. Plus, she had wanted to work on a project to spice up her college application. So she had built a walking, talking alarm clock slash robot with a water tank as the main body, wheels for legs, and a speech recognition engine. But on days like today, Cassie wished she made Andy a simple cleaning robot, the short, circular ones without the artificial intelligence capabilities to yap like an alarm clock or spew water when Cassie snoozed him more than three times. The ones that quietly sweep the floor, careful to not bump into any furniture. Still, Cassie couldn’t bring herself to get rid of Andy yet. He was reliable, plus, she would have been late without him. There was something terribly irresistible about handing off your responsibilities to another being. As much as she was on "vacation," it was summer 2043, the one before senior year. There were places to go and things to do! “Andy, what time is it?” Cassie asked, cracking open a window and grimacing at the flash of white light. Today was Tuesday, a volunteering day.
“Eight twenty,” Andy replied in his nasal, monotonous voice. She walked towards the small kitchenette on the other side of the room to prepare a quick breakfast. Hungover from last night, Cassie's head spun like a dreidel, and the inside of her mouth felt dry and clammy as she took each step. The frayed mini-fridge was empty inside, as usual, nothing but a few peaches left to turn mushy. So she popped a Tylenol and drank some water from the tap to call it a meal. “Actually—” Cassie took a peach too and ran it under the faucet before taking a bite. Cassie was used to taking care of herself. She wasn’t dying or anything. Ever since Cassie’s dad caught the novel coronavirus from a college party before Cassie was even born, his lungs had gotten worse and worse each year. Cassie’s dad quit his job as a lawyer to accommodate his frequent doctor appointments. Doctor appointments turned to hospital visits, and his visits grew longer each time. Her dad took on a per diem gig as a janitor at a correctional facility to provide for Cassie and him, but that was short-lived. At one point, Cassie’s dad stopped coming back home entirely, and he stayed sick in the ward with tubes and machines connected to breathe for him. He was like a vegetable. Less due to her father's ties with officers and prosecutors he met through work and more due to pity for her current situation, Cassie had been offered a volunteer position at a nearby prison. Her job wasn’t magnificent: helping lead kids to rooms for non-contact visits with their incarcerated family members. Some prisoners weren’t eligible for a contact visit for various reasons, but they could still see and talk to their visitors through a partition. Honestly, Cassie would have much preferred a technology internship at an engineering lab at the university several blocks away. She might have used the opportunity to rip apart Andy and develop a more impressive prototype to enter the Engelberger Robotics Competition. She had been working on a master plan of some sort. If college applications were a game, Cassie was
determined to beat it. At school, she maintained good enough grades to maintain her status as a competitive applicant. And for testing, she got a good enough ACT score from cramming the summer before junior year. But the most crucial part of it all was extracurriculars and the essay. Ever since the SAT subject tests were reduced to history twenty-two years ago, college admissions grew more holistic, and as a result, more competitive each year. Since middle school, students were cutthroat with one another. They behaved like wolves fighting for a hunk of meat when it came to extra credit. High schoolers gritted their teeth, trying to make themselves as special and unique as possible. Overwhelming amounts of effort went into differentiating themselves from others through crazy extracurriculars and by crafting an insane essay. Back in 2021, applicants tried to focus on specific strengths they had, like spikes. But now, the point seemed to be to achieve superhuman perfection. Anyhow, Cassie enjoyed spending the money she received from the state to work on her artificial intelligence models. Sometimes she wouldn’t have money left for food and had to forget about having a meal or two, but it was worth it when she knew that her developments could (possibly) land her a spot in Columbia. Unlike her friends Lily Pfizer and Sanders Moderna, who were granted a one-way ticket to Princeton and Stanford since birth through their family ties in vaccine development, Cassie was desperate to take any opportunity to increase her chances of attending college. It was a matter of life or death, to be exact. Unless Cassie received a sweet full-ride offer or sufficient amounts of financial aid, the reality was that she was going to die with only a high-school diploma in hand. Colleges were impossible to afford nowadays. Unfortunately, the only institutions that granted humane amounts of aid were known for being notoriously hard to get accepted into.
Cassie considered herself to be a pragmatic person. In her eyes, her dad would pass away in the next ten years or so, and Cassie would be left to drown in a pool of hospital bills and educational debt if she went to any other college than the very best. It’s fucking hard to get an education or get healthcare in America, Cassie thought. Maybe it was the side effect of the rotten peach, but Cassie felt like spewing out everything she’d eaten the night before and some nasty words to whoever, anybody that might overhear. Yes, Cassie was frustrated. On a good day, she could pull off a cheery half-assed smile while asking her math teacher for a letter of recommendation. When she felt like she got a new idea for her college essay, she felt like flying. But those were momentary jolts of happiness. Taking off her genius mask, she felt a sense of dejection and frustration. She was doing shit for the sake of getting into a school. How stupid. Her whole life, she lived stacking up a resume, for what? The population was only increasing each year, while spots at universities stayed stagnant. But without college, how would she get her master’s degree or get a job or save herself from the mess of a life that she forced into from birth? To overcome this anxiety, she had to do more. Cassie got on with her morning routine, trying to dispose of the ever-bubbling feelings of hate. No, she didn't lack motivation. She wasn't sleepy or tired, either. She was fine. In fact, her condition was perfect. Cassie got dressed in her uniform of a drab grey shirt and thick black overalls. It was straight-up ugly, but what could she do? She put on her mask to not die from the New York smog before she got to see the light of an acceptance letter and grudgingly headed out to the subway station. The prison was an unfamiliar place, but it didn't scare Cassie. "Good morning," Cassie said to the volunteer coordinator as she stepped inside and headed for the staircase. The worst part of volunteering was becoming vitamin D deficient within the dark, gloomy space. The best
part was the load of volunteer hours she earned for sitting around and talking to kids as they waited for their appointment time for visitation. They were still so young and untainted by the disgusting parts of the world, so conversing with them relaxed Cassie from her concerns, like having to start supplemental essays. Plus, the kids were friendly and honest, which Cassie appreciated. Cassie sat down on a cold metal bench and pulled out some tablets for the incoming visitation kids to play with as they waited. When the clock screen flashed nine a.m., the main door opened, and kids entered the large waiting area. One curly-haired, cherub-faced boy named Vic caught Cassie's attention. The reason was that he came weekly but was unfortunately turned down by whoever he was trying to see every time. Usually, Cassie never cared to pay attention to the actual visitations that were happening. Inside her head, she would study for the college physics course she was taking online or brainstormed answers to possible interview questions to prepare herself for future interviews. Today, she planned to do the former, and a good twenty minutes had passed when a voice peeped "Cassie?" from her right side. It was Vic. But how did he know her name? "Hey," Cassie started, but Vic's eyes looked straight ahead towards the visitation hallway. "Vic?" Vic didn't give her a single glimpse. Cassie stared down at the schedule on her device. Oh. Vic's visit was in a few minutes. Did he want her to take him now? She got up to lead Vic to the visitation cubicle when the head volunteer took his hand instead. "I'll take him," she said and proceeded to guide Vic towards the small room with the thick glass windows. Cassie sat back down on the bench when Vic started to giggle. "Cassie?" Cassie stood back up again and ran towards Vic. "Vic, did you call me?"
Already in the cold hallway with beaming fluorescent lights and bright white walls, Vic was about to enter visitation cubicle number forty-four. The guard had opened the heavy metal door for him. Why had Vic called her? Standing behind Vic, Cassie's eyes locked with a set of round, black eyes through the opening of the door. They were bone dry in color and in aura reminded Cassie of Andy's lifeless, industrial nature. The owner of the eyes was human, though. The girl sat behind the glass screen inside the room. She looked like she had been crying but maintained a sense of beauty despite the hideous orange jumpsuit she was wearing. Ah, she must be Vic's family. But who? Most inmates saw their children and sometimes even grandchildren. But Cassie had never seen an inmate so young. She seemed to be only a few years older than herself. Quickly, the door shut, and the head volunteer turned around to see Cassie behind her. "I told you I would take him," she said sharply, nudging Cassie to return to the waiting area. "Who is she?" Cassie asked, looking back at the visitation hall as she walked away. The thick glass windows muffled the conversation taking place inside, but Cassie tried to observe the facial expressions of the pretty young girl seated in front of Vic. "That's Cassie, Vic's sister." "Cassie?" "Yeah, she has the same name as you." So that's why he was calling my name, Cassie thought. Well, technically her name. "How old is she?" "A bit older than you." The names, ages, and family relationships of inmates were kept confidential. No one but the head volunteer and actual prison officers knew. "Why did she keep rejecting Vic this whole time?" Cassie asked.
"She has a crazy sentence. She's on death row. She didn't want to see anyone for a long time." "Death row? Is that still a thing?" Cassie froze in her steps. She imagined what it would be like to be locked up in this place, knowing you were going to die and never make it out alive. What was the point of keeping prisoners to suffer when they were going to be executed? How would they feel in the last few days to live? "What did she, Cassie, do?" "Well, this Cassie made a mistake, and now she only has a few more years to live." Cassie nodded. She sensed that the head volunteer didn't want to say anything more. She was a cruel stickler for rules and authority. Cassie stopped questioning and went back to her seat to take care of the other kids. During her lunch break, Cassie went outside by the park to get herself a falafel sandwich. The sky was a perfectly saturated blue. Could the other Cassie see this? There wasn't a cloud in sight. The city was bustling as usual, and a live band was jamming out in the amphitheater. She could hear them playing from her seat on the edge of the fountain. What was the other Cassie hearing? In her hands was delicious food. Taking a bite, Cassie broke into a smile. Could the other Cassie get to taste this, ever? The warmth of the sun encompassed the streets with shining light. Beads of sweat began to form on Cassie's forehead, and as they rolled down her temples, they collided with fat drops of newly formed tears. Together, they streamed down her cheeks in a rushing movement. At this moment, not a single worry or fear crossed Cassie's mind. Whatever happened to her, she wasn't the Cassie on the other side of the glass panel. She got up to run towards where the music flowed. People were dancing, and Cassie joined in. She knew that her thirty-minute lunch break
had long ended but broke out in blatant laughter from picturing the head volunteer asking where she was. She had no plans to return, anyway.
The Alexa Institute graduation ceremony consists of 2 stages for students. The first is the Room of Memories and Meaning. The second stage is the Review and Jolt. Verity opened her eyes slowly. The dust particles swayed in the sunlight shining through the blinds. Her room was a hazy gold as she stretched and swung her feet around to put on her cat slippers. Verity strided to the bathroom, brushed her teeth, washed her face, and prepared for the day. She bounced downstairs to meet her mom. A plate of cinnamon rolls sat on the table waiting for her — her favorite food. “Are you ready for today?” her mom questioned. “I think so. I’m going to miss everyone but I think I’m ready to graduate.” “I’m glad to hear that sweetie. You’ve worked hard this past year. You went from a shy, anxious girl to this wonderful, confident person who is capable of tackling any obstacles! I’ll miss you but I’m glad you’re graduating.” At the ceremony, the town center was filled with students and family. Noises of laughter and chatter filled the dome and only quieted down once the lights dimmed. Finally, the mayor walked on to the center stage. “Welcome to the Graduating Ceremony for the class of 2875!” He announced and the crowd cheered. Verity sat with the group of students on the floor level while the rest of the audience, family, sat in the upper level section. Excited, Verity bounced her right leg up and down. “Are you anxious, Verity?” Nick, the boy next to her, asked concerned. “No, just excited. Aren’t you excited?” “Yes, but then you should stop bouncing your leg. It’s a sign of anxiety.” Nick warned. Verity looked down and frowned. She thought back to her second week of lessons. She learned all the signs of anxiety, bouncing her leg up and down, fiddling with thumbs, biting her nails. Verity was diagnosed with social anxiety and numbered Case SA-8265. After quickly identifying her symptoms, she was placed on a three-year treatment. This was longer than the average year, and so Verity was expectedly excited. She watched friends come and go from the Alexa Institute, and now, it was finally her turn to graduate. “Thank you, Nick, for warning me. I will stop now.” She answered in a monotone voice, completing the standard “Thank you (name) for (action)” Response Format she learned her second year. She learned all the RFs (Response Formats) in case she got nervous or stuck. This way, she was able to prevent any lulls in conversation, one of the key objectives in her lessons. “We will start with the PTSD group and move on to the D group, OCD group, P group, SA group and so on” the mayor’s voice echoed over the sound system. This translated to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Phobias, and Social Anxiety. The mayor called case numbers one-by-one and each student stood from their respective section on the floor and walked on to the stage. The holograms flashed scenes from their time at Alexa Institute until finally, the students’ Purpose was presented on the dome ceiling screens.
“Case SA-8265!” boomed in the dome. Verity looked up and smiled. She was nervous, but excited, NOT anxious. She walked onto the stage and sat in the center chair. The holograms surrounding her turned on, playing out scenes from her first, second, and third year. The time she hid from a group of girls passing in the hallway to when she approached them and made conversation. The time she took the long route home to avoid encounters on Main Street to when she walked through Main Street and bought various goods from different stores. The holograms transitioned from showing how she grew to control her social anxiety to more specific actions from her second and third year. There were scenes of her volunteering at the Learning Center, surrounded by toddlers. Other holograms displayed her studying Cognitive Science and Philosophy. “MANAGER OF PROGRESSIVE APPLICATION IN EDUCATION” Verity was puzzled. There was no cheering like there was for every other student. Nobody had heard of this position before. The mayor looked at Verity and smiled comfortingly. “Congratulations Verity, you have overcome your social anxiety and have received a very important role in the World. You must combine your thinking of Cognitive Science and Philosophy to engineer solutions to the unequal educational opportunities. You will prepare future minds.” Verity stood up and smiled. She had so many questions, but this was not the time nor the place to ask them. She sat back down in her seat and knew she had to wait for the Review session. The students stood up and walked to the back door. They turned to their families and waved. This was the last time they would see them here. Verity walked through the back door and found herself in a lobby-like room. There were rows or chairs lining the sky-blue walls. Each chair was labeled with Roles. Verity found hers and took a seat, eyeing the door in the corner. It was labeled “Review.” After a few moments, the door flung open and a case number was announced. The boy stood up and walked through the door, which slammed shut behind him. One-by-one each student was called by their case number and walked through the door. When it was Verity’s turn, she walked through the door into a dark room with a single light over a chair. It was a dentist-patient’s chair. She took her seat and a hologram fizzled into view. It explained her role and responsibilities for the World. “And now, it is time for the Jolt. Good luck Case SA-8265. We have a lot of hope for you.” the hologram spoke as it fizzled out. Verity smelled cinnamon rolls and started to feel drowsy. Her eyelids grew heavy and closed gently. “BEEEEP” a loud panging sound paired with a ZAP of electricity woke Verity. She was in the dentist-patient chair, but rather than a dark room, she was in a room with white walls. The monitors surrounding her said “Welcome back Verity, your simulation is now over. Thank you for graduating from the AI.”