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WAMS INK Issue #8    Welcome to our 8th issue of  WAMS Ink​, William Annin Middle  School’s online literary magazine.  It’s hard to believe our amazing  WAMS ​M​e​d​i​a​ ​M​a​k​e​r​s ​have been  writing original, engaging short  stories and poems for over 7 years!    This issue features several stories and poems we know you  will enjoy by some of our amazing Media Makers - Violet,  Reva, Ramesh, David, Benjamin and Moncher.    In addition, you can read the 3 stories that won the​ ​7th  Grade Writing Contest​ ​in December 2016.  Congratulations  to those talented writers, Jasmine, Chloe and Samantha!    So sit back, get comfy and please enjoy reading our original  stories and poems.  If you like what you read, please let us  know, and stay tuned for the next issue of ​WAMS Ink​.    Mrs. Goetjen and Ms. Cranden and the Media Makers   


Table of Contents    Moonlit sill​ by Violet S.

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Sunrise​ by Violet S.

2

The War​ by Reva P.

3

Callere The Fraidy Overcomer​ by Moncher L.

6

The King and His Dragon​ by Ramesh B.

8

Shadows​ by David Y.

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Many Mistakes​ by Benjamin W.

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The 7th Grade Writing Contest Winners: Exodus​ by Jasmine G.

18

Emerging from Gray​ by Samantha L.

27

Freedom​ by Chloe L.  

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Moonlit sill By Violet S.        It creeps upon the  window ​sill,​ I needn’t  worry, it’ll be careful, I  know it ​will.​ With bright lit  fingers, it walks in silence  to my ​bed, ​walking with  it’s silent ​tread.​ It kisses  all over, my sleeping ​face​,  and then it’s heart begins  to ​race​, as the sunlight  begins to ​trace​, it’s soft and gentle ​face​. It runs, and runs, and  runs ​away​, never to be seen in ​day​, The moonlight.   

S​u​n​r​i​se

By Violet S.  Crowning the hills, warming the valleys, opening it’s gentle arms.. It’s majesty is  measured in beauty, not feet, or inches. The king of days, the prince of nights,  though it flashes, quick and bright, don’t forget, it lights the  night      2


The War By Reva P.

They dragged me into their holy room of horrors. There was no point in  struggling the only place that would get me is someplace worse. I was in the  Underworld, and I was about to be punished--punished for the horrible deeds I  had done. Punished because I was responsible for the death of a person that  people bowed down to. I am a dead person and I was still suffering.  This horror all started three years ago in Atlantis. It was a beautiful day in  Atlantis as my sister, Enya, and I were playing in our backyard. Our family’s house  had a beautiful view of the sea. My parents named me after the sea.   “Aquarius!Enya! Come inside it’s time for dinner”Mother called. My mother  named both of us after nature’s beloved creations. Enya’s name meant fire and  mine meant water.  At lunch, Mother brought us terrible news. “Since Enya is going to to turn  fifteen in three months, you both know what that means,” Mother said slowly and  quietly.  “Yes, Mother,” Enya and I both said in unison. Enya’s fate was terrible; a  fate no child should ever have to face, but unfortunately, this was the fate of  every 15 to 18 year old in Atlantis. Enya was going to be dragged up or down  depending on what God takes her away. Lord Poseidon and Lord Zeus were at war  because of a lightning bolt. They had both proclaimed that any child 15 to 18 years  was to be brought to fight for one of them. If a person stopped this from  happening and defended their child, they would be in serious trouble. Our whole  family dreaded this time, Enya was very, very nervous and scared, and cried every  3


night. I’m not saying that Mother and Father were as happy as can be. They were  sadder than we had ever seen them. Mother cried as she cut vegetables and  cooked dinner. Father tried to hide his tears from behind his big book. Every day  was closer to the day Enya would be pulled to war.  The only thing that kept me distracted was my weapon. I know that I was  only 12 ½ years old, but I can’t stand my family that was once so happy now so  devastated that they don’t even speak to each other anymore.   It was a potion, my weapon. I used magic to make it. If you dip ordinary  arrows in it, the arrows will have a force that when even pointed to your enemy,  your enemy would be pushed back to where they came from. I called it the ‘Altsoba  Potion’. I showed Mother and Father the ‘Altsoba Potion’ and they were scared.   They refused. Mother cried, “NO! Aqua, you yourself know the consequences  of what happens when somebody defends their child. I can’t let anything happen to  you, you’re the only thing I have after Enya….” . She broke off and started crying.  Father consoled her. He put his hand on her back and patted her. I felt bad that I  made Mother cry, but I couldn’t stop my plans, my potion, I just needed the last  ingredient: 3 drops of the Albaca waters.  I made plans, on Saturday, when Mother and Father went to work and Enya  was baking a cake to cheer herself up, I build a raft and left for the Albaca  waters, which was a half day’s ride from here. I reached there at half past  midnight. Of course I wrote a note to Mother, Father and Enya informing them  where I was, and how I needed to do what needed to be done. I rowed into the  island of the Albaca regions. The entrance was a skull. I rode inside and plunged  some water in the syringe.  I rowed away not knowing what a sin I had committed. I  rowed back home and reached at dawn. Mother was the first one I saw tears  streaming down her face, and Father was not in the scene. “Mother, Mother,  where’s Father?” I asked. “Bring out your weapon, Aquarius, Enya is going to be  pulled to war,” Mother answered weakly.    

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“WHAT? Mother, Enya isn’t going to turn fifteen for a week!” I stated.  “It’s all my fault, Aqua. I should have known this would happen. I should’ve  known you were going to complete your weapon.” said Mother faintly. She  continued, “The Albaca waters is water for gods. It can also destroy gods, that’s  probably why you went there. Anyway, no mortal must ever go there. If they do,  there will be serious consequences. Your consequence is that your sister will be  pulled to war earlier and die faster. So, do as I say, and bring out your weapon”   At that point, I ran to behind the bushes in the garden, where I hid my  potion, and poured the water into the bubbling cauldron. I picked up the cauldron  and ran to Dad’s work area and got a cohort of arrows. I took the supplies and went  to the back of the house, where Mom was dressed with a arrow bag and dark mud  green t-shirt and tights.A red infinity symbol on her wrist told me everything.   “Mother, you’re a..”  “Sorry, Aqua. I never told you or your sister, ” said Mother. She continued,  “I was the top student in my class at the Montermermy Warrior Army School, but  I had to stop. My sister had been given the plague by the Gods, because I tried to  face the Gods, because even before the war, they were unfair. They hurt people  who didn’t do anything.  People who were innocent. I thought I’d be people’s  heroine,” said Mother confidently. Instead of crying, her face was red from anger.  I didn’t understand. ​What did I have to do with Gods and Aunt Ivory having the  Plague?​ “They cursed me,” continued Mother as if she’d read my mind. “I would lose  somebody I love and another one I love would have the same fate as mine. I won’t  lose another person I love! No. This is the reason I need your arrows. So, do you  have the potion? ”  “Yes, Warrior Anthea. I brought the arrows.” I said unafraid.   I saw Poseidon snatching her away from Father.  I shot an arrow at him.  [To be continued.]  5


Callere The Fraidy Overcomer By Moncher L. “Wanna do something scary with me?” a friend would say. “No WAY!” I screamed. Every time someone wanted to read the most frightening books or watch the scariest movies with me, I didn’t want to. I always ran away and tried to find a hiding place, screaming. I just wanted to stay home. It is just because of those hideous covers. There’s oozing, neon green slime, loud howling wolves, blood-sucking vampires, creepy looking zombies, prank-playing ghosts, blood, gore, and violence. ANYTHING LIKE THIS! It looks terribly realistic. I had an older brother, whose name was Corey. Corey tried to encourage me that the horror genre is just fake. “I’m scared!” I whined. “Horror is just made-up or either fake, but, there is some content, where sometimes you’re not old enough to watch or read,” Corey told me. But, his advice always failed to work. I was still unsure if I . He was able to handle horror books and movies, or anything horrifying. His favorite movie Goosebumps and Ghostbusters. He also enjoyed the TV series version of these, too. He loved them so much, he watched them almost every day. One day, I decided to try to overcome my fears. I shouldn’t have screamed before. I would have hung out with my friends more often. So, I phoned my friends over for a first-time sleepover. “Oh, hey Callere!” my closest friends, Mia and Madison spoke over the phone. “I’m good. I was just wondering if you guys can come over to my house for a sleepover.” I told them. “Oh, okay. See you tonight.” Around the afternoon, I prepared some snacks such as, buttery popcorn, chocolatey cookies, and scrumptious pepperoni pizza. My mom helped me with the cooking. I called Mia and Madison again. “Mia! Madison!” I demanded. “What?” they questioned. “Do you you have any horror movies to bring to my house?” “Yes. We have Ghostbusters.” “My brother loves this movie. But, which one?” “Which one does your brother like?” “He likes all movies.” “We have the 1984 version. Oh, one more question. Why do exactly want a scary movie? You were usually scared of everything.” “I wanted to overcome this genre. See you tonight.” “Bye.” 6


I walked to Corey. “Hey, Corey.” “Hey, Callere.” “I was wondering if you can join us for a sleepover. They said they have Ghostbusters. You loved this movie. Pleeeeeease?” I begged him. “Of course. How can I even not want to join the sleepover?” Corey replied. “Well you have a lot of sleepovers with your friends.” “Okay, where are we meeting up? Here?” “I think we could meet up in my living room.” Later that evening, Mia and Madison came. “Hi, Callere.” “Hey girls. I prepped some popcorn, cookies, and pizza.” “Awesome!” We went to the living room. Corey placed the DVD in our player. As the movie started, Everything I heard mumbled, but was swirled with evil laughs and horrifying memories of unexpected clown attacks. One time, I was trick-or-treating with my brother in our neighborhood. When we got to a hideous looking house to get some candy, a man disguised as a creepy clown jumped out from nowhere. Either it was a bush or a tree. He had a knife and it looked as if he was going to kill us. I screamed the loudest of the two of us. I ran away, hid in a bush, and watched my brother who was trying to run away, too. He was too late. He got severely injured. He got wrapped in bandages. ¨We are never trick-or-treating again!” Corey complained when our parents tried to comfort us. It was one of the causes to have this fear. I just wanted to forget about them. “So what do you think?” Madison asked, once the movie ended. “It was AMAZING! I want watch some more!” I exclaimed. “That’s great,” said Corey. “Who wants to watch Goosebumps, next?” “I do!” we shouted. For the rest of the sleepover, I tried Corey’s favorites and Mia and Madison’s favorites. The sleepover was great. I even told my class what happened last night. The boys were shocked. The girls were cheering on for me. My teacher was impressed. As I grew older, I tried reading Goosebumps and other horror work. I can go anywhere. Sometimes you need to take small small steps.

 

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The King and His Dragon By Ramesh B. Key: Dragon is Speaking King is Speaking Narrator *** My dragon, why do you betray me? I have raised you all my life! My king, I have never betrayed you.  It is my twin sibling, Forodus, who has done this.  How do I​ ​know this? How can I t ​ rust ​you? I have raised you! You have NEVER had a sibling! Not at all, your majesty.  YOU LIE​. And the dragon, who had been correct, Was told to leave. Farewell.​, He said. And forbade goodbye. And many years later, the king was regretful. When Forodus ruined his empire The king never had a dragon to serve him And he was the one who suffered.

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Shadows

​ by David Y. Akio Takeshi, the Ronin from the Shadowlands. Astrid, the knight from the Skylands. Dragon, the warrior from Areth. Xing Yu, the ninja from Areth. Hunter, the mercenary from the Shadowlands. Alessia, the priestess from the Skylands. “Stop! Get him guards! Beat him up and give me back the money he stole! GO!” yelled Kamina, the crime lord. Akio saw the citizens back away and cower in their homes. Tch. This place needs to change.​ Akio thought. Akio turned the corner and reached a dead end. In a quick movement, he bounced off the wall to the rooftops. He was wearing a straw hat, some light samurai armor, and black pants. Although he looked a bit scrawny, he was agile and strong. He had a sheath for his katana that was on his back. “GET HIM! HURRY!” Kamina screeched. Two of Kamina’s bodyguards bounced up the walls and with their katanas raised, attacked. Akio dashed to the side of the square building, narrowly dodging the blades. “Wow. I guess Kamina can’t even get good guards. You guys seriously think you can catch me?” Akio grinned, adjusting his straw hat. He heard one of them mutter. “Well. Nice plan.” Akio said. “But you know, it doesn’t really matter.” He unsheathed his katana and lept forward, slicing through the guards in a swift arc before they even noticed him move. Akio flicked his wrist and the blood splattered on the roof top. He spun the blade and sheathed it. “Hmph. Gangster scum.” Akio muttered as he jumped off the roof.

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A few hours later, Akio was in the market and he saw the beggars on the street being ignored, a gangster beating up a store owner. He began to unsheathe his katana when he felt something tug at his hand. A beggar. Akio looked around and quickly shoved a few gold coins into the beggar's hand. Akio put his pointer finger to his lips and watched the speechless beggar for a few seconds and then he turned to leave. The gangster saw the man with the straw hat leave and being sure that he had seen the Ronin, the former samurai and the best swordsman in the Tanagashi region of the Shadowlands. He walked over to the smiling beggar that the Ronin was with and pulled out a knife. “What are you so happy about, beggar?” the gangster said, pointing the knife at the man. The beggar looked towards the path where the Ronin had left, unsure of how to react. “Tell me, and maybe you’ll live. Depends on how I feel today.” the gangster spat out. “Ummmm,” the beggar mumbled and took out the three golden coins that the Ronin gave to him. “I believe that belongs to the boss. I’m taking you, my good friend, back to our base.” Someone behind the gangster cleared his throat. Without turning around, the gangster ordered, “I’m having a chat with my friend. Scram.” In an instant, the gangster felt his arm pinned to his back and a cold blade on his throat. “Who are you?” the gangster gasped, concerned. “I’m a friend, and I believe you should give those coins to your friend.” the voice behind him stated. Reluctantly, the gangster returned the coins. “Thanks.” the voice said. Then the gangsters vision went black. … Kamina yelled at his cronies. “Where is that Ronin?! I want his head by the day after tomorrow! The person who brings me his head will be given 1,ooo gold coins!” Kamina shouted angrily, slamming the table.

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“Sir,” Kamina’s advisor, Zetsu said. “The Ronin is the best swordsman in the Tanagashi region. I would advise that we spread the message to the other regions. I doubt that our men can defeat the Ronin.” “It is fine! If all else fails, my son can defeat that beast.” Kamina said stiffly. “Hisoka! Hand pick the best men in this gang and bring me the Ronin’s head!” Hisoka stepped forward, bowed, and left to gather soldiers. The following day, Akio was out on the streets, planning on creating an army to defeat Kamina. As he wandered the bustling streets of the market, he noticed some gangsters putting a poster on the gate wall of a building. Curious, Akio casually walked towards the poster, where a crowd was forming. As he looked, he raised his eyebrows. The poster said: Wanted: the Ronin. Straw hat, katana on his back, light samurai armor. Bring his head to the square and you will get 1,000 gold coins. Hmph. They can’t catch me no matter what they try.​ Akio thought, grinning. … Hisoka was unsure of how to catch the Ronin, so he started simple. Wanted posters from the police. The police practically worked with his soon-to-be gang, due to the chief being cahoots with Old Man Kamina. Now, Hisoka was sitting in the gang headquarters, devising a plan to capture the Ronin. “Katsu and Sora. Go and try to find the Ronin’s base of operations. If we find that, we can set up a trap and capture that scoundrel. I can’t have my name shamed before I become the leader. Now go.” Hisoka ordered, tapping his feet. “The rest of you, search the entire Tanagashi region. Also, Kensu. Try to hire a tracker to find the Ronin.” ... Akio watched from the roof of a tall building as a groups of thugs swept the area. “Tomorrow, really?” Akio recalled from the poster. “That’s going to be impossible.” … “Hisoka! I’ve found and hired a mercenary to track the Ronin. He is the best in his region.” Kensu reported. “His name is Hunter, sir.” “Good. Hunter! I need you to hunt down this criminal called the Ronin. We’ll give you the information, and we want you to capture him, dead or alive. “I need the base payment.” Hunter stated. Kensu shuddered. He had promised the mercenary 500 gold coins and 30 silver coins as a base payment. Also, he had 11


promised 100 gold coins a day till the Ronin’s capture. Kensu shuddered even more after thinking about it. “Okay then.” Hisoka glared at Kensu. “How much?” “500 hundred gold coins and 30 silver coins.” Hunter stated, looking at Hisoka. “WHAT!” Hisoka yelled. Kensu covered his head and Hunter calmly watched his to-be boss. “I don’t have to have a base payment, you know, but then I won’t work for you. That’s all.” Hunter said, his face betraying no emotions inside of him. This kid seems like a bit of a brat. His grunt did say he would pay big.​ Hunter thought. “Fine!” he motioned his hand. A servant disappeared into the building and returned with a box. “Thank you.” Hunter said, picking up the box. Hisoka watched him as he left. … “Okay, today is day one. I bet myself one bottle a beer that I can catch that Ronin boy today!” Hunter said to himself. “Let’s get going!” Hunter had a big build, and was tall. With a camouflage jacket and black boots and pants, he was intimidating. His black goatee matched his spiky black hair well. With a pair of silver knives and a longbow, he really did appear to be a hunter. “Well, who is this new guy in town?” Akio murmured to a bird that was resting next to him, watching Hunter. “I’m going to go say hello to him, ‘kay? Seeya!” The bird watched Akio as he lept from the building. Hunter had a suspicion that he was being watched and that suspicion was confirmed as he walked down a narrow alley way. “You can come out now, boy.” Hunter called out. He turned his head to see a shadowy figure leaning on the wall to Hunter’s left. “Well, you’re stealth is certainly impressive.” Hunter said. “Thanks.” the shadowy figure said. “I was pretty impressed that you knew I was following you.” “So then, you are the Ronin?” “I guess that’s what they call me.” “Let me cut to the chase. I need to deliver you to my boss.” “Lemme guess. That Hisoka runt?” Akio spat the words out with distaste. “Yup.” “Those guys are devious, evil fellas.” Akio said, his eyes narrowing. “I know.” Hunter replied. “You can help me fight them.” Akio offered. 12


“Nah, they offer big money and I care not about being a hero.” “Then let’s finish this now.” Akio declared, unsheathing his katana. “Now, that’s the spirit!”He called out deviously as he palmed two knives.. Akio lept forward, slicing down at Hunter’s head. Hunter quickly side stepped and lashed out with his knife. The tip of the blade scraped against the wall and cut Akio’s cheek, almost killing him. Akio caught himself and cut horizontally as a feint and quickly sliced Hunter diagonally from the waist to the neck. Hunter reacted by blocking the blade with his knives and counter attacked by stabbing towards Akio’s face. Akio ducked and did a backflip, kicking Hunter’s chin with his foot. “Oohh.” Hunter muttered, rubbing his chin. “You are pretty good.” “As are you.” Akio said, in his stance. “Who taught you?” Hunter said. “My father.” Akio replied. “ I see. He must be the legendary Tanagashi General, right? He was the only uncorrupted official in the court. If I recall correctly, he was assassinated by his son during his battle against the Seres region. Really, that death was unnecessary.” Hunter said, looking behind Akio. He saw gangsters coming up behind Akio. Earlier, he had told them where he was. Akio just glared at him. “I did not kill my father.” Akio declared. Hisoka crept up behind Akio, and just as Akio realized someone was behind him, he got punched in the face. Akio flew backwards into Hunter. Quickly, Akio was disarmed and had a knife to his throat. “Scoundrel. Bringing allies to help? I find it hard to believe that you call yourself a warrior.” Akio spat, narrowing his eyes at Hunter. “Hey, they paid big.” Hunter retorted. … “Hmm. Now, now, Ronin. I’d like to make a deal with you.” Hisoka said to the Ronin. They were underground in the hidden base, where the Ronin was being locked up. The Ronin looked away from Hisoka and grumbled. “I’d never make a deal with the likes of you.” “You haven’t even heard the deal yet. I know you’ve wanted gangs to disappear for a while now. I agree. Gangs are getting old. It was a thing of the past. My father is losing control. Soon, this gang will fall apart. I just want it to fall apart quicker. With your skills, we can do this.” Hisoka offered. “You’ve got my attention. How are my skills going to play a role in this plan of yours?” Akio said. “I need you to assassinate the boss. My father.” Hisoka said. [To be continued] 13


Many Mistakes By Benjamin W.    This has been the worst day of my entire life! Everything went wrong! I was trapped in a hotel room! Chased around by some being. Plus, the pancakes weren’t even that good! And that’s coming from me! Okay. Time to calm down. This has been a crazy day, but one good thing came out of it. I discovered the supernatural. Only problem. No one believes me! Wait, you have no idea what I’m blabbing about. Well, it’s a long story. Everything I say will sound crazy. That’s a warning. Nothing makes sense. I just lived through this god awful experience and I still don’t believe it. But I have to. At the end of this story, the question to you is, do you believe me? My name is Peter Johnson. I’m twenty three. Peter Johnson seems to be a basic name, but you should hear my nickname. It’s pathetic. It’s Peter Pan-Cake Eater. This is the part where you stop reading and laugh at the pathetic nickname I have. My friends called me that once when I was eight. Fifteen years later”,” and they still call me that. You probably think that I’m some twenty three year old bum that lives in his mom’s basement. Incorrect! I’m not rich, but I have a lot of cash. I’m an inventor. Not like those knock off inventors on TV in commercials that are too cheesy and their products don’t work. An inventor. I’m good at it too. I make random products, but for safety purposes (and by that I mean someone took credit for my idea, but I still got money, and if I told you the product that I created, I’d be fired)”,” I can’t tell you. Something I can tell you is that my boss hates my guts. I still would like to know why. I know I fell on his son’s birthday cake, but that’s in the past. His son is annoying anyway. His son’s name is Lucas Powers. Total jerk. Something I did do that I can tell you, is that I made a secret soundproof device. Something so anyone outside of the room I’m in can’t hear me. It’s something small that you hang up on a door. Creating this device was my first mistake. I travel across the country. The business I work for (also can’t tell you the name for “safety purposes”)”,” has several buildings that I travel back and forth to. One night, I stayed in a hotel. It was five star rating so I figured, what could go wrong? If only then, I had realized that’s what characters in horror movies say right before something horrible happens. Once I went to check in, I noticed that something was odd. In the lobby there was a front desk. At the front desk, there were two people working by the cramped desk.Everyone was in line to talk to only one of the workers. The other line was completely empty. It was late at night, so I went in that line. I got a close look at the worker’s face. It was so creepy! Almost ghostlike. I immediately felt bad for thinking that, so I decided to be extra nice to the worker.

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I asked him, “Hello, may I please get a room?” He just stared at me. I was starting to question if he even worked at the hotel. He wouldn’t answer. “Um… I’m sorry, do you work here?” I asked him. “Do I work here? I’m the manager!” he shouted angrily. I was starting to realize why everyone was in the other line, but I was tired and I wasn’t going to put up with the kind of line you see at an amusement park. “Look, all I want is a room! Can you get me one?” I asked, raising my voice. He stared me down once again. “You shouldn’t’ve done that!” he screamed. He gave me a key to a room. I was really confused. “Room 13. NOW GET OUT!” he roared. The whole building seemed to shake. I got out of there as quickly as possible. I didn’t even pay the man. He didn’t ask. He let me leave. I should’ve been happy, but he was a jerk. At the same time though, he was right. I shouldn’t have done that. I had just made my second mistake by talking back to the manager. I had entered my hotel room. I didn’t even realize that thirteen was an unlucky number, and that that was my room number. I was going to be working on a new device, so not to disrupt anybody, I put up my soundproof device. That meant no one could hear any sound I made. You can guess. My third mistake. I was up working until 2 A.M. Once I decided to go to sleep, I put my new creation away tucked into a cabinet in a brown desk. I don’t want to tell you what it is. It’s a surprise, but you’ll find out later. Not for a second did I think to turn the soundproof device off before retiring to bed. The thought was nowhere near my mind. I drifted off to sleep without a care in the world. It was easy to fall asleep. Sleeping in the bed I was in was like sleeping on 10,00 clouds with the softest pillows in the entire world. Five star quality. People are lucky that I didn’t give them a review right there and then. If only I knew what I’d got myself into. I didn’t get much sleep that night. I woke up at around 6 A.M. I decided to get an early start on the day and get up. Once I got out of my bed, the weirdest thing happened. Everything around the room just started disappearing. Vanishing. Gone. Goodbye. 15


“What’s happening?” I asked myself. Suddenly nothing was left besides parts of the floor, my bed, the brown desk, and myself. Instantly I was excited. “It’s a dream!” I shouted happily. I heard something about being able to do whatever you wanted to do in a dream, so it was time for me to do something stupid. “I can fly!” I beamed; and then, I jumped on the bed, and then off of it in an attempt to fly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fly. I face-planted on the remains of the floor. It wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare. A nightmare that I would never wake up from. That’s right- reality. I was mind-blown. I tried to find the words to ask myself, but I couldn’t. If asking yourself questions seems pointless to you, well guess what? I’m an inventor. It’s part of what I do for a living. Deal with it. Instead of talking, I walked around as much as I could. When there was no floor, it was like what should be there was just the sky. But the color was flickering from blue to purple, then purple to black, and then black to blue to restart the endless cycle. I put my hand through it to see what would happen. Instantly, I lost consciousness. Everything was pitch black. I shouldn’t have reached my hand in the multi colored, I guess, nothingness. My fourth mistake. Once I could see, everything was back to normal. The room was back. It was 9 A.M. It must’ve just been a dream. Is that what you’re thinking? That’s what I thought. I still think that. I don’t know what that was. And I don’t know what happened next. I decided to get breakfast. There was a menu for the breakfast food in my room. I scanned it over, and then I found pancakes.

“PANCAKES!” I yelled with joy. I ran to the door. All of a sudden things started disappearing again. “Not again.” I groaned. I ran back to my bed. This time, only the hallway disappeared. The hallway from the door to my bed. “At least I still have the bathroom.” I told myself, trying to look on the bright side. I went in the bathroom to go brush my teeth. My fifth and final mistake.

16


The second I walked in the bathroom, I knew something was wrong. There was creepy horror movie music in the bathroom. I thought I was on a reality TV show. I checked for cameras. Nothing. Maybe in my sleep I turned my phone on, bought creepy music, and now it’s playing. I checked for my phone. Nowhere. I thought I might be losing my mind. I only had four hours of sleep. But that wasn’t it. Now I was just getting frustrated. Nothing made sense. In anger, I shouted, “Okay, what’s going on? Am I being punked?” Part of me wanted someone to jump out of my closet and go, “Relax it’s a prank!” I wanted answers, but not in the way I got them. “Welcome!” A mysterious voice roared. This is usually the part where you go, okay then, mysterious voice. Yeah, this guy has gone crazy. He needs some serious help. Then, you’d put down this story and go call me a therapist. Or, you could shake this whole thing off and go sit on your couch and watch some mindless TV. I know I’d do the second one, I mean come on, mysterious voice just sounds cheesy. But at the beginning of this, I asked you if you’d believe me. You have to believe. I have never done anything to make me hallucinate this way. This is not a dream. You have to believe. After I heard the voice, I was in shock. “Who was that?” I asked. Although I thought I knew the answer. A voice I heard the night before. Someone who spoke with power, someone who had power. It was… “The manager!” the man exclaimed. The lights turned off. It was pitch black. I was trapped. No escaping. No way out. Alone in the bathroom with a mysterious man who seemed dangerous and already hated my guts from our first meeting. Now we were alone, my mistake. No one could hear me call for help, thanks to the soundproof device. What a great idea! That was also my mistake. I also ​used​ my soundproof device, my mistake. I passed out when I touched the multi colored nothing and lost precious hours of time to get out. Guess what? My mistake. Without realizing it I walked right into a trap. My mistake, this was my fault. I didn’t know what was going on, and I still don’t. What I do know is that I made one too many mistakes and that it was about to cost me big time. No way out.

   

TO BE CONTINUED 

17


Exodus By: Jasmine G. It will all come flooding back to me. Every time I look at the soaring skyscrapers of Trin, the light refracting off its perfect configurations of azure-cerulean glass, I remember Trin before the war, during the war. And everything that happened after that. “Sorry,” I mumble as I accidentally shove past another worker while I’m lost in my thoughts, strapping long black nylon gloves over my deft, imperfect fingers. The woman snarls something unintelligible, but I don’t have time to care for what she’s thinking. None of us do- a limit is a limit, and if we don’t meet it, the government will have their way in punishing us. I walk briskly into the computer room, gazing up at the extensive, flat expanses of screens covering the walls. The Exodus Prime project we’ve been working on for two months now flashes in the screens, crisp blue projections popping up as I tap the Statistics info pad on the center screen. We’ve finished more than ninety percent of it; by the end of the day, the Exodus will be done. Which is exactly what I’m afraid of. “Hey! You, Chris, over there,” someone thunders, and I spin around to see Cameron, the unofficial director of this group, marching towards me with blueprints crowded under his arm.

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“What did I do now?” I mutter distractedly, turning back to the screens to enlarge some key points in the project. The Exodus Prime seems to be a rocket, or a missile, of some sort. My heart sinks; because while the government can’t, ​won’t​, tell the rest of the Engineering Sector what they plan on using this for- even though they keep us in ignorance for most of our projects anyway- I already know. And it’s absolutely killing me. “Don’t ignore me,” Cameron snaps, grabbing my shoulder with a rough, gloved hand. In disgust, I brush off his arm, annoyed. He rolls his eyes. Cameron is what he calls an “adult”- while he’s twenty something; I’m only seventeen. Just because I happen to be practically the most versatile member in this Sector, he uses my age as an excuse to send me off on senseless errands so he can take the reins while I’m absent. It seems he has the same idea, as always. “You didn’t print out the XZ plane blueprint,” he growls. “And now our printer is broken. Since it’s all your fault, ​you will go to the Capital Sector with this pass” -He plops a grimy key card into my hand, and for once I’m glad I’m wearing these tight, uncomfortable gloves- “and tell them you need to use their HD printer for the Exodus project. Got it?”

19


“I’m not a baby,” I retort, swiping the card away from him, scowling. “Go ahead, have fun while I’m gone. And just a reminder, Cameron; don’t blow up Engineering, ’kay?” “Shut up and get to work!” he shouts, stomping off and hissing profanities, workers dodging his path as the carrot-head storms past. It’s smart of them, too. I sigh and move through the obscure gray hallways, people busying themselves with their work. Engineering is where we make all the weaponry and technology the government, of our beautiful Trin, commands for. Three months ago, being tech-savvy Chris that I am, I designed a hacking system on my personal Sector computer. Linked to government documents, providing me with classified information on what exactly I helped make in the Engineering Sector. But when I located the truth about the Exodus Prime, I was horrified. Trin’s governor, the ruler, was going to use it to exact revenge on the major neighboring provinces that took part more than a decade ago in the Millennium War. Without knowledge of how it would wipe ​us, Trin,​ out with it as well. Thirteen years ago, the Millennium War took place. While it really only lasted three hundred days, people were horrified by the destruction it caused, along with the fall of three major provinces that are only starting to recover- such, that it seemed to take place over the time span of one whole millennium, which is how it got its infamous title. I hear this land used to be united, as a whole, as a country. But technology and lust divided and conquered; and Trin ended up as one of the most powerful societies in this modern resurrection. It’d been decades ago when the cities, or provinces, first settled.

20


While individual provinces are colossally-sized, I can only surmise that the government of Trin didn’t think it was enough. And so they declared war to dominate the three other major cities that bordered them; that’s where Gringr, Seraphim, and Raven come in. In the duration of the war, Trin’s power was unspeakable and utterly unstoppable. Realizing this, the other three cities joined up to bring down Trin once and for all. The destruction reached levels never known, never comprehended before, and while the government struggled to combat the force, three of our city’s top scientists created what they call the Armors; code-named Gringr, Raven, and Seraphim. These armors were equipped with Trin’s most advanced technology and a nuclear, biochemical, and bulletproof surface. The Armors were the tipping point of the war; Trin emerged victorious. Seraphim and Gringr were brought back and preserved, but the Raven armor was obliterated in the process of fighting. Either way, when our government finally got back on its feet, they created Sectors; to get work done and more technology built, as well as prevent such extreme measures to be taken to survive a war. At least, that’s what they like to say. It’s constricting, forced upon all of us; yet there’s not much we can do about it- at least, not at the moment. Sunlight hits my face, and I draw my hand up as fortification. Lofty glass buildings rise up high around me, besides for the Sector I just exited. Sectors are where most of government work takes place- of all of them; the Capital one is the most pristine. It’s a privilege for most people to even set foot in it. Crossing the deserted roads- it’s Saturday, when people are restricted from using their vehicles to preserve fuel- I push

21


through a revolving door into the building, immediately being scanned by a device on the wall before being allowed to pass. I step into the lobby, the floors white and sparkling luxuriously. The walls are all glass on one side from which I entered, silver-grey on the rest. I see a woman crossing the floor; she seems to frantically be reading a stack of papers, and even though I can tell she’s busy, I need the blueprint quick, so I stride up to her and clear my throat. “Um, excuse me? Excuse m-” I’m starting to say, before she looks up. A pair of eyes as young as mine meet my gaze. She’s seventeen, just like me, with familiar brown hair tied back and a clean white blouse that could only come from a Capital wardrobe. I choke back bile. Lara Copzena. The daughter of Trin’s governor, and super annoying on TV with all her talk about “reform” in this city. I stifle a groan- I really couldn’t hate her more- and gulp, “Sorry. I mean to ask someone at the desk-” “What?” Lara fixes her gaze on me, something in her pocket beeping before she goes to switch it off, arching one sleek eyebrow. “I can help you too, you know.” Oh, no. What sort of mess have I gotten myself into? “Uh… alright. I’m looking for your building’s HD printer, for the Exodus Prime project.” I pull out the key card. “I have a pass.” Lara’s staring at me. “No.” Her voice is trembling. “I just…” She darts her eyes around for a second. “You need to come with me.” She grabs my arm, pulling me fast towards a corridor.

22


“Where are you taking me?” I hiss, irked. I need that printer- even though I know the Exodus is wrong, that it’s going to be used for the wrong reasons. I have to complete the project, otherwise our Sector will suffer from punishment. Cameron and the others don’t care about if it’s the right thing to do or not; they would just hate me more for the possible punishment I would be winning them. Everyone tries to avoid it. I can’t ever forget my own punishment. Not ever. “The Exodus,” Lara’s panting, dragging me into a room and slamming the door behind me. “Look, I know this is sudden, but it’s going to be used for the wrong reasons! You don’t understa-” “Wait, you know too?” I interrupt her, stepping forward. “I thought… I was the only one, besides the government.” My breath catches. ¨I’m Chris. I work for the Engineering Sector…” Lara nods, her eyes flicking to my gloves. “I used a hack to find out about it. So you want to stop it too?” “Yes,” Lara replies, running a hand through her done-up brown hair. “I know a way.” Her gaze shifts back to me. “But it requires your help. The Armors, Gringr and Seraphim, the ones that were reminiscenced? Your fingerprint can activate Gringr. That’s the device that was sounding in my pocket earlier; it can find descendants of the creators.” Lara’s eyes are boring into me. “Based on genetics passed down, I can also activate one of them; Seraphim. I believe you have a deceased relative that made the Armor Gringr.” “I…” I gather my voice. “I wouldn’t know. My family is mostly…” ​Dead. Gone. Lost​.

23


Lara shakes her head, touching my arm and bringing me back to reality. “Then we don’t have time to lose. The Exodus is going to be fired ​today. ​Are you willing to save Trin, and everyone else? Death in the process is…” She swallows hard. “... Inevitable.” Her words ring in my head like the possible death sentence that they really are. All of Trin, all of the land, saved… But my life given in turn? Am I willing to risk that much? If I wanted, I could survive. Yet that answer is yes. “Let’s go,” I say, nodding at the brunette. A small, tentative smile curls her lip, the one I used to see smiling vainly on TV. That was all an act, I realize. Lara actually ​feels, with more heart and soul than I’ve ever known. And she’s willing to do this with me. Something funny is happening to me- my breathing is faster, a hot clump in my throat. Lara smiles, more confidently this time. And then she mouths, ​Follow me. She leads me through a maze of hallways in a run, not bothering with the people we pass. I smile and wave, trying to inform them, “Exodus,” before being swept along with Lara’s speed. We reach a room with a different type of door in a dead-end, dimly lit hallway. The door is a steel, metal-gray contraption with a crack down the middle, where it’s supposed to open. Lara presses her hand against a pad near the door, and it slides open with a wisp of air hitting my face before I stumble inside with Lara. Two armors, lined against the wall, on well-lit pedestals, glass displays keeping the rust out. “There,” Lara whispers, starting for them. I follow behind her, gazing at the

24


light that reflects on their surfaces, briefly seeing my face on the chest of the one labeled Gringr. Lara draws up a fist, breaking the glass display of Seraphim. A slight gouge on the side of her hand suggests the force of how she hit it, and it’s bleeding- she doesn’t seem bothered. “The glass isn’t very strong. They don’t expect people activating them,” Lara shrugs. “My dad… he doesn’t realize I’m able to do this.” Her eyes flick to me. “Be quick. Your fingerprint will activate the pad on the armor. It’s going to fit around you in the equipping process. ​Go.” Without a moment’s hesitation, I leap the steps to the pedestal and smash the glass, my gloves still on, so I’m protected. A pad lies in the middle of the armor. I slip off my gloves and take in a deep breath- before pressing my burnt hand to the pad. Imperfect… but just enough. And then it’s forming around me, soundless, only a sharp click to tell me it’s in place. Lara’s already in Seraphim- she looks striking, powerful, in her armor. “Let’s go!” she yells. We literally blast through the roof of the room, a pair of rocket boosters flaring on the armors, emerging into crisp, clean air. I look at her one more time, panting raggedly. Will this be the last time I ever speak to her? The last time I ever speak to ​anyone​? “Lara… good luck.” She turns, smiling at me. Sadness is in that smile. Yet, determination. “Yeah. You too.”

25


Lara leads us to the launching site, air thundering in my face. Structures are built around something that looks like a missile; the Engineering Sector ​finished ​it? Cameron, no. Lara’s eyes widen as she examines the buzz of activity below. They’re activating the Exodus- and it’s happening now. We hover, practically frozen in midair, when I hear the electronic blare of a woman’s monotone: “Five, four…” A five second countdown? Oh, God. I nod at Lara. We plunge for the device, and my fingers automatically close around the firing controller. People shout and scream as they see our figures, closing in on the Exodus. We need to get there before it launches- could we destroy it in the air? We’ll have to take the chance. “Three, two…” It’s now or never. ​Please make it, please make it… And then the monotone, in direct sync with my thoughts, utters a last, final word: One​.

The End

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Emerging from Gray By Samantha L.  

  For the fourth night in a row, I wake up in a cold sweat from the same dream. Glass. Whirring. Arms. Screaming. Silence. I've been pushing it out of my head for the past nine years. But there is no escaping it now. In two days, I turn fourteen years old. This week, I will make my decision, and thus saving or killing me.

27


With my luck, it'll be the latter. Not that that the first is much better. Then again, I shouldn't even be turning fourteen. If anything, I should be dead.

When I was a toddler, I was put in this blank white chamber and, like everyone else, forced to choose what trait I valued the most. Not knowing better, I chose intelligence. In a flash, everything went black and there was this ​whoosh, ​like a curtain being drawn, and my body went numb. I found myself in a glass room as I woke up. A cool female voice echoed in the background and suddenly, there's a whirring and these arms were reaching for my tiny brain. And I started screaming and shrieking because everything was just a haze of shiny lights and I was completely terrified; terrified and confused because I had no idea what was going on but that these machines wanted to hurt me because I had did something wrong, really wrong. I don't know what happened, only that I must've hit something important as I flailed around, because everything suddenly stopped and a metal chip clattered to the floor. Trembling, I had made my way to the door marked "elevator" and went to the fifth floor: Choosing, and was sent to the same chamber, only this time I chose good looks, not intelligence. That must've been more important in some twisted way, because this time, the doors opened and I was thrust into Ecliptis. I don't really know what happened, only that I later found out the metal chip was meant as an implant for my brain. To make me another member of the brainwashed population of Ecliptis. I've tried forgetting. But it's always there, etched sharply into my memory. Glass. Whirring. Arms. Screaming. Silence.

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Today isn't cloudy. It isn't sunny, since all sunlight ran out way back in the Stygian ages. Instead, we have the Illuminator, a scintillating bulb hung in the sky made of gamma, epsilon, and other rays I can't pronounce. I can feel its ugly artificial rays as I wait for the bus to the institution with a false smile plastered across my face. ​Just wear a smile to fit in and be ignored since as we all know, in the words of the glorious leader, "A smile on your face keeps the feral ones away�. That's what they call the people outside the ramparts. The Feral Ones. Everybody talks about them in hushed tones mixed with awe and horror. They live in chaos, partying at night until the crack of dawn. When I used to live near the Ramparts, I could hear their reckless screams through the entire night. I don't know what to make of them. Happy? Stupid? Scary? Chaotic? A mixture of all of them? "Lib!" A grinning brunette runs up to me, smiling from ear to ear. I can see the endearing gap between her two front teeth that I had come to love. "Guess whose Begetion is tomorrow?" Begetion: your fourteenth birthday, where you'd be sent to the same chamber as when you were a toddler and watch, literally, your life flash before your eyes and see all your faults and triumphs and set goals for the goodness of the world and blah blah blah. You then had 100 tabs to divide among whatever traits you please. Most people went for beauty or physical strength. If you were a prodigy, you might choose artistic or musical talent. And if you were really special, one in a million, maybe kindness. But never intelligence. "Like you haven't reminded me fifty times, Sterea," I reply, rolling my eyes. "So, what're you Choosing?" 29


Her ditzy smile widens. I've just made her day."I'll do the standard 30 for health, 65 for beauty, and 5 for smartness." I nod, even though I want to tell her that "smartness" isn't a word. Briefly, I check my silver watch. I don't know how long I've had it for, but it seems like forever. 8:43.The bus should be here exactly a minute. As the watch slowly clicks to 8:44, the bus is still not in sight, it is late. The buses of Ecliptis are never late, meaning that my watch is wrong for the first time. What does this mean? The gleaming white bus finally pulls up and we get on. In a second, we're driving above the city on the suspended railroad, speeding above the gray roads and steel buildings. They say trees used to exist when humans hadn't yet invented the nitrogen generator. They'd give oxygen and take in CO2, and were woody plants with green branches. I try to imagine them for the rest of the ride until the bus lurches to a stop.

Sterea and I arrive at the institution and head our separate ways, 8:53, my watch says. I begin to take my usual unspoken seat at the back of the class when today, I realize, why do I have to conform to the same patterns each day? Why do I have to do 30


what I always do, just because I always do it? Thrilled at the thought, I sit down towards the left of the room instead. My excitement is short-lived though, and when Classius, who usually sits here, arrives, I realize what a mistake I've made. "Get out of my spot, Skyler," he says darkly. I stutter something when Ms. Alium interferes. "We always treat each other with respect and happiness, Classius dear. Now, what seems to be the problem?" "I apologize," he says, genuinely sorry,"I was surprised when I saw Skyler sitting in what's usually my seat." "Ms. Libras, why were you sitting in Mr. Petel's seat? Can you please move back? What's the point in disrupting the beautiful order our glorious Unus-Head has worked to craft?" "I don't know," I mutter, not raising my head. "I apologize profoundly, Ms. Alium and Classius." What's wrong with these people? ​With a burning face, I bitterly gather my belongings and move to the back of the classroom. ​What's wrong with ​me? Sighing, I listen to the E-Text telling us about the Irium Ages while I ponder my latest question. ​In the Irium Ages, America merged with Canada, today's Orlen, to create a global superpower… The rest of the day slowly drifts by like a dream until I find myself back home on my usual spot on my usual bed and fall asleep at the usual city curfew: lights-out at 10:20 and fully asleep at 10:35. I lie on the bed, defeated. The last sound I hear before I fall asleep is my breathing aligned with the watch's ticking, which doesn't seem as synchronized as I remember, for some reason.

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The next day, I'm waiting for the bus when the most beautiful girl I've ever seen comes. Her hair gleams golden blonde and her eyes are a luminous deep mahogany. I'm trying to see why she's coming towards me. "Skyler! It's me!" she replies in this melodic voice. Oh. My. God. It's Sterea. Made fifty times more beautiful. Made to look just like every other girl in Ecliptis. Made to look the same. I notice with a slight pang that the gap between her front teeth is gone. The thing that made her unique. Gone. With the click of a button. "Uh…why are you blonde?" I reply lamely. "But blonde is so ​in ​right now, you know? If everyone else does it, why shouldn't I? You know?" I wanted to tell her that no, I didn't know, because what's the point of doing ​you ​don't even want? Why do we have to be part of a place where everyone is the same and no one can be different? What makes life interesting that way? I want to scream in frustration. Instead, I take a deep breath and stay silent. When the bus finally stops, Sterea flounces off to her class. But I stay outside for a while, wondering what it means to fit in. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers so I reluctantly head back into the institution. I try to slip in quietly, but to no avail. Mrs. Alium's icy blue eyes bore lasers into my own. "Skyler Libras, late again. I've had enough. You are on conflag duty. The Unus-Head frowns upon you." I groan inwardly while my classmates snicker. Conflag, short for conflagration duty, is when you throw all the papers and sheets from the last day into the big burning machine. 32


With a sigh, I head out the door towards the Conflagrator. It towered at least six feet in height. Flames flicker dangerously inside, reaching out like hungry tongues inside a mouth. I realize how ironic it is that this fire is probably the most colorful thing I've seen this week. Picking up the scraps from the slate gray bin next to me, I throw test after page after paper into the machine when I pick up something strange, buried underneath the sheets. I turn it over in my hands, confused. It has a leather exterior with thin paper inside and words on it. Just by looking at it, you can tell it's old. The leather is worn and weathered while the inked words are slowly fading out of existence. It smells like rugged, powerful wood. I stare hard at it, wondering why something like this would turn up. All I know is that it must be important, and I feel a strange desire to protect. I keep it in my backpack until school ends. I am walking thoughtfully home when it hits me. It's ​a book. ​I had learned about them in class. They were popular back in the Irium ages until E-Texts replaced them. The Unus-Head banned them because of the dangerous information they contained. Authors could write about whatever they wanted to, without the government verifying them. Intrigued, I quickly run home to examine my new treasure. When I finish, I'm completely breathless. The book wove fantastic images of epic creatures and men in cloaks. It told of noises that blended together to make something called ​music​. It told of beauty and horrors, paradoxes and speculations about the meaning of life. I'm hungry for more books—no, hungry for a world where people can actually enjoy life. ​Live life to the fullest​, I whisper, quoting the noble character. But how can life be full when the only choices we make are whether we want blonde hair and blue eyes or red hair and green eyes? When everyone is the same after fourteen, stripped of

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their identity and placed with the rest of the bare population? I'm lost in my own whirlwind of thoughts and pretty soon, I fall asleep with more questions than answers. I don't know when it happens, but sometime in the middle of the night, I jolt awake with a start. The Feral Ones. I've known how to get there from the start, I've just been hiding it for my whole life. I don't want to do it, but I force myself to think of that one fateful day. What had I hit that make the machines shut down? I scrunch my face up in concentration. The silver arms–there were gleaming compartments inside. I had hit something hard like brass. There were brass knobs on the shoulders of the arms. And the arms had came from the opening shelves in the walls after the lady started talking, talking from this speakers on both sides of the room and on the left side of the room there was the elevator where I had gone back into the sterile room, but there were other buttons too‌ buttons for "control" and most importantly "rampart." It all comes back to me in a flash and the thoughts are pouring through, unrestrained. With newfound determination, I get up and start walking. It's time to Beget. It feels like an eternity until I get to the Begetting room. As I enter, a red light sweeps across my body. My name appears on the screen in big red letters. Suddenly, the room goes dark and I see projections of my life before me. They become more and more continuous and I'm thrown into a disheveled oblivion of pieces and fragments. Some memories clearly bleed through, others fuzzy and distant. Learning how to walk. Peering at an E-Text, loitering outside and staring at the sky. Giving a false smile. Talking to Sterea for the first time. Checking my watch. Meeting the bully Minher and punching him

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in the face a year ago. Conflag duty. On the Skybus. Sitting in Classius' seat. More conflag duty. Lying awake at night. Walking here, blazing with undeniable passion. The screen goes blank and is replaced by countless buttons with the number 100 on top. My heart's still beating like a war drum. I press down on the intelligence button. Two buttons, a plus and a minus surround it. I press the plus once. Twice. Five. The monitor beeps warningly: no one ever gave more than five. Twenty. Forty. Eighty. Ninety-eight. Ninety-nine. A hundred points, all spent on intelligence. For the first time, I feel the tiniest wave of doubt, creeping in. ​What if it didn't send me to the chamber? What if I just died, right after pressing the button? I shook my head. ​No. It's better to have a chance of being free than forever being imprisoned in this world​. I see that my hand is trembling. I lift it up and press the button. A tiny beep. Then a whirring noise. And I am brought to the same chamber that haunted my nightmares since I entered Ecliptis. The same female voice comes on, filling me with a wave of dread. I see the rotating shelves opening as silver arms reach out towards me. I try to remember what to do, but all I can remember is the panicking and crying and shrieking. ​I'm going to die. Why did I do this? I should've stayed, and lived, and went on, happy and carefree. I'm going to die, die, die. My head clears when I see the brass knobs, and without thinking, I slam down on them and crimson blood runs down my knuckles, but I don't feel it at all. Then, as abruptly as they had come, the whirring noises stop and the arms recede. All is silent except for the sound of my heavy breathing. My vision is tinted with red and I sway back and forth. I

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taste salt in my mouth. If I wasn't so full of adrenaline, I would've screamed in pain from driving my fist into a metal machine. Yet, I am fine. I tear away from the spot in search for the elevator. I find it tucked in that same corner and enter. As my eyes scan the buttons, I see the word "rampart" and press it. The doors close and I can feel myself whirring upwards. When it opens, I step out to the sight of a towering metal fence. There is nobody else here. They assume that nobody from Ecliptis wants to leave, and nobody from outside wants to come in. My mind is still in a haze as I climb up, left hand left foot, right hand right foot. I can't think of anything except the same pattern of climbing. At some point, I see my beloved silver watch slip off and crack on the Ecliptis side. I can go down and retrieve it. But I don't, and my wrist feels tremendously lighter. As if all my buoyant dreams and hopes are lifting it upwards. I finally get to the top and stand at the border, looking at the sweeping landscape below me, full of flashing lights and the noises call music. I hear whoops and laughter coming closer. A teenage girl catches sight of me hovering over the fence and runs over.

"Hey, what're you doing up there?" she calls. Her amber eyes sparkle with faint amusement. "I'm‌ " I stutter something unintelligible.

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"Oh my god! You're one of the prims!" she exclaims, her eyes lighting up like wildfire, "I never thought I'd see one of you, you ​never ​come over the fence… anyway you ​built ​the fence so I just assumed that you hated us or something… anyway aren't you prims really–well you know–​prim​? Sorry, I'm talking a lot aren't I? I'm trying to say, well… why're you here?" More people come to see the commotion. They don't look wild or savage, like I've heard, they look normal. Like me. Their whispers are the same, ​A prim! A real prim, why is she here? It dawns on me that prim is their word for the people of Ecliptis. A million replies are running through my head–how I didn't fit in, and Sterea's Begetion and finding a book and the fallen watch– and finally I just shrug and say, "I was bored." Unlike the Ecliptis people, they don't press. They don't ask questions. They just nod in understanding. "Hey, what's your name?" the girl asks. "Oh I'm Sky—" I look up at the dark sky. So full of promise–unpredictable but beautiful all the same. Tomorrow it would become light again. It would start anew. I don't want to live in the gray monotone or the artificial Illuminator. I want to live virtuously and happily with promise and prosperity. I want to live in the light. "Sky." I say firmly. Just Sky." "Well then, Just Sky, let's go!" she laughs and heads for the blinking lights in the distance. "You coming?" With one last longing look at Ecliptis and my fallen watch, I jump down. And step into the light. The End 37


Freedom By: Chloe L.

I hug my brother for what was the last time. I couldn’t believe Brysen was leaving to join the Republic’s army; he had always thought violence wasn’t the answer. “I’ll miss you,” I say, not sure what else I could say to make this any different. He crouches down next to me.

“I’ll see you again Brea, I promise,” he says confidently. I stare into his green eyes, usually compassionate and caring, but now there was a steel look in his eyes, one I have never seen before. He hugs me one last time and turns away towards the camouflage Jeep waiting to take him away from us forever. I turn towards the door, where my dad is holding my mom tight, but before I can reach it, I steal a look at Brysen. I can see his auburn hair in the window of the Jeep. I immediately regret it and run inside. Small droplets of tears formed on my tanned, freckled face. A lock of golden 38


blonde hair stuck to my cheek and I pulled it away. I flop down onto the weathered couch in the living room, trying to think back to before Brysen announced he was leaving to join the army. To be honest, nothing was out of the ordinary. Brysen and I went to Loran High, and he gave nothing away that he wanted to leave. He seemed happy… Not wanting to think about Brysen much longer, I decide to see Charlotte Harper, my best friend. I leave a note saying where I’m going and leave the house. The crisp autumn air whips at my golden blonde hair, forcing me to tie it back in a braid so it would stop hitting me in the face. Charlotte and I have always been friends, but Charlotte always stood out more; she was more fun and all around outgoing, but always doing and trying new things. I touch my earpiece, letting a blue screen appear before my eyes. This is called the Wavelength 2000, the newest model. You are able to facetime, call or text, as well as play games. It’s great, because in school, the teachers can’t tell if you’re on it or not. I control the cursor with my mind, willing it to play music as I walk. Charlotte lives in the center of the education sector, but I live towards the outer edge. I love walking to Charlotte’s house, because I pass the Environment Sector which is always covered in lush green grass, whereas further ahead is the Industrial Sector, where everything is modernized with the latest technology and has big billows of smoke rising from the large factories. I love smelling the daffodils and orchids that grow right outside the electric fence that divides the Sectors from one another The entire city is divided into sectors. Each native to one process of the economy, Education, Industrial, Environmental, Farming, and Service Sectors. Two sectors are banned from interacting; according to

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the Regulations, it’s extremely dangerous and can mess with the work ethic. Each sector is where you stay unless you choose to leave, but you can only do that once, though you can move back. We have all been divided since the catastrophic war that destroyed the rest of the world. The former United States was redeemed as the Republic of the Americas and a ten-foot steel wall was constructed all around the country’s borders. As I walk down the freshly paved road, I hear footsteps behind me. Instinctively, I turn around, hands out, ready to hit something but I am startled to see a boy, with auburn hair just like my brother’s. “Who are you?” I say, hands still up. He puts his hands up in mock surrender. “Come on! You don’t remember me?” he says, half laughing. A flash of recognition goes through me. I see me as a kid, with two boys with auburn hair the same color. “Miles?” I ask. He nods. “Really? Brea, you can’t tell me you forgot about your best friend from Kindergarten so soon now!” He chuckles. Miles was my neighbor back in kindergarten through second grade, but his family moved away when his dad passed away. We were best friends until then. I wrap him in a hug. “It’s good to see you, Brea,” he murmurs into my shoulder. When we pull apart, he smiles a twinkle in his eyes. “I see you abandoned the pigtails after all these years,” he says, gesturing to my hair. “Yep, but only in 5th grade!” I joke, surprised by how easily I can talk to him. I hesitate, not sure what to say. “Do-do you want to come for dinner? My mom is cooking her famous Sweet and Sour Pork!” I say, remembering how much he loved it when we

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were kids. He agrees and we walk home, talking as if we had never been apart. Turns out he moved back last year but hadn’t gotten the chance to meet with me. I hadn't realized how much I had missed him. Miles was always there for me, just like Charlotte is now. After dinner, Miles and I say goodbye and agree to meet again tomorrow. I can’t help but feel excited, I haven't seen him in so long, and we have a lot to catch up on. All I can say is I fell asleep with a goofy grin on my face. I wake up early Sunday morning, excited for the day ahead. I was meeting Miles this morning, and I just couldn’t wait. I bound down the stairs, grab a piece of toast and run outside. I meet Miles at a local coffee place, down the road, called Caffeine Cafe. I sit down at the bar, waiting for Miles to come in when I hear my name. “Brea! Over here!” I turn around and see Miles sitting at a booth in the corner of the room. I climb down from the stool and walk over to where he’s sitting. “Hi!” he says. “Hi! Sorry, I didn’t see you there,” I say, sitting down across from him. “It’s fine, but I haven’t seen you in so long, though we could use a quiet corner,” he replies gesturing around him. We talk for about a half hour when Miles suddenly gets really serious. “Brea, it’s been really great getting to know you again, but I’m not just here for that.” What? What is that supposed to mean? I open my mouth to retort, but Miles gets there first. “Brea, just listen, please. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you again, but I also came here with a warning,” he hesitates and swallows, “Brea, they’re controlling your brain.” “What?” I ask, shaking my head in disbelief. “Miles, I think I’d know if someone was controlling my brain,” I scoff.

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“Brea, the Republic isn’t just controlling your brain but also the entire countries brains,” he insists staring into my eyes. “Think about it. Has anyone done anything that is irregular to their behavior? Even the smallest things can mean something.” My mind goes to Brysen leaving. I brush the image away. “I’m sorry Miles, this is too weird. Anyway, I have to go,” I say quickly and stand up. I walk towards the door, ignoring Miles’ pleas. Brain Control? Yeah right, Miles. Maybe you should get your brain checked. I haven’t seen Miles since Caffeine Cafe, but my brain is reeling with everything that he said. I can’t concentrate in school, and nothing that I do to take my mind off it works. I decide after school on Wednesday that I need to find out the truth. I walk up to 47 Franklin Road, where Miles now lives with his mom. I step onto the welcome mat and knock on the door. Miles opens the door and looks surprisingly calm when he sees me there. He gestures me in and we sit on the couch next to a beautiful, tall glass window that you can see all the way to the center of the city. “I think you can guess why I’m here,” I state. He nods. “Miles, I was rude and I want to give you a chance to explain yourself before I make my decision on what to think.” Miles hasn’t said a word since I got here. He breathes in and begins his story. “When I moved away several years ago, it was my mother's job and my father’s death as everyone had said, but not in the way you would expect. She is a secret agent for the United Nations. The countries outside of the Republic.” He pauses, taking a breath. “But… The Republic is all that's left after the war-” I begin, but Miles cuts me off.

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“That’s what they want you to think. In reality, all those places, Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan they are all still out there!” I try to imagine the other places in the world, to see them, experience them. “Anyway, when I turned 15 they recruited me to come back to The Republic. They wanted me to warn you of what the republic has been doing. They’ve been studying you, Brea. You are different. Your brain isn’t under their control like everyone else's. You are still able to think for yourself. Others, not so much. They are using us to fight for them, to make us their puppets!” Everything fell into place. Brysen leaving, the steel look in his eyes. He was being controlled by The Republic and for what? To die doing something he never wanted to do in the first place? “But how am I still aware?” I question, not sure how that would be possible. “According to the UN’s files, you have a genetic mutation that allows you to overcome the electromagnetic pulse they use to take control of parts of the brain. In other words, you are immune to the ‘virus.’ Only a couple of people in the entire world have that specific mutation. I am one of them just like you. Brea, I want you to come with me, to Great Britain, where we are stationed. You could work for us. You could change the world, save it maybe. You can stop the republic.” I don’t even have to think twice. “Count. Me. In.” I met at Miles’ house everyday after school. Supposedly to do homework, but actually, we are making plans to escape. I have never felt so strongly about something like this before, but I know doing this could free my family. We take action in 1 week. Our plan is to break into the Republic’s weapon storage and escape over the wall.

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Hopefully we’ll be long gone before the republic realizes we are missing. My job is to wait until then. Today is the day I can leave this lie of a country. I grab a backpack that I fill with a few of my belongings. A few pairs of clothes, a book, sandwich, water and my technology such as my Wavelength 2000, Apple Mac Air OS 30, iPhone 67s and hover shoes. Miles says these will help at the UN’s headquarters. I sneak out of the house, knowing I will be able to save my family soon. I meet up with Miles at Providence Park, where we finalize the last phases of the plan. There will be a speed boat waiting for us at the border, whatever a speedboat is.

We use our hover shoes to whip through Education and Industrial sectors at ease. When we arrive at the Environment Sector, you are not allowed to use them so we walk through. Luckily, everyone is at work so nobody notices two teenagers walking through the area. We reach the service sector where we continue on the train, because if somebody saw our electronics, they would grab it to give it to the poor. I don’t blame them. It’s probably the Republic controlling their brains anyway. We must have passed one-hundred people sitting on the sidewalk before we reached the Farming sector and I can breathe again. We get off the train after a 2-hour ride, to find us almost at the station where the storage container is located. We creep towards the chained area. No

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guards, like Miles predicted. We climb over the fence, running to the door. I hack into the door’s code systems, I didn't get an A+ in computer programming for nothing. We open the door and hear the sound of men playing a poker game downstairs. We sneak past them into the weapons’ vault. I grab the nearest high power gun and hand it to Miles, then I pick up the next one and put it down on the ground next to me. We strap on bulletproof vests with lots of pockets, helpful for our supplies. We have our backs turned to the door when I hear a click behind us. I turn to see a man holding a gun to our heads. My heart feels as if it’s stuck in my throat. I can’t stop feeling as if we are going to die. I take a deep breath, pretend to put my hands up and lash out a kick. The man flew across the room. He hits the wall and slid to the floor. I grab some nearby rope and tie his hands and feet together. I rip some cloth off of his t-shirt to make a gag. Before I put the gag on, he whispers to me. “You won’t get away with this girl. Escaping comes with too many consequences,” he mutters, snarling. I crouch down next to him, gag in hand. “I think we already have,” I smirk and put the gag in his mouth. His words linger in my mind, but Miles urges me to get going and I quickly forget about them. Miles and I run out and are barely over the fence when the alarms start blaring. Long story shortwe ran for our lives. We are running in the woods, close to the border when the rain of gunfire begins. Showers of bullets flash all around us. I turn to see soldiers running behind us, weapons aimed and we duck behind a tree as a bullet flies past, missing my head by inches. I turn, ready to run, when I see a familiar face in my path. Brysen. I stand still, frozen in

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shock, unsure of what to do. He puts the gun up to my face and I duck just as the bullet hits the tree behind me. I fall onto the ground with a thud. “Brysen, please! Don’t do this! Please!” I plead as I crawl backward away from his gun. “Brysen!” I cry. He keeps going and clicks the bullet into the chamber. The force of what's happening and what I have to do hits me like a sledgehammer. The bullet hit him square in the chest. I know, because that's where I aimed. Teardrops stream down my face as his figure crumples to the ground, his white shirt slowly turning crimson red. “I’m sorry,” I sob and stand up to follow Miles. We run to the wall where Miles has already put his retina scan in the system. The doors give a shudder, an obvious sign of years of no use. They slowly open and we can hear the soldiers behind us. We slip through and give a sigh of relief when the doors seal behind us. I don’t remember anything much after that. I remember a speedboat. I remember seeing an ocean for the first time. I remember the pink, brown sand we walked on. I remember killing Brysen. I remember tears. Was it worth it? I don’t know anymore. The End

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We hope  you  enjoyed  reading  our original stories and poems.  If you did, please  look for some of our previous issues and enjoy even more stories and poems.  Thank you!  Media Makers 

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Wamsink8  

Original stories and poems by middle school students.

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