“We Still Have Much to Learn” by Jan Jasinski


“We Still Have Much to Learn”
by Jan Jasinski

After living in Europe for all my life to date, and passing more than 4 months now in the United States, I shall admit, that Europe, or more precisely Europeans, have still much to learn. Most of America, even when struggling with the refugees’ problems, or the killings of black teenagers, is much more tolerant and open to other cultures than the ‘old’ continent. Many European countries present experience problems with accepting people from Syria or other Middle East countries, while the majority of the Americans understand that refugees are not necessarily something that will invade their lives and destroy local traditions. As it seems the key factor in the discussion is the security and efficiency of integration rather than general acceptance of diversity.

Another question is the hospitality of the Americans towards people from outside of the States. This stroke me from my very first days in the USA: People I am meeting over here ask where I come from, but not in order to see if I am an alien to the American culture, but to learn how can I contribute. Most people in Europe would rather think about me not belonging to the society and why I should “return to my country”.

My younger brother, Jeremi is a living example to what I claim. His peers back in Poland would be surprised to see someone who has a different skin color than themselves. Yet he spends time in his nursery with Afro-Americans, Latino and Chinese kids alike. He is not estranged to anyone and everything around him is natural to his perceptions and observations.

Another case was recently told by my mom, working in the Embassy, who was invited to give a lecture about Poland and Polish traditions in the elementary school in Anacostia. The local kids, so cheerful and bright, were shown a photo of their Polish peers – all Caucasian. And asked about the differences between them and young Poles responded: What do the play? What music do they listen to? Do they know football and baseball? They never sneered, questioned or disliked what they saw. The American kids have shown lack of stereotypes and a pure interest in learning new things.

The last case is linked to a daily life. Imagine no international cuisine, no foreign music, no books written outside your country, no science and travel. This would be the end of modernity, civilization as we know it. To this end and open society, encompassing different trends, yet keeping its gist firm, is the world I want to live in and I am happy I find myself surrounded by it while living in the DC Area.

I believe it is not easy to contribute to the diversity debate without cracking a cliché. This is why common, daily practices of different folks in the communities can deliver an objective picture, a live assessment of what works and what still needs improvement. Living in the United States has already given me a plenty of opportunities to see how one can use his entourage to claim ideas and concepts. I also think that living with different people with varying ideas and believes made me notice that even though we are different, our humane features are the same. Yet one shall become ever watchful of any signs of discrimination.

“Dollie – The Story of a Dead Soul” by Margot Su

“Dollie: The Story of a Dead Soul”
by Margot Su
My daughter, Dollie Partin died early for her age back then.  She died on October 31st, 1912.  She was 12.  Our family carried her from our house down the streets to the burning.  The epidemic was getting worse.  Everybody was sick and dying.  Dollie had died because of the epidemic.  Slowly, we burned her to ashes in the fire that had been created for the dead.  As I watched her body writhe from the heat, I saw her eyes open ever so slightly.  Something clear, but still visible to the naked eye came from her mouth.
The flames flickered, and I couldn’t see well because of the smoke, but I saw it travel, slowly, looking for a place to live.  Then, it disappeared near a forgotten, porcelain doll.  I never saw it again, until…
Waking up

When I re-awoke, I remembered I had died, so why had I even woken up?  I walked around, making sounds of china clattering against floor.  I looked at my feet.  They were of the most delicate feet made from porcelain!  I looked in a store window.  My reflection was the cutest doll I had ever seen.  I swished my blue dress, just to make sure this wasn’t a doll in the store.  It wasn’t.  I sat down, and looked at my legs and hands.
I had never been so surprised in my life.  My shoes were painted on in the shiniest black paint you could imagine.  The dress was of delicate fabric, so light you couldn’t feel it.  My hair, well, it was also porcelain, not doll hair.  I walked around, and tried to fit in.
My paint was a bit too artificial, but people still stared.  I couldn’t understand what was wrong.  How had I become a doll?  When?  Where?  I only knew that I had ‘become’ a doll.  I was scared.  So i walked to the only place I knew.  Momma.
Momma’s House

I swept so hard.  I was stress-cleaning.  My daughter was dead, and now… now I felt like dying to join her.  There was a knock on the door at midnight.  I opened it without a warning because it was storming.  There sat a porcelain doll with a pretty ice-blue dress, soaked from the rain.  All of a sudden, its hand moved, and it picked itself up off the ground, and stood.
“Hello, momma.  I’m back!” it said.
I fainted.
When I awoke, the doll appeared to be waving my Japanese fan in my face.
“I’m awake,” I said groggily, shaking the doll away.
The doll fell to the floor with a clatter, and looked around, worried.  I looked at it and recoiled in alarm.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” I exclaimed.

“My Happiness” by Sunny Basu

“My Happiness”
by Suny Basu
My happiness is the knocks on my door;
Try as I might, impossible to ignore.
My happiness is the moon, ever changing;
Kept around solely for entertaining.
My happiness is the future for which I continue to strive;
The only thing keeping me alive.
My happiness is a lone diamond;
Rare, beautiful, and as achievable as reaching the horizon.


My happiness is a promise no one ever kept;
They untook their oaths as I slept.
My happiness is the Emerald City;
An illusion full of humbugs, untruthfully pretty.
My happiness is the only reason I am here;
Along with love, rage and fear.
My happiness is a ghost;
Never revealing itself to its host.

“Alien and Human” by Jiahe Yan

“Alien and Human”
by Jiahe Yan

Run, run, keep running! Now this is the only idea in Jack’s head. He has ran for almost half an hour and he is so tired. Maybe they’re gone? Jack thinks. Slowing down, listening, the only thing he can hear is his breath. OK, I am safe now. Jack thinks. But when he looks up, there is a black round “air plane.” What’s that? This is Jack’s last opinion before he “sleeps.”
Chapter 1
“John, there was a second person who disappeared yesterday,” Detective Mike says. “Second for what?” Detective John asks. “Same as your case about Arthur.” “Really? Tell me about the case.” John says. “OK, so this people called Jack, and same as your case, both people disappear in the National Park.” “Great, so we have found the common between them, come, Mike, let’s go to the National Park, we need to work now,” John says.
Chapter 2
“Ah, there is still no clue,” John says tiredly. “Why! Who did all this?” “Don’t ask me, I am curious about it too.” John and Mike both sit on a sofa in the Police Department. They have spent entire day in the National Park, but have found nothing. “John, I have a plan, but it maybe a little dangerous,” Mike says. “It is OK,” John says, “tell me.” “Let’s go to the National Park and stay one night!”
Silence, John says nothing. After a while, “OK…” John says, “Let’s go and find out the truth!”
Chapter 3
Sunset, two men, John and Mike, are sitting near a car. Now they are in the National Park. . “What is your plan now?” John asks, “Don’t tell me you just sit here for the entire night.” “Eh, you are right again.” Mike says. “OMG!” John says, “Can you be…” Mike stops him and point at one direction, “Listen,” Mike whispers,” I think I hear something.” “Really, wait, put off the fire,” John says. After they put off the fire, the place becomes dark and quiet. “@#$^$**(##@” they hear some voice, but not clear. John directs to South, “There! Let’s go and take a look.” Mike nods and they both slowly and quietly sneaks to South. There are not many things on the South, only a small forest and the voice comes from the forest. “Bee Bee” now they can hear the voice clearly, it is not like a human’s voice but more like a machine’s voice. They hide behind two trees and look, there is a black round machine. Spaceship! This idea comes into both of their minds.
Chapter 4
This is a normal day for most of the people, but not two people, John and Mike. They just found a spaceship, a UFO! John waves his hand to Mike and shows him they need to leave. Too late, after they go back near the car, they find out there are two “gray people” standing near their car and talking. Aliens! They look at each other and can see the surprise in each other’s eyes. “@#$^^@!!” One of the aliens finds them. “RUN!” John says. They both run quickly but the aliens seems to be faster than them. After a few minutes, the aliens are just behind them. “BANG!” John feels hurt on the back and then he becomes in a coma.
Chapter 5
“Eh…”John wakes up, “where am I?” After a while, John feels better, he remembers everything, how he and Mike are captured by the aliens. John looks around. It is a dark room. No window, only one door, John tries to open it, but it is locked. “Where is Mike?” John asks himself. I need to think a way to go out! John thinks, but how? John can find nothing inside the room. “HELLO!” John shouts, ”ANYONE HERE?” No response. “Wait, my phone!” John realized that he brought his phone with him. He takes it out, but there is no signal, he cannot connect to outside. Why there is no signal….John thinks. Aliens…..spaceship…..no signal…..Wait! John realizes one thing, if there is no signal, he may not be on the Earth!
Chapter 6
Suddenly, the door opens, a man goes inside. “Mike!” John says. Indeed, the man is Mike, “Oh, John….”Mike says. “Are you OK?” John asks. “I am fine….”Mike says, “They were doing research on me. I am so uncomfortable now. You will be taken out any minute. Take this,” Mike gives John a pocket knife, “They didn’t see me take a knife. Our things are in another room, you need to get them.” “OK…” John says. Then, two aliens come, “@@#^@$(^” they talk to each other and then one of them comes inside and takes John. Now John can see the aliens clearly, they are gray, have two oval eyes and long fingers. They are not very different from humans. John thinks. Out of the dark room is a long hallway. John can see lots of rooms. After they walk through the hallway. John can see a room with windows. Their belongings are just inside the room.
Chapter 7
When they go near the door of the room, John takes out the knife and hurts one of the aliens, “Oh!!!!” the alien says. Some red blood come out from the wound. John runs into the room with windows and close the door. “@!!#^!*#^)!~~~~!!:” the aliens shout, but John cannot understand. John takes all his things. What can I use? John thinks. Flint! Let’s make some fire. He uses the flint and some of his ropes to make a small fire, and he puts the fire into his sleeping bag. Suddenly, a conflagration occurs. John throws the fired sleeping bag out of the window. “I am on fire!!”a human’s voice comes out. What? Human! John thinks. He realizes something, red blood, human voice. These are not aliens, they are human!
Chapter 8
John looks out from the window. There are no “aliens” or humans. John opens the door. The sleeping bag is still firing. He runs fast back to the dark room. The door is locked, but John can hear Mike is talking to a man. “You know what? Because of your stupid idea, John is missing now. He may finds out our plan!” “I will fix it, I promise!’ Mike says. John feels shocked, Mike is bad?!

“I Killed Sora” by Kailin Flowers

“I Killed Sora”
by Kailin Flowers

Sora stood before the gaping blackness that was now hers. She took one hesitant paw- step into the wide maw of the corrupted Palace, dust rising with every breath. She exhaled softly and ventured further. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, and she found that she was standing on a wide bridge over an impenetrable well of darkness, like a pool of ink. Flash, Lilt, and Lilt’s siblings followed Sora into the Palace of Joenja- Mol- Fayala. Flash was uneasily looking around, sensing a disturbance in the air. He didn’t like the feel of this place. Sora approached the center of the soaring hall they were in, where the bridge met with three others at an octagonal platform, where a pedestal loomed out of the darkness. As Sora walked, she saw that the hall was lined with rows of stone statues, each one carved in the likeness of a giant, battle- armed cat.
“The Guardians,” whispered Lilt, her voice echoing in the silence that blanketed the hall. Sora reached the pedestal. On top of it, something gleamed slightly in the gloom. Lilt’s yellow eyes widened with awe, and she and her siblings dropped into deep bows of respect.
“So this is where your destiny leads, you, Sora,” Lilt said breathlessly. “The Crown of the Forest,” Sora lifted it gently with one paw. Twined bands of gold and silver held three shining emeralds. Sora bowed her head, and the air filled with tension.
“Put it on,” whispered Soprano, one of the younger twins and Lilt’s smallest sister. Sora took a deep breath and placed it on her head. At once, a soft wind swirled around her, growing faster and faster until a whirling gale threatened to force the others off the bridge and into the abyss below. The wind died, and from the jewels on the crown a blinding light issued. Lilt gasped as the light played across the Guardian statues and pierced the blackness as it shot upwards. The light went through a hole in the ceiling and into the sky above.
“Sora, that’s a beacon light,” said Alto, Soprano’s level- headed twin sister. “I hope it summons help, because the Venom will have seen us by now.” Sure enough, as the light began to fade, a skittering sound could be heard. Dust was dislodged from the ceiling and fell lightly onto Sora and her companions. Sora’s small wings fluttered uneasily on her back. Flash peered into the gloom, trying to see. Even deeper darkness than the one that filled the hall started pouring out of the abyss. Eyes appeared gleaming in the dark. Flash bared his teeth at them, but Sora felt his fear.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered to him. “The beacon will have summoned others as well.”
The truth was, she wasn’t sure herself.
In Council City, a short ways away, Swift began to get a bad feeling. She knew something wasn’t right. She unfolded her wings and flew into the sky, just in time to see the light of the Fayalan Beacon. She gasped, knowing what it was. With the wind at her back and urgency in her heart, she sped towards New Atara.
As soon as she arrived, cats greeted her, the soft rustle of wings filling the air.
“Listen, we have to get ready for battle,” Swift said after a brief hello.
“Why?” someone asked.
“I saw the Beacon of Fayala go up. The Queen has returned!” Cats departed to the armory, and bells pealed in the soaring towers at each corner of the great white city. In a short while, cats began to return to the plaza in the center of New Atara, shining armor glinting on their wide wings, claws sharp and ready for a fight. Swift donned her own armor, feeling the slight weight of Tari steel on her back.
“Everyone here?” she called. A murmur of assent rippled through the ranks of the Tari cats. Swift turned and took off, wings flapping gently, the army of New Atara behind her. Hold on, Fayala- We’re coming!
Lux tackled Sprout to the ground, catching him unawares. He turned and purred, then stopped abruptly, eyes fixed on the sky.
“Luxie, look!.” Lux followed his gaze and saw a beam of light pierce the sky.
“A . . . beacon!” she said. “Warn the rest of the city!” Lux and Sprout dashed along the narrow streets of Verdant’s city, shouting a warning.
“Be ready for war! Armor on! Claws sharp!” cried Lux. Cats poured out of houses, battle- ready, joining the river of cats in the street as they rushed to the square in the center of Verdant’s city. Fern stood on a raised patch of earth in the middle, shouting encouragement and directions. The mismatched army of cats organized themselves according to strengths and weaknesses and family alliances. As the sound of the clank of armor filled the city, the Verdanti marched to war.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the Dragon’s Wastes, the bleak plain at the edge of the Catlands, a volcano stewed and trembled. The Chieftainess of Ungara and her son, Prince Siilune, stood on a ledge above the crater in the center of Ungara, the Land of Fire.
“Mother, what’s that?” asked the Prince, narrowing his eyes and gazing in the direction of the redwood trees marking the border of Fayala. The Chieftainess followed her son’s wing- tip to see the beacon.
“That, my son, is the signal for war,” she replied. She turned to the city.
“Muster my army!” she called. “March on Fayala with all speed!” she and the Prince buckled on the heavy armor of the Ungaran cats. Expertly navigating the plumes of lava that shot out of the crater, the Ungaran army headed for Fayala, fire flickering in their eyes.
Back in Council City, Phoenix Flamewing paced to and fro in the empty, cavernous Council Dome. She suddenly stopped pacing and went to look in the magic mirror that lay in the center of the arena- like space. When she looked, her fur blew back off her face. She squinted in the gale- force wind that was suddenly whipping around the chamber, and glanced in the mirror. A cat she recognized from her visit to Flash- Sora, her name was- was standing in the dark, wearing the Fayalan Crown. A moment later, the doors of the Council Dome burst open, and Phoenix came flying out, her tail streaming out behind her in her haste.
“Call for the army!” she cried, racing through the city. “The beacon is lit!” The armory of Council City shivered with cats as they put on helmets and war paint depending on their classification. Flamewing, Waterbreath, Fishtail. Phoenix spread her wings and let out a war cry heard from Atara to the Rift- Cliff.
“Council City- To Fayala!”
Back in Joenja- Mol- Fayala, Sora was standing with her fur bristling, shielding Alto and Soprano from the darkness. Flash glowed softly, attempting to light the hall so he, Sora, Lilt, Legato, Staccato, Alto, and Soprano could see what they were up against. Soft shuffling and skittering sounds still fell through the darkness to Sora, making her fur stand up with uneasy wariness. Flash turned the brightness of his fur higher, even though it drained his energy.
“Who’s there?” called Sora, addressing the glowing eyes on all sides of them.
“Who’s there… who’s there… who’s there… who’s there…?” Sora’s call was repeated even after he echoes had died away, taken up by hundreds of soft voices, a menacing whisper of a threat. Sora narrowed her eyes, trying to see.
“Oh, don’t even bother,” hissed a voice. Sora looked up, startled, but saw nothing. With a rain of dust and torn ivy, a dark shape flipped over and landed in front of her, bat-like wings fluttering slightly. Sora leaped back in horror when she saw what it was. It was just barely recognizable as a cat- mutant, disfigured beyond measure, twisted with hate. It stood taller than Sora, and four glaring red eyes stared out from its face, which was menaced with a cold, malice-filled smile. Sora bared her teeth at it and spat.
“No closer,” she hissed, fluffing her fur angrily to disguise her fear. The cat-creature tilted its head almost sideways.
“Oh, don’t you know that’s impolite?” it hissed with mock sweetness. “We haven’t even been introduced yet.” Sora growled threateningly.
“So what is your name?”
“Sora Inire-Atara, Milire-Verdanti.
“Scorpius the Third, ruler of the Venom,” the cruel mouth, full of needle-sharp fangs, stretched wide in a gruesome grin. Sora realized it was female, so distorted it was hard to tell, but it came through a little in the voice. Flash cast his light onto the creature, the better to see it. As Scorpius spat angrily at the glow, Sora saw it- she- had six legs, four wings reminiscent of a demon’s, and… Sora almost leaped back again, horrified. It seemed that Scorpius had no claws, but had stuck some sort of large claws or teeth through her own paws, all six of them, so that they stuck out the other side. Partially dried blood oozed from under the black fur, staining the awful devices a dirty red. This is not going to be easy, thought Sora. In fact, it’s going to be very, very difficult.
Scorpius seemed to be growing impatient with Sora.
Sooooo. What do you say?” she asked, baring her stained teeth.
“About what?” asked Sora, trying not to let her voice tremble.
Will you have peace or war?
“If I have peace, I will abandon what is rightfully mine.” said Sora, raising her voice to fill the hall. “So… I will have war.”
So be it.” Scorpius smiled confidently, the raised her gaze to look behind Sora. The smile fell from her face, and dismay flickered in its place. The tramp of many feet could be heard, as well as the clank of armor and the rustle of hundreds of wings.
What… is That?” Scorpius was furious. She turned to Sora, who couldn’t resist a smirk.
The first army to come was the first to leave their homeland- New Atara. New Atara was leaderless, but Swift, who was Inire-Atara but Milire-Council City, led them to Fayala. The newly risen Sun glinted on the Tari steel covering their backs in shining plates. Fins modeled on Dragon’s wings were attached to their tails and backs, making them able to turn and navigate in the air much more quickly and effectively. The Tari gently landed at the mouth of the hall with no sound but the soft, shining scrape of armor. Swift herself glittered white, and sun streamed from behind her into the hall. Scorpius hissed with displeasure. Meanwhile, the Ungarans, who had sped up to catch up with their New Ataran friends, landed beside the Tari army. Led by the Chieftainess and her son, the army of Ungara was clad in a metal that was a hybrid of Tari Steel and dark steel, heavier than the former, but stronger and darker in color. The Chieftainess nodded in greeting as her army filled in behind her. Sora felt hope bubble in her chest. This isn’t all. The sound of feet drew ever closer, and soon something came into view on the Fayalan Marshes. The army of Council City, and the much smaller militia of Verdant’s City. Something large marched with them- something midnight-blue and threatening. Ah, it’s Miasma. I forgot she’s now living in Verdant’s City. As they approached, the vibrant color of the Verdanti and the war paint of the Council City cats came into sight. The two armies were led by Chasm and Phoenix, and they came to fill in the rest of the gap between the hall and the forest. Sora turned back to Scorpius.
“So, what have you got?” she asked defiantly.
“I have this,” Shadows started to move, and took on the defining shape of mutated cats as the detached themselves from walls and the ceiling, landing behind Scorpius and clinging to the underside of the bridge. Flash was filled with revulsion at these awful creatures, the surely could not be related to cats, but still the evidence was that they were. Many malignant stares followed Sora as she walked forward, along with Flash and Lilt and her siblings, to join the forces of the Catlands. Sora stood before all the other armies, the Crown of Joenja- Mol- Fayala gleaming on her head, lighting her fur as if it was gold. Scorpius bared her teeth.
“Attack, my shadows!”
“Cats of all realms… CHARGE!”
Sora leaped forwards. She collided with Scorpius in midair, spinning and rolling to land on the bridge again. She unfurled herself to land on her feet, facing her adversary nose-to-nose. Scorpius snarled and lunged for Sora’s throat. Sora dodged, but felt herself hurtling into open air. Just in time, small wings flapping madly, Sora stopped herself from sailing into the endless abyss below her. She lifted herself back onto the bridge to face Scorpius again. Scorpius charged her, and Sora leaped over her head and hovered in the air. She turned and sped towards the opening to the forest outside, and raced towards it. Scorpius hissed angrily and lifted off into the air to follow Sora over the thrashing sea of cats below. Scorpius rapidly began to catch up to Sora, her larger wings beating the air. Sora began to panic. The sky and the ground were both too crowded, and Scorpius was gaining fast. Oh, please, I don’t want to die like this! Thought Sora desperately. Please, please, no! Suddenly, a tingle of panic turned to a tingle of… something else. Something Sora had never felt before- and she liked it. Her wings stretched wider… and wider… Sora looked back to see what felt so strange, and almost fell out of the sky with shock. Her wings were no longer small and pure white, but the tips of her wings had grown into huge flight feathers, each one violet mixed with cosmos blue, speckled with stars. Sora’s wing beats drove her away from Scorpius’s deadly claws, and Sora at last dared to slow down and look around. Below her, she saw the armies clashing at the mouth of the hall, a heaving tide of blood-stained cats. Wait… Where is Flash?
Flash was fighting for his life. As soon as the battle started, he lost sight of Sora, and as he looked for her, he was cornered by a deep violet cat with black eyes that had eerily glowing yellow pupils. She had the same claws as Scorpius, and blood- red marks streaked down her face.
Prepare to DIE!” she hissed as she slashed at Flash’s throat. Flash dodged and rolled behind the cat. He sprang to his feet and charged up a bolt of electricity in his fur. Static electricity crackled around him and the cat gave a low growl at the unexpected light. Flash leaped at her, miniature lightning strikes hitting the ground around her feet so she couldn’t escape. He bowled her over, paws slamming into her shoulders and knocking her to the ground. She thrashed angrily and threw him off with surprising strength. Flash skidded across the ground, the dirt scraping at his fur. He picked himself up and mustered the last of his strength to finish her. He looked up to see if there was anything he could use; his strength was failing. A pile of rocks, too big to lift… but he could do something to them. Flash smiled inwardly and shot a bolt of lightning at the base of the rock heap. As the cat looked up in surprise, the tower toppled and crushed her. Flash breathed a sigh of relief and turned away. Good, now I can look for Sora. He hurried off through the battle.
Lilt was all alone. Her four siblings had run off somewhere to find who-knows-what, and Lilt was left in the middle of a battle, by herself- and she barely knew how to fight. Here goes… she thought, sighing and dodging a flying rock. She weaved her way through the battle, heart thumping in her throat. Lilt’s head spun from the stench of death, paws slipping on the dark, bloodstained dirt. She called out, trying to find her siblings, but her voice was lost in the clamor of battle. She stumbled and fell to the ground, and a shadow fell over her. Lilt looked up, her eyes barely open. A cat stood over her, substantially bigger than her, with wickedly sharp claws and fangs. Lilt tried to move, but was pinned immediately under blood-soaked paws, almost choking on the overwhelming scent of venom and rotten flesh. Lilt tried not to breathe in. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited for death to find her.
“No…” she choked out, but her voice hardly left her mouth. She braced for the final blow she was sure would come, but it never did. Lilt dared to open her eyes. As she looked, the cat was thrown backwards by a huge metal blade. Above Lilt stood… Sentinel? Lilt scrambled to her feet. Rescued from one evil by another!
“Hey, Lilt, it’s us!” said a muffled voice, speaking in Birdspeak. Lilt started to smile.
“It’s you!” she cried.
Sora flipped and dove to the ground. Scorpius chased her, face contorted with rage. Sora sidestepped her dive and whirled to face her. Scorpius lunged for Sora’s throat and caught her on the shoulder. Sora shrieked with pain, but the next moment, Scorpius stepped back and left her lying on the ground. Sora looked up, pain in every movement.
“Why… don’t you… finish me now?” she gasped.
Because you’ll die anyway,” Scorpius grinned wickedly, leaning over Sora, who didn’t have the strength to swipe at her. “The poison is in your blood.” Sora lay for a few moments, feeling hopeless. But after those few moments, something started to happen… A red haze started to cloud Sora’s gaze. Ahh… RAGE! Sora launched herself off the ground, teeth bared.
“Well, if I’m going to die, might as well do it… NOW!” Scorpius was knocked backwards off her feet, caught by surprise.
“What… How?!” she hissed.
“Haven’t you ever hear of RAGE?” snarled Sora. She tackled Scorpius to the ground and aimed swipes at her head. Scorpius threw her off and leaped to her feet, bristling. A low growl built up in her throat, and she sprang forwards, catching Sora by the wings. Sora struggled to free herself, eyes watering with the pain of her wings being pulled. Sora was almost blind with pain and she could feel her wings tearing off when she heard a voice through the pounding in her ears.
“Sora!” It was Flash. When Sora felt she was about to explode from the agony, it was suddenly relieved. A piercing shriek cut through the air, and Sora collapsed. She raised herself from the ground to see Scorpius doing the same, a hole burnt through one bat-like wing. She snarled with pain, but charged Sora and Flash once again. They dodged her wild onrush, and ended up at the mouth of the hall staring into the abyss.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Sora.
“You know we’ll both die.”
Scorpius wheeled to face them, teeth bared.
You cannot kill me!” she hissed.
“Oh, I think we can!” Sora and Flash took off running down the bridge into the now-empty darkness. All the other cats had started fighting in the forest- they were alone.
COWARDS!” Scorpius raced after them. Sora and Flash turned around in the middle of the bridge, far from any wide platform.
“This is it.” whispered Sora, watching Scorpius approach. Her rage had cooled, and she was herself, tired and hurt. Flash looked despairingly into Sora’s violet eyes.
“What if… What if it doesn’t work?” he whispered back. Scorpius had almost reached them.
“It will,” Sora whirled around and tensed up, ready to spring. Flash did the same.
“Sora…” he said out of the corner of his mouth.
“I love you too,” she replied, guessing his thoughts. Scorpius lunged. Sora and Flash leaped for her throat at the same time, throwing her backwards to the edge of the bridge. But try as they might, they couldn’t get her off. She landed a swipe on Sora’s face, and Sora couldn’t see for the blood in her eyes. Flash battered his paws at the bridge, trying to push them all off the bridge, but he couldn’t.
Now you will-” Scorpius froze suddenly.
“Flash, what…” gasped Sora, unable to see what was going on.
“Guardians,” he replied, out of breath. The great stone guardians on the sides of the hall were glowing.
“NOW!” shouted Sora. She and Flash steeled themselves for one last fight. They concentrated the last of their strength into pushing against the bridge, so Scorpius- and themselves- fell to their doom. Just as they were teetering on the edge, Lilt appeared in the doorway with Alto, Soprano, Legato, and Staccato, who were still in the Sentinel suit.
“NO!” Lilt cried in Birdspeak. But she was too late. Before her horror-struck eyes, Sora, Flash, and Scorpius fell into the abyss- and with them fell the Crown of Joenja- Mol- Fayala. Without it, Scorpius might as well have won the battle. But Sora heard her cry as soon as she left the bridge and flicked her head suddenly upwards, dislodging the crown. Lilt ran to the edge of the bridge, distraught, and was greeted by the crown hitting her on the nose. Lilt reflexively caught the crown in her paws and rolled back onto the middle of the bridge, panting. Sora and Flash fell and fell, down through the dark. They had let go of Scorpius, who fell faster than them.
“Sora, can you fly?”
“No. My wings are useless, Scorpius almost severed them.”
“I guess this is it, then.” whispered Flash. He could feel the wind whipping through his thick white fur as he fell, faster and faster. He closed his eyes and felt Sora’s wingtip touch his side.
“Yeah. This is it,” she breathed. And neither ever said another word.

“Mystery of the Police Station Murderer” by Margot Su

“Mystery of the Police Station Murderer”
by Margot Su

Mildred slid on some quick, stretchy clothing.  This was her first day as a police officer, and she wasn’t going to mess up.  Mildred placed the police badge on her jacket, and headed to her Toyota Corolla.  As she sat inside the driver’s seat, someone knocked on her car door.  It was a strange man.  You couldn’t see his face; his black hood was concealing it.  The hand that had knocked was bruised and covered in dirt and dried blood.  Mildred rolled down the window.
“Yes?” she asked politely. The stranger with the hood slid it off.  His skin fell off, too.  It was Dale.
“DALE!  HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO ASK YOU TO STOP SCARING ME??!”  Mildred complained angrily.  “I’m gonna be late now, OK?”  Dale laughed.
“Finally,” he said.  You’ve actually gotten a job, as a . . .” Dale squinted at Mildred’s badge.  “A police officer.  Wow. Ok.”
Mildred sighed and rolled the window up.  She started the old Toyota, and rolled out of the driveway.  Dale waved.  Mildred waved halfheartedly and drove towards the police station.  As she parked, she saw a young man with blonde hair wearing handcuffs.  Two policemen were dragging him into a cell.  He was screaming and crying, begging them to let him go, but the men ignored his pleas.  Mildred swung the door shut.
“HEY!  LEAVE HIM ALONE!”  she yelled to the officers. One of them tied the man to the door, and came up to her.
“What are you doing here?” he asked suspiciously.
Mildred showed him her badge.  “I’m a new officer,” she said.
“Oh,” he said, and nodded.  “Name’s Drew, Drew Whalte.” He pointed a finger to the blonde man sitting with the officer. “That one, he killed his wife and his own child.  We suspect he’s mentally ill.”
“Oh,” Mildred said.  “I didn’t know.”
Drew slapped her on the back. “Hey, man, it’s ok,” he said, “first is always the worst.”
Drew led Mildred through the doors, and to the front desk.  A short lady was seated in the chair.
“Bring Mr. Stewarde in, please,” the lady said, gesturing to Drew. Drew nodded, and brought the blonde man inside.
“Please, you’ve got the wrong man, honest, I never did a thing!” wailed the blonde man.
“Be quiet, Mr. Stewarde,” said the short secretary, whose plaque read Alice Boyd, Secretary.
Drew shoved Mr. Stewarde in the nearest cell, and stood next to Mildred.  Mildred saw that Drew was sweating.
“Stand by, Miss Mildred parker,” said Alice.
“Y-yes’m,” said Mildred nervously.
“Drew, feed all cells 1 through 10.”
“On it,” said Drew. Slowly, he began making his way from cell to cell, leaving small bowls of oat and bran as he went to each cell.
“Mildred–uh.. Parker?” said Alice.
“Yes’m?” asked Mildred.
“Please report to Mr. Jerusalem.”
“Yes’m,” said Mildred.
Mildred was about to ask where Mr. Jerusalem’s office was, but she stopped herself.
“Mildred Parker?” asked a tall man with square glasses, whom Mildred assumed to be Mr. Jerusalem. Mildred followed him quietly into his office.
“So, how is your day so far?” asked Mr. Jerusalem, leaning into his chair.
“Good, sir, yours?” asked Mildred timidly.
Mr. Jerusalem chuckled.
“Ah, same,” he remarked.
Mildred squeezed her hands under the table.
“Don’t be nervous,” said Mr. Jerusalem, “I’m not your boss.  Would you like me to call him in?”
Mildred started to shake her head no, but said politely, “OK.”
Drew walked into the room with the oat and bran. “Good mornin’ Mildred,” he said.
Mildred stifled a gasp in horror.  Drew was her BOSS??!!
“Drew, do you mind getting Miss Mildred’s boss?” asked Mr. Jerusalem.
“Oh, no problem,” laughed Drew, and he headed out, whistling.
Mildred gave a sigh of relief. Mr. Jerusalem twiddled his thumbs.  Mildred look at her hands. Drew came in, five minutes later, looking shaken up.
“What took you so long?” barked Mr. Jerusalem.
“Boss- boss is d-dead,” stammered Drew helplessly.
“WHAT!” yelped Mr. Jerusalem?
Drew pointed to the office across the hall.
Mr. Jerusalem hurried into the office.  A tall man with a knife through his chest lay, eyes glazed, on the floor.
“MISS ALICE!  Mr. Poe has been KILLED!”  Mr. Jerusalem yelled.
Alice Boyd hurried into the room.
“No,” she breathed.  “Not again. . .”
Alice rushed back to her desk and called 9-1-1. Mildred ran after her.  Alice slowly turned to her.
“Mildred, you are dismissed for the day.”
Mildred drove home.  It was raining.  As she got into her house, she gasped.  The place had been torn apart!  The $500 rug she had just bought was cut up in several different places.  The closet in her bedroom was lying on its side, glass broken from all four cabinets.  Her bed was ruined, sheets ripped off, the mattress stuffing all over the floor.
“Oh my GOSH!” said Mildred, covering her mouth in horror.
Mildred sat on her bed and opened her purse.  Luckily, she’d brought it with her, and everything was still there.  She turned on her phone, and dialed Dale.  Nothing.  It was his answering machine.  Mildred left a message.
“Hey Dale, I was robbed, please let this not be one of your tricks, bye, Mildred.”
Dale called at dinner that night.
“Hello?” Mildred said.
“Mildred, it- be careful——-”
“DALE? DALE? DALE?????” Mildred hung up.
Mildred sat down and began to eat her cold food.  Her fridge had broken just a few hours ago because of the storm outside, and the milk and meats were all spoiled.  Mildred had spent half the day, cleaning her house and making it into tip-top shape.  Still, not everything was fixed quite yet.  Mildred finished her dinner of cold clams, and Chinese food leftovers.  Slowly, she chewed her way through it, glumly.  Then, there was a knock on the door.
Mildred got up, and peeked through the peep-hole.  It was Dale, wearing a dark rain coat.  Mildred opened the door.
“Dale?” she said, shivering.
“Mildred, you-you-,” Dale gave a loud gasp, and fell to his knees.
“DALE!?” Mildred yelped in alarm.
A man in a black jacket hurried away.  He held a pistol.
“HEY!” yelled Mildred.  “MURDER!”
The man hurried off.  He slid through a tunnel nearby, and was gone.  Mildred knelt down next to Dale.
“Dale,” Mildred breathed.
Dale groaned and rolled over.  Then, his eyes froze, and closed.  They never opened again.
Mildred called 911 and told them what happened.  Two police cars came.  The first car took Dale away, and the second searched for the man in the black jacket.  He was nowhere to be seen.

Man in black jacket perspective:
I ran as fast as I could before shootin’ Millie’s brother.  She screamed so loud, I jumped and hurried to my lair, laughing.
Nobody knows where it is, nobody, not even the cops.

“Superheroes” by Aleydis Barnes

by Aleydis Barnes

Flowing in the soft breeze.
A cape that is known by millions.
Your eye travels up
seeing the slight curve upward
of the sssssss that signifies
the name.
His dedicated fans do not know the
tip tap top tip top tap;
fleshy fingers speeding
across the keyboard,
spinning stories,
facts and ideas,
to see the great ideal, of humanity,
the epitome of all that every kid wants to be,
Yes, little do they know:
their great hero
does not deserve their
Little do they know that
if Superman passed a
crying child
he wouldn’t even blink.
Little do they know that
he wouldn’t help an
old lady cross the street,
or stop a bully from hurting a young girl.
No he wouldn’t.
He wouldn’t help anybody that he didn’t have
He wouldn’t help anybody
that didn’t cause him to be
on the front page.
I know I would.
So although sometimes I
yearn to hear your
cheers screaming my name,
I’m quite content laying in
the background for a
I do not have a cape.
I do not have an emblem printed on my chest.
You couldn’t pick me out of a crowd.
I may even be
All I know is that
I would save anybody I could,
create peace whatever way I had to,
and cheer up
that wailing child
by the sidewalk.
I’d do my deeds for others
not for me.
And so,
I consider myself,

“Voice” by Emma Shaffer

by Emma Shaffer

We mustn’t be too happy,
We mustn’t be too sad
We mustn’t be unique, because that would be bad

This is a children’s rhyme
You may think it not true,
But did you ever think this idea is inside of you

Agony, frustration, and rage must be concealed,
For we have wounds that will never be healed

Happiness, joy, and delight are feelings felt in spite,
In spite of your joy, you are vain

Emotions are held inside,
For you are a shape society has made
you are not yourself, but a person with scars
Literal or metaphorical, it doesn’t matter

For we all have graveyards
Of dead hopes and dreams
For we all have red eyes
From tears wept in rage
For we all have broken vocal chords
From our voices that have been silenced
For we all live a lie
A lie that we have a voice

We mustn’t be too happy,
We mustn’t be too sad
We mustn’t be unique, because that would be bad

“My Favorite Character from a Book” by Zach Yaqub

“My Favorite Character from a Book”
by Zach Yaqub

My favorite character from a book is Big Nate. I have read all his 15 books at least 20 times each.
I like Big Nate because he’s a funny kid. He’s a lot like me in so many ways. We’re both 11 years old. His hair is the same color as mine and sometimes the same style. We both play chess. We both play baseball, usually right field. We both want to be pitcher, but we don’t get to do it as much as we want. He’s always dreaming about making an amazing play.
At school he is like me too. He bounces his leg up and down when he’s sitting at his desk. He’s always getting into wacky situations. His friends are either getting him out of trouble or getting him into trouble. He forgets his homework a lot. When that happens, his teacher gives him a really icy stare. He calls it the hairy eyeball. I have seen teachers do that in real life. My mom can do it too.
My mom thinks I should write a “Big Zach” book. Because sometimes I get into some situations like him. Like my teacher always thinks I hand in my tests too fast, because she thinks I rush through them. One day I decided I would wait until somebody else handed theirs in first. After I finished my test, I saw somebody else stand up to hand theirs in. So I stood up. But then I realized that he was just picking up his pencil, because he had dropped it. I didn’t know what to do then, because I was already standing up. The teacher was looking at me like a hawk. I thought about pretending to pick up an imaginary pencil and put it on my desk. But she was watching me too closely. So I had no choice. I just handed in the test.
Big Nate is creative, and so am I. He comes up with ideas, and also gets out of trouble. I have my ways too. Big Nate has lucky socks that he never changes. To me, every underwear is lucky underwear. I try to sneak not changing it. He plays the trombone but he is really bad. People pay him not to play. I tried learning the clarinet this year, but I am really bad. It’s under my bed right now.
Big Nate is a good kid. But sometimes he thinks it’s funny to do annoying things, like sing songs that get on his older sister’s nerves. I have an older brother. You could find me and Big Nate singing this song: I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves. I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, and this is how it goes: I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves. I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, and this is how it goes


“Wait Whaaa?” By Bella Valdes-Houghton

“Wait Whaaa?”
By Bella Valdes-Houghton

“Pay attention, folks! This is big news—three random people have been chosen and are now being exposed to the public. They will be out in a moment. Thank you.”
Dozens of reporters filed outside the NASA building in the heat of the late August waiting for the three lucky ducks who have been chosen to pause their life down on earth and travel to Mars. Suddenly, a group of three people filed out the door, protected by security. Cameras and microphones were shoved in the faces of the “soon to be” astronauts, just like paparazzi chasing celebrities.
“Can we please ask you all some questions?” Said a woman wearing a tight pencil skirt and a blue blazer. Without a chance to reply a woman was pushed in front of a camera and the news reporter stumbled to get in the slot.
“Hello ma’am, we are live! I am Kelsey Morgan, and here in front of the official NASA building with me is one of our four new friends,” she said with a cheesy smile. “Who will be traveling into space to discover a new medical mystery to cure the spreading disease of Leertoiway. Now moving on,” she continued, “What is your name?”
“Marley,” the short woman muttered as she pushed her…short brown hair out of her face.
“And tell us,” The reporter went on. “How did you feel when the news finally sunk in?”
“Nervous…mostly…I was at the moment working at a wide area networking software company and not particularly happy, so I guess this is some excitement.” Without warning Marley was dragged by security towards a shiny long limo. She was surprised to see one woman sitting next to her and one man across. Everyone was quiet.
“Where to?” The driver asked. Marley barely jumped when a deep voice said, “Primary location.” She wiped her head around and saw a large man sitting calmly in the row behind, wearing thick glasses and a black suit.
“Where are we going?” asked a man sitting across from Marley. He was bald and wearing an ugly suit and Christmas tie even though it was August. “Primary location,” said the man in the back.
“Well, where is that?!” I need to get out of here and go back to work! Why, you ask? I was so close to becoming CEO of my company, but now I am pulled here to go on some weird secret mission thing!!!!” He yelled. “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!” He screamed then punched the roof and broke down in pain.
Thirty seconds later the window turned dark and a gurgling sound filled the room. Marley tried to open a window but found that they were locked. She suddenly felt very anxious about the ideas of outer space. She tried to close her eyes and relax but Terry’s heavy breathing prevented that. Soon the car skidded to a stop and the doors mysteriously opened and everyone flew out. They were brought to an empty room they had a large space ship in the center. A woman who had not yet spoken decided to announce that she was hungry…really hungry. The driver said that they would eat momentarily.

They did not eat momentarily. Unless you consider after three hours of spaceship training momentarily.
Seven depressed cooks were standing in front of the ship holding mushy broccoli and slimy mac and cheese. Everyone served themselves then sat on the floor to eat. “THUMP”! Terry and Marley gasped. She had fainted. The anonymous women had fainted. The driver grabbed Marley and Terry by the arm and pulled them along into the ship while a loud ear piercing alarm went off. The cooking lady’s scrambled to get away.
”What happened?” Terry asked.
“Well, she wasn’t protected,” the driver said.
“You mean those little bands the government makes us wear?”
He nodded. Soon they all were on a ship and about to get buckled in. “Wait, where is the other guy . . . in the suit?”
“Not here,” the driver answered. Soon they were all strapped in and ready to go.
“Good Luck!” The driver said with an evil grin.
Marley turned to look at Terry. They both immediately knew they needed to get out and fast. They unbuckled and ran for the door but it was too late. A voice over the speaker said
3, 2, 1 blast off.