2068 C.E. by E. Yamamoto

The street lights slowly blink on, as I do my homework in my residential unit.  I wait for #1138 to arrive.  As if Accelerated Global & Diversity Class (AGDC) homework was not hard enough, my burnt arm begins to throb uncomfortably again.  I limp (due to my broken kneecap) over to the unit’s QuickAid kit and apply new bandages to my arm, and for good measure, I change the dressing to the now infected acid wound that covers the left side of my face.  I have had to deal with this since numbers 1507, 4617, and 2045 cornered me in our school’s Chem Lab (at least they cleaned up after themselves this time) two days ago.  I would have gone straight to the Community hospital afterward, but my school had a mandatory presentation from the Tolerance Police, and I have not had any time since.  Just as I am about to head back to the desk, I hear a polite knock on the door.

“Come in, #1138,” I call.  We have never spoken before, but it is considered tactless (even illegal if we had laws) to refuse someone’s invitation, lest one offends them.  All I know about her is that like me, she is one of the few people to score a perfect 900 on the BRE.  Unlike me, she chooses to spend all of her free time at community service projects and has many friends.

“Thanks, #1701, and how did you know it was me?”  she enters, replying with a little more confidence.

“My Fellow Residents never knock, and I am not expecting anyone,”  I respond offhandedly as I find a chair for her.  I notice that she has been to the cosmetic center recently.  Her hair is a bright orange with one side cropped short, and her olive skin has taken a distinctive blue sheen.  It is the current trend for showing that one is “different”.  She takes a seat while staring at me peculiarly.

“Not to offend,”  she begins,  “but is it true that you, #1701, eschew friendships of any kind?  I mean it’s good that you don’t make exceptions at (that would hardly be nice to everyone else!) but it must get tiring to express your individuality that way,”

“Actually, that was rather offensive,” I feel my face reddening, but I look up from the desk and see that her facial expression has changed from one of curiosity to mollification and embarrassment.  I cut her off as she begins to apologize excessively. “But I don’t care.  If we were allowed to be as offensive as we liked without worrying about the Tolerance Police, I bet we all could get a lot more done,”  I shove her my homework.  She is a year older, so homework help was a convenient excuse to have her come over.  Her expression, which had so quickly changed from to curiosity to shame now melts to one of discomfort and nervousness.  Her face clouds over and she looks away from me.  It is unheard of to question an institution as benevolent as the Tolerance Police!

As she looks over my answers, she smiles and begins to laugh.

“#1701, I don’t understand.  You’re at the top of your class, these questions should be easy for you,”  She looks up to see my blank expression and continues,  “I’ll do the first one for you, ‘How was the invention of airplanes by Our Society a technological advance that allowed us to win the Second World War single-handedly?’  Simple, with airplanes, we were able to support our ground troops and ships.  It gave us light, but powerful reinforcements which other nations did not possess at the time.  You can elaborate,”  I stare at her smiling face in disbelief.

“What you just said is simply incorrect,” I begin. “It’s an established fact that airplanes were invented much earlier.  Furthermore, Our Society was not the only nation to possess airplanes in the Second World War, you could go downtown to the Community museum to see that.  Finally, we certainly did not win that war ourselves.  That’s hubris we can not afford as a nation.”

As if physically shocked by the harshness of my words, she sits straight up in her seat and glares at me.

“#1701, how could you say something as awful as that? That was incredibly offensive and I don’t underst-”

“I think you understand plenty.  And stop calling me #1701!  No one ever got offended by a name.  You are intelligent enough to know that what you said is a contradiction.  I just hoped that I was not the only one who could admit it to myself”

All pretenses of being polite fade.  The girl shoots up from her seat.

“You are being unpatriotic, intolerant, and bigoted.  You are not being a Good Citizen, and I feel it’s my civic duty to report what you have said to the Tolerance Police”  She tries to break away, but I grab her arm and prevent her from reaching the unit’s door.  She may be older than me, but she has never had to fight for her safety.

“Hear me out, because you’re just as bad as me if you leave,”  I do not wait before I continue.  “Tell me, what’s your definition of a bully?”

“Someone who forces their will on others, making the person do or not do what they otherwise wouldn’t”  she retorts easily enough, glaring at my hand which is still preventing her from retreating.

“Right,” I respond. The acid wound throbs uncomfortably, “And our government tries to prevent bullies as much as possible by allowing everyone their own voice, right?”

“Of course, so I don’t see why you-”

“But by definition, the allowance for one voice is the suppression of another.  Don’t you see that everyone thinks and acts uniformly?  Look at what happened to me, I refused to stand up during our ‘Optional Required Pledge of Tolerance’ and I got beaten up.  Think about it, the slogan of the Tolerance Police is literally ‘We don’t tolerate intolerance.’  Now that sounds a lot like your definition of bullying, don’t you think?”

I see that she has stopped struggling.  We stare at each other.

“I guess I see where you’re coming from,”  More silence follows.  I loosen my grip on her arm.  She makes no move to the door.  “I, mean… I  guess I agree with the number thing at least.”  She then whispers, as if afraid to say it even to herself, “I hate being called #1138,”

“What would you rather be called?”  I ask.

Before she can respond, a sharp knock sounds twice on the door.  I shuffle over, only to see that the locked door swings open.  In front of me are a man and woman of about equal height.  Both are wearing government mandated coats.

“Hello, we are from the Tolerance Police.  We are just here to do a random inspection,”  I turn to see the girl looks concerned, rather than excited as she should have been.  The woman takes my arm in an iron grip and leads me to the central hallway outside of my unit.

“Wait!”  myy friend calls,  “If she goes, take me, too.”  The man, who was just about to give her a drug which I recognized would induce temporary amnesia very quickly, looks puzzled, but the woman goes in again and grabs my friend.

“Trust me, we are going to have much fun working together,”  the woman says to us as I feel a sharp sting on the back of my neck.  I turn to see the man inject a needle into my friend’s neck as well. The fiery pain spreads down my spine, my vision blurs, and I stumble to the ground.

“Help, I can’t mo-”  my friend gasps before she to collapses.  I stare back helplessly.  I can not move my mouth to talk back.  The two agents of the tolerance police stand over us with blank expressions.  Shortly after I feel my arms stiffen, and I sense that my legs are going numb.  Seconds later I black out.

The Sea by Elola Eckford

Waves crashing against a shore,

The tide is coming in.

Cold seeping into a wetsuit,

Hearing the sea sing.

 

Ripples in a rock pool,

Seaweed tangles your feet.

Catching fish in a net,

Fingers sifting through the sleet.

 

Water rushes over my back,

I jump these tidal waves.

Diving, gliding through the sea,

These currents i do brave,

 

I comb the beach for treasures,

Cupping shells to my ear,

Watching from the cliff-face,

As ‘way from the rocks boats steer.

 

And from my bedroom window,

I listen to the sea sing.

Knowing my home truly is,

Where from water waves spring.

 

The Story of a Smile by Ceylin Erkan

“Smile, say cheese!” I heard the photographer exclaim, his voice echoing against the walls of the auditorium. He had spent about an hour trying to arrange the way we stood and looked as the students of the Orphanage of London.

Anyways, let me first start by introducing myself. My name is Rosaleen. Including the past 12 years of my life, I’ve always been smiling, even at the darkest and scariest of times. I’ve also been somewhat clumsy, although every moment I’ve tried to be active and sociable. I sometimes feel like my body is playing a trick on me. It awkwardly and involuntarily makes me do things that I sometimes don’t even want to do. However, that’s me.

A few months ago, we, as the kids of the Orphanage of London, have been informed that we’ll be taking a fun trip to the United States of America. All of us were so excited and overjoyed when we heard the news. The reason for this kind of trip is probably best defined as the orphanage’s reputation on the society. They’ll most definitely call the newspaper editors and TV shows to let them know basically how great they are.

So, today was the picture day, and its object was to publish photographs of all the people at the orphanage including the staff and the kids on a newspaper article talking about how the Orphanage of London is the best than any other in the year of 1990. Tomorrow was going to be the actual trip day to New York. I’ve been enthusiastically waiting for this day to come for about a few months, and here it was, only hours away.

Finally, the long day ended, and I went straight to my bed at night. Before I slept, I dreamed about what kind of place America would be like, and the numerous things I could do when I got there. With the comforting feeling my thoughts gave me, I fell to sleep…

 

***

 

It was an exhausting trip experience with the plane, but it was definitely worth it.  We had finally got outside the airport, and there I saw a huge city crowded with people and tall buildings. The people from the orphanage walked along the sideways, obsessed with everything they saw.  The staff was leading the students to look around the beautiful city. Finally, all of us got tired, and decided that we should just take the bus to Manhattan.

After getting a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, I knew we had arrived. From there we rushed to a hotel and got rooms for every pair. I simply paired up with a shy and an agreeable girl whom I knew from before. It was already night, so we just slept right after we had gotten into our rooms.

All the people at the orphanage woke up at 7 a.m. We probably had a long day awaiting us in the City of Dreams. I was astonished when I saw thousands of people crowded like ants at this early hour of the morning outside the hotel.

Our first destination was Central Park. I had never heard of the name before, so from the title it was given I assumed it would basically be a park in the center of New York. If I were to be honest, the expectation bars weren’t high. We again took the bus to the destination. In the bus, there were excited mutterings about the Central Park. I was disappointed with myself that I didn’t even know anything about this place. However, we arrived. Everything in my brain was suddenly wiped out, and without needing to worry about even a single fact, I felt satisfied. I stared at the incredible place with awe.

The Central Park could be defined as “one in a million.” Sitting at the center of tall buildings packed together, there was a masterpiece of nature. I shook my head, and my brain started to fill up. The first question that came to mind was, “Apart from all these crowded buildings, how do the people manage to preserve this part of nature?”  The wonderful place could be compared to a tame animal right in the middle of a bunch of wild animals. We listened as the tour guide gave information about the history of the place, enthusiastic.

Unfortunately, just after I felt a raindrop on top of my nose, it started raining like cats and dogs. Everyone around was urgent to move to a safe place. I followed the girl from last night, but it was difficult to keep up regarding the fact that about hundreds of people were in the place. Everyone was just staring at me because I was smiling, but I couldn’t help it. I could simply not move the muscles of my face . . . And surrounded by that thought, I lost sight of the girl, of anyone whom I knew. There I was, in the middle of the stormy rain. I didn’t know where to go, nor what to do. I just stood there alone, desperate.

 

***

 

The sun had risen again a few hours later. Although the Orphanage of London is supposed to be very organized and careful, no one did come back for me. None of the staff had informed us about what to do in situations like this. I didn’t know anything about this city, and now I was all on myself.

Across from me, there was a woman watching me mysteriously. After she recognized my glimpse, she smiled and started walking towards me.

“How nice you are!” suggested the woman, then added, “You’ve been smiling almost for an hour. That is incredible!”

Oh…” I said disappointedly, “I’ve always been smiling my whole life, so it is not an extraordinary thing for me.”

The woman suddenly lost her spirits, as if she was recalling something.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked with a spiritless voice.

“Rosaleen. What about you?” I wondered.

“Where are your parents?” the woman surprisingly changed the subject.

“I don’t have parents. I came all the way from London just for a trip with the orphanage,” I explained, feeling ignored and interrupted.

“So, may I ask why you are here sitting alone for a total of 2 hours and 37 minutes?” the woman inquired.

“Well, I’m supposed to be with them . . . But, when the rain poured down a few hours ago, I lost sight of them in the crowd. And now . . . I don’t know what to do,” I described, getting gloomy, but still smiling.

“Okay, nothing to worry about. I’ll help you find them!” the woman grew enthusiastic again. She definitely had rapid mood changes, I thought.

From there, she helped me to stand up, then we started walking, discussing what to do first. Apart from all that, we both couldn’t resist telling each other something about our lives. We figured out that we were very much alike after comparing our personalities. I told her about how I had been smiling literally my whole life, although it brought the woman’s spirits down again.

The woman’s name was actually Belle. She was one of the best brain surgeons in New York, and had born and been raised in New York. At the start of our journey, we were no more than two strangers who knew nothing about each other, but surprisingly, towards the end of our journey, we were like two old friends who have known each other for years.

“I think that’s enough of talking about personal lives, right?” Belle asked me gladly. Even though we had planned about talking what to do for finding the people of my orphanage, we had been talking about our lives for about an hour.

“Oh, yeah, definitely,” I agreed sarcastically, “we should go back to our main issue.”

The woman looked at her watch and suggested, “Why don’t we just go to my house and rest for a bit? Don’t worry, I promise we’ll continue our search early tomorrow morning.”

“That makes sense,” I said agreeably, “sure.”

 

***

 

There was something that made me and Belle attract each other like magnets. I never did want to go back to London, I wanted to stay with Belle here, in New York, but I had to keep telling myself that it was impossible.

However, we arrived at the “great mansion” of Belle. It was a huge, lilac colored house. It looked very pretty from the outside, and I wondered what the inside of the house would be like. The inside was just the same, beautiful and satisfying. Belle wasn’t married, so she lived all by herself in the house. She showed me the room I’d be sleeping in, after walking about 5 minutes around the maze-like structure of her house. When it was time to sleep, I respectively thanked Belle and went to my room and fell into a deep sleep…

The next day, I woke up, and excitedly went to the living room where Belle was. Suddenly, my smile had faded, because Belle was… different.

“Come, sit,” she insisted, trying to look alive.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, looking into her beautiful sparkling blue eyes.

“Look, Rosaleen,” she started, “there is something I have to tell you. Yesterday, when I was watching you . . . I recognized something, and I got suspicious . . .”

“Come on, Belle, what could it be, just tell me straight away,” I said, hoping the issue wasn’t serious.

“Okay, fine,” Belle inhaled deeply, then added, “Rosaleen, I’m really sorry about this, but . . . my research in medical school was about a brain disorder, a unique and a rare one. And yesterday, I recognized that my research and you were somehow connected.”

“I don’t understand anything you’re saying,” I said, confused.

“Based on my research from years ago and the research I made just yesterday night when you were asleep, you have a high chance of having a genetic brain disorder. It is where the person cannot stop smiling. Just like you… The person is also somewhat clumsy in many aspects, and sometimes involuntarily does stuff. Rosaleen, does this description match you or not?”

I couldn’t speak. Words just didn’t come out of my mouth. I stared at her, not believing anything she had said. But it was true. The description she had given me and myself were like puzzle pieces. There was still that smile on my face . . .

Rosaleen continued, trying to be reasonable, “But, technically, there is nothing to worry about. I will be your surgeon. You trust me, right? Look on the bright side, after, you won’t be forced to smile, ever. You’ll smile whenever you want to. Can’t you imagine how wonderful that will be?”

 

***

28 YEARS LATER

 

How wonderful was being able to snort! I had told the phrase to myself over and over again for the future 28 years of my life. I was a woman now, a woman who wasn’t smiling all the time. My mother, Belle, had adopted me from an orphanage 28 years ago, and she had made me who I am today. Regarding the fact that she was my idol and what I wanted to be like when I grew up, I followed her path and became a brain surgeon like her. And now, just like my mother did, I cured children who were forced to smile by an unfortunate defect in their brains, just like me!

How the Pencil Stole Erasers by Gabriel Echeverry

Chapter 1

 

Ca-Ching! Jackson hears the typical sound of his mother’s cashier. Jackson’s mom owned an artifact store that was known all around Canada for all of the rare stuff they sold. They had from thousand-year-old pottery from all around the world to a baseball hit by Babe Ruth in a Yankees game.

“Hi, Honey! How was school?” his mother asks.

“Ok,” replies Jackson in an unsure tone. Actually, he got a D plus on a math test and he lost his lunch. “Have anything I could scrape up from the storage today?” he asked hopefully.

“Well I do have something but I’m not sure you`ll like it,” she responded. “Something is something, said Jackson desperately.

So his mom packed the two things in a box and told him not to open it until he got home. On his way home he wondered what was in the little box his mother packed for him. But when he got home he was very disappointed. When he opened the box all he saw was another box made of glass and a little pencil. He had no idea what he was going to do with the two things. All he could think of was to put the pencil inside the box.

“What a rip off!” Jackson exclaimed. Usually Jackson’s mom gave him cool stuff like comic books or baseball cards, but this time, she didn’t search hard enough, or did she?

Meanwhile, as Jackson did his homework he started to hear some strange noises. Clack! A small noise was coming from inside the room. Jackson jumped from his seat and asked in panic, “Who’s there???”

But as shocking as it sounds, a little voice answered with delight, “Oh, thank goodness you found me. Could you get me out of this dark, door-less room?”

Jackson fainted.

A few minutes later he woke up and remembered what had just happened. A little man was inside the peculiar box his mom gave him and wanted him to get him out. So Jackson carefully crept up to the box and slowly opened it. This gave him a huge shock. He saw no man, but only the little pencil he had put in it, only now IT was a HE!!!!! Jackson was now more shocked than the first time. The little pencil had eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, and legs.

“Did I bring you to life?” Jackson asked in horror.

“No. That little box you put me in has magical powers that can bring things such as myself to life. I know what you want to ask, how do I know all of what I just said. Well, I was a secondhand pencil that has gone all over the world and passed through different schools from all around. So right now you can ask me anything you want,” proclaimed the pencil proudly.

Jackson was stunned. He owned a pencil that doesn’t just come to life if you put it in a magical box, it also knew everything.

“So could you help me in school? My grades are kind of bad, but you can help me turn them around!” Jackson exclaimed in delight.

“Your wishes are my command. After all, you did bring me to life!” yelled the pencil in delight. Now Jackson had a super brainy pencil that just came to life. That was a bright, problem free future, or was it?

 

Chapter 2

 

The next day, Jackson woke up extremely early so that he could put the pencil in his backpack without it making a big fuss about it being smelly. But on the walk to school it just wouldn`t shut up. At first it started to budge about being uncomfortable inside the backpack, but then, it forgot about the stuff bothering him and so he started to say all sorts of randomly useless facts like when the first pop-up toaster was invented and stuff like that.

When the two of them got to school, they were exhausted, but things started looking up! Apparently, Jackson had a pop quiz on distance measurements which he hadn`t studied for, but he was all covered. The pencil did his magic and started working on the test, meanwhile Jackson read a book inside his desk. And the rest of the day went exactly the same except for last period: science. Science was kind of boring. Mr. Shrookshanks did these super long lectures on the unit, in this case: The Galaxy.

Mr. Shrookshanks was one of those teachers who like to give those super long speeches about our new topics in class. So I entered the white room filled with fancy gadgets and models of plants and animals. Jackson sat down on his favorite chair and waited for Mr. Shrookshanks to start talking. He started by telling us about how important it was to pay attention to the things we learn in class, because you never know when you might need it. Then he told us we were in for a treat, but usually his treats freaked Jackson out because the last treat he gave us were two straight lessons on human reproduction, and the one before was on the food chain. But this time he wasn’t lying. “Kids, today we are going to study all about the weird stuff in nature.”

Jackson was amazed by what he had just heard. Finally, he thought he would do something cool. And the pencil kept his ears open to see if he heard some good information (that’s what the pencil did every time the teacher said something interesting).

Mr. Shrookshanks started by telling the class some boring stories, but, then, something caught Jackson’s attention.

“Some ancient artifacts were enchanted by magic unknown to us today that had powers, and when those powers were put into these items, they became charms that could do miraculous things like bring things to life!” he proclaimed in his sharp clear voice.

But before he could say anything else, Jackson blasted his hand into the air and yelled as if he’d just been shot,” I just got an enchanted box that can bring things to life!”

“Good for you. How about you bring it to school tomorrow?” Mr. Shrookshanks hissed back in a calm but angry tone. He is usually a calm and cool teacher, but today, he really blew up inside out.

The bell rang, and it was time to go home.

“That was quite a day,” Jackson said sweating.

“You can say that again. How about we tell some jokes on the way home? Oh and can you also get me out of here? ” squeaked the little pencil from inside the backpack. So Jackson got the little pencil out of the backpack and went home with a riot of laughter from all of the pencil’s great jokes.

When they got home the pencil got going on Jackson’s homework, meanwhile Jackson grabbed the box and put it in his backpack right along with another pencil he could use as a demonstration to the class for the next day. Just then, his mother got home.

“Hi, Honey! How was school?” she said in that usual silky mommy tone.

“Great! I aced all the quizzes and answered everything correctly!” he boomed down to his mom from his room in pride. But he told her he had a lot of homework to do, so he slammed the door and got going, but by the time he got there, the pencil had already finished. So they went to bed looking forward to the presentation.

 

Chapter 3

 

The next day Jackson was bothered, because the other students thought that he had lost his mind and that he had imagined everything about that box, but when Science period started, all of the jaws in the classroom dropped (including Mr. Shrookshanks’, who isn’t that easily impressed).

What Jackson did was that he put the new pencil he brought inside the rare box and left it there for ten minutes. Just then he heard it. So, he opened the box and there it stood. A pencil with eyes, nose, mouth, ears, arms, and legs. No one spoke for the rest of last period except for the new pencil. It started to sing “What Does the Fox Say.” When last period was over, nobody would stop talking about the magical pencil and its radioactive voice for singing.

So on his way home he was really proud. He had aced every test and he amazed everyone in his class. Nothing can go wrong. Or could it?

The next day Jackson had a math quiz. The new pencil started to answer randomly, because he didn’t know anything, but even Jackson knew that the new pencil was incorrect. So he erased what the pencil had put so that the experienced one could do it all over again.

But, then the new one proclaimed in disagreement, “Hey! You can’t destroy my creation! It was perfect, and you disappeared it using that magical erasing machine!”

“It’s called an eraser and I don’t want to get an F because of a moody pencil!” Jackson whined at the fresh new pencil.

Meanwhile the other pencil was working on the test, but suddenly, “Jackson! Who are you talking to?” hissed Mr. Staples: the math teacher.

Jackson hesitated, “Um . . . No one, I’m just talking to myself!”

After that quiz the new pencil stayed inside the smelly backpack for the rest of the day, but he was plotting the biggest robbery that Canada had ever seen. He would steal all the erasers in the country in just one night. But he needed help. He couldn’t do all of this alone. And he couldn’t rely on the two people he knew.

 

Chapter 4

 

He needed an army large enough to cover all of Canada in that night. Then a bright idea shone in his mind. He had to wait till night to do all this. And so he did. When school finished at last, he stayed still and stiff as an iron bar. But he got bored on his way to the house so he started to do Jacksons homework even though he knew nothing of the sort.

After that he fell asleep. He was woken up by a huge thud and a hard hit on the back. It was Jackson flinging his backpack across the room. Now all he had to do was go shopping for pencils. He carefully crept out of the room without being seen meanwhile Jackson and the other pencil were redoing the completely incorrect homework.

“What a great distraction,” he murmured under his breath with a grin on his little wooden face. He went from store to store shoplifting all the pencils he could find. But then he figured out that he couldn´t bring them all back on his own, so he took a pencil box that carried twenty-four pencils and brought it home. He left it on the doorstep while he went for the magical box. He was lucky that Jackson and the other pencil were reading a book in the kitchen, so the coast was clear. He snatched the magical box as quickly as he could and ran back downstairs into the doorstep.

He put down the peculiar box and stuffed the fresh, new pencils in it. He closed it, and, in a few minutes, all the pencils were alive.

“Fellow Pencils. We have to create an army. I will later explain what it is for. But if we want to make it, I will need you to go and get all the pencils you can gather and bring them back here. Do you understand?”

All the other pencils were stunned. He sounded like he meant business, so without a question, they all ran off to get as many pencils as they could. By the time they got back, they had over a million boxes mounted up into a little hill as high as the house. So, one by one they put the pencils inside the box and little by little, all the pencils were alive. By the time they were all alive it was midnight and the group was as large as the population of Canada (which is around 35 million, which is not that much).

So he gathered all the pencils at The Peace Monument in Ontario. He climbed to the top of the head of the monument and with a loud clear voice he proclaimed, “Hello to all the pencils from all around Canada. I would like to ask you for a little help on defeating our natural enemy. We create and they erase and destroy our creations, so I am planning on eliminating this creature and ending all this erasing nonsense, but I will need your help. You will recognize this creature for being either white or pink. And remember it can´t harm you because it is life-less. LET’S GO!!!”

The crowd gave a loud, cheerful roar. They got into squads of a thousand pencils each. They would gather back at the monument by dawn to burn all the erasers they found. But what they didn`t realize was that the roar the crow gave was so loud that it could be heard from a mile by the sharpest ears. And that’s what happened.

The little pencil in Jackson`s house was woken up by the loud roar. So he woke up Jackson. He told him that he had just heard a large group of pencils yell at a frequency only pencils could hear but then it hit him.

“Of course! It was that other pencil you brought to life yesterday. Remember how furious he was when I erased his work. And then he did some random things on my homework to use as a distraction, so he could leave the house! This all adds up!” blasted Jackson at the pencil with joy.

“Yeah. But the loud roar that woke me up surpassed the twenty million pencils by far!” the pencil whined in fright.

“Then what are we waiting for,” said Jackson bravely.

So they tip-toed downstairs, grabbed the magical box, and set off in the direction of the sound on Jackson’s bike.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

They got to the key place of the operation at around two in the morning. All the erasers were already gathered in a big pile with acres of land covered in pencils that were looking at the hill of pink and white.

“How do we get in?” asked Jackson in a panic.

“There is one way to stop this. You will have to open and close the box ten times, and after that, everything ever brought to life by the box will automatically burn to a crisp. Even though you will lose me, I made you a sheet that has all the stuff you will learn throughout the school year, so you will do just fine without me,” the pencil said calmly.

So, Jackson did as he was told and right before the erasers were burned, a shiny silver light came out of the box and in a few seconds all the pencils were burned to ash. So, Jackson returned to his house before his mother woke up.

A few months later, Jackson couldn´t stop thinking about the pencil, but then he had to start focusing more on school. Fortunately, with the review page the pencil gave him, his grades went up and he became a straight A student. He thanked the pencil every day for that boost.

The Rope Bridge By June Tun and Carolina Sapriza

    “The Rope Bridge”

By June Tun and Carolina Sapriza

There once was a little girl named Mary. It was her birthday, turning seven years old. Her mother had promised her that after she picked up her sister from school, she would bake her a chocolate cake twice the size of her head.

“But don’t stray from the dirt path,” her mother warned, “or else bad things will happen.”

“Yes, Mother,” replied Mary.

“Now off you go!” Mary’s mother walked her to the door and let Rosemary walk off onto the dusty dirt path.

Oh this path is so long, Mary thought. And quite boring.

“I should go to the rope bridge path. It’s so much faster. It’s my birthday after all,” she declared out loud. And she marched off to the Rope Bridge.

Oh, what a wonderful birthday, she thought, I’ll get back home quickly with my sister, eat that big chocolate cake and…

She halted. She was at the end of the Rope Bridge. She confidently looked up, expecting to see the other leafy green trees and a clear azure sky. However, the landscape was not at all cheery and bright. It was the complete opposite. The woods were bare, the sky was gray and bleak, and, at the center of the Rope Bridge, stood her raven-haired sister, looking downwards. Slowly, very slowly—slower than any human could move—her sister looked up staring into the eyes of Mary. But, her sister couldn’t look her in the eyes.  

Because she had no eyes.  Her face was completely blank, blank as a white sheet of paper. Mary gaped in horror, and let out the loudest shriek her lungs could manage. She whirled around and began to flee, not daring to look back. Mary ran all the way back to her home for safety.  As soon as she placed both of her feet down in her house she slammed the door as hard as she could and locked the door. Mary crumpled in front of the chestnut colored door, panting like a dog. Two minutes passed and Mary finally got to her feet. Then she wondered, Where is mother…?

She walked around the house, calling and calling her name.

“Mother? Mother?! MOTHER?!”

She then heard a thunk.

It was coming from the kitchen.

She sprinted to the kitchen. She peered out, and there was her mother, sitting in a chair, facing away.  

“Mother!” Mary cried, and ran to her, arms stretched.

The wretched mother turned; however, it was not her mother, but a white-haired woman. Without a face. Mary stopped in shock.

“Who…Who are you? And what did you do with my mother?” Mary trembled. The woman didn’t move. She simply sat there, head turned to face poor Mary. Where’s my mother!?

She tried to say, but her mouth couldn’t open. The world had turned into a black, noiseless, scentless oblivion.

Because she had no face anymore.



 

To Kill A Mocking Tyrant By Eden Arnoff

To Kill a Mocking Tyrant”

By Eden Aronoff

I wake up at 2am to train. I go to the secret gym, so nobody will notice me. I click the air and a bright, silvery screen pops up. I scroll down and go to the gym settings and press on the “weights” button. A silver, 30-pound weight crashes to the floor. I wrap my fingers around it and lift it up and down, up and down. Sweat beads on my skin. The light from the sun rising behind me glints off the silver weights. It reminds me of my father’s swords that he showed me. I think back to when I watched him practicing to be in the Marsian army. I was two then. So young. I could not think of what would happen to my father. Later that night a government official spied on my dad with his beady, watching eyes. They took my father away and killed him. No one was allowed to be in the army or prepare for the army if the high tyrant doesn’t say so. So, many years later, I am still fighting for him. But, I hear Luxa crying from her nursery. I run into her room and cradle her. I am also fighting for her, my baby. So that she can do whatever she wants to do, and not what the government wants her to do.

One Year Later

I am going to the dump to find a small foam sword for Luxa. I can’t go to any store because the high tyrant would not allow anyone to have swords. I find two small, gray and blue foam swords. I slink back home. When I get home I clean the grime off of the swords. I find a big, plastic birthday present bag. I lay them inside.

Several months later

I open my journal and start to write…

I just resigned from the army. It seems crazy, I even think I might be going mad. But, I want to do something bolder than being in the army. I want to do something that will change our nation.

I have some ideas:

Overthrow the tyrant

Protest–(not the best, might get murdered or tortured)

Harm the tyrant

Kill the tyrant–I could get tortured just for suggesting it but, he won’t see it coming. But, it is the best course of action–I have a plan!

That night….

“Come on!’’ I insist.

I am coming,” Ian whispers as loud as he dares.

We plan to assassinate the tyrant, Sir Gan. I have put Luxa in the nursery.  

“Can you take care of her?” I ask my sister Neon.

“Ok! I will!” she says enthusiastically. She picks Luxa up and tickles her belly.

I hug her then get in our shiny, grey jet. Ian pulls on the thrusters and we are speeding towards the South grid, where Sir Gan is waiting. The jet speeds along the jetway. I feel like time has slowed down. I see the particles of dust in the air. Ian, my husband, leans back in his red, padded chair. I hear the engine whirring and wheezing. Finally, we enter the South Grid. The sun is pounding down on the city. I look out of the jet’s window and I see grey, cracked buildings and people with depressed looks trudging through the sunbaked streets. We land silently in a jet lot.

We cautiously walk out of the jet and turn on our invisibility suits. We walk out into the street and head towards the biggest building on Mars, the high tyrant’s lair. We take out our blasters and hold them ready. Ian and I slink into the lair and walk up the clear, glass steps. We sneak in and see the high tyrant. He is asleep, his long hair hanging around his shoulders. A wine glass in his hand, filled with bright red liquid. Ian lunges at him and hits his neck. A long stream of bright red blood oozes from his pale neck. His eyes shoot open in surprise. Slowly, the light and hate leave his eyes. They are vacant. Ian turns around and kisses me. We did it! We sneak home and go to bed, dreaming of a better future. The next morning, I wake-up snuggled next to Ian. He is smiling in his sleep. I slide out of bed and go check on Neon and Luxa.

“Ma-ma’’ Luxa giggles.

“Hello,” I say cheerily to her.

I pick her up and face Neon. “Hey, neon! We cut the rotten stump,” I whisper.

“Oh, that is news indeed!” she cried.

My phone buzzes and I check it.

Hi, Sweetie! There are some people at the door. –IAN

OK, I’ll be right there! –ME

I hurry out of Luxa’s room to answer the doorbell.

At the door is a mob of pro-Gan activists. And they are pointing their rusty, silver guns right at my sweaty, pale face.

“How could you?” a woman shrieks.  

 

Perspective by Samantha Lin

If a giraffe were to look down on a human

It would think, “What a short creature this is.”

If an ant were to look up to a human

It would think, “What a tall creature this is.”

But if the human’s friend came up to them

They’d say, “I am just as tall as you, and you are just as tall as I

But if some other creature came up to you

It wouldn’t be the same

You’d be shorter, or taller, or larger, or smaller

Than them

It wouldn’t be the same.”

Perspective.

Wispling By Kathryn Fredy

Prologue – Brooksway, New York

The early morning sky was dark and cloudy, the same as it had been all night. Off in the distance, a storm was brewing. A bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, followed by a clap of thunder that would have been heard across the entire state. No one in the houses lining the streets of Brooksway heard it, though; they were all asleep. But deep in the clutches of the night, in one little house in the middle of the city, a light glowed brightly through the window.

Someone was awake.

~ { : } ~

Amara stared out the window onto the street below. She was thinking and waiting for someone to arrive. Someone she hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

Finally, she heard footsteps sounding on the steps up to her room. The door swung open, and a young woman stood in the open doorway.

“What are you doing up here, Mara?” The woman asked, calling Amara by her nickname, “You only come up here when you’re feeling bothered by something. What’s wrong?”

Amara sighed. “After thirty years, you’re still not acting well enough to fool me,” she answered, shaking her head, “Besides, this is not the time for practice.”

The woman sighed and began to change. Her hair shortened, and changed color, her face rounded, and she grew just the slightest bit bigger. Soon, a man that looked the same age as Mara was standing right where the young woman had been.

“You’re serious about this, then,” the man said, frowning sadly.

“I’ve always been serious about it,” Mara replied, turning around to face him, “They’ll need protection from the ones we weren’t able to stop. You know that, Caden.”

“But what if they find you?” Caden asked, worriedly, “What happens then? You can’t possibly hide from them for that long!”

“I can handle them,” Amara answered, comfortingly. “Time is always on my side. And I will use it as well as I can.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

“I have to, C,” Amara said, sadly. “But before I do, take this.” She held out a small, blue orb, tied to a golden thread, which shimmered in the lamplight. “It will tell you anything you want to know, as long as I am alive. And if you ever wish to contact me . . . well, I have the other end.” She held hers up.

“Then I guess this is goodbye?” Caden asked, even though he already knew the answer.

“You always were a good guesser,” Amara said, her eyes welling up with tears. She placed her hand on his shoulder. He hugged her tightly, and she hugged him back.

And the sun began to rise . . .

 

“A Small Village” by Dhruv Raghavan

“A Small Village”
By Dhruv Raghavan

Chapter 3

The dormitory, if one could even call it that, was a small, cramped, dingy little building, with dirty rooms and molding walls. As soon as we entered, the policeman gave us each a toiletry set, sheets, blankets, a uniform, a scrubber to wash clothes, and some sandals. We were to wake up at 4 am each day, take a bath in the well, eat our morning meal, and report to the courtyard by 5 am. Then we would train hard until 1 pm, and eat our midday meal. We would then resume our training and then go to our dorms at 7:30 pm. We would then have 15 minutes of recreational time, and then we would eat dinner at 7:45. Then we would do our homework, which apparently would take over one hour. Then we would go to bed. Any slackers would be whipped, or they would clean the latrines. The policeman left after giving instructions, and we entered the dorm.

My first thought was that the place was crowded. There were so many peasant boys like us. And I’m pretty sure they’re all from different states. They were just sitting on their cots with solemn looks on their faces. Some had friends, while some were sad and alone. At least I have many friends. “So, what are we supposed to do now?” I asked. To my surprise, somebody answered in Tamil.

“I see you speak Tamil,” he stated. “It is 7:30 pm now. We have recreational time. Oh, and I don’t know how there are teachers who speak every single main language in India! But anyway, welcome to the New Delhi Soldier’s Camp. We all live a tough life here, and you’ll eventually learn the ropes. In fact, I already know some Hindi, because they teach fast. Once everyone’s here, we all have to speak Hindi. I’m Vineet, and I’m from Coimbatore.” He shook each of our hands as we introduced ourselves. Soon it was dinner time, and we all walked to the mess hall. We were given some chapattis and subjee (flatbread and curry) which we ate fast. As we finished our food, a middle-aged man with a uniform walked up to us.
“Welcome to the New Delhi Soldier’s camp. Or as I call it, the Military Institute of Idiotic Peasants. I am Professor Das, and I took the time to learn your silly languages, but I won’t have to remember them for long. Because you will learn Hindi faster than any school will teach you. Though I bet you didn’t understand a word I’ve uttered so far. Because of your stupid peasant education.” He frowned and walked away.

“What a rude guy!” I yelled. “Does he know who we are? Though we are peasants, we are strong. We know every single trick to survive! If that grumpy, stinky old man ever shows his face again, I will bury him in a heap of cow dung!”

“Ravi, be careful,” Somu whimpered. “Professor Das will p-punish y-you.”

“P-punish y-you,” I imitated. “I already told you what I will do if he comes.”

“Really?” Professor Das suddenly asked. I spun around, but he had already grabbed the edge of my shirt and lifted me up. “I DO NOT TOLERATE THICKHEADED STUPID IDIOTS LIKE YOU!!!!!!!!” he thundered. “YOU SHALL PAY DEARLY!” he laughed. Then he raised his fist and punched me in the face. Blood spurted out of my nose like a gushing fountain, and the pain was unbearable. Spots danced in front of my eyes, and I screamed as loud as a cockerel in the morning. “SO, LITTLE PEASANT,” professor Das shouted in glee, “YOU TOLD YOUR FRIENDS THAT YOU WILL BURY ME IN A STINKY HEAP OF COW DUNG! THOUGH I WANT TO INFLICT THE SAME PUNISHMENT ON YOU, I WILL BE KIND TODAY.” Then he calmed down a bit. “Instead you will clean the dormitory toilet! So go now!” I got up and started walking to the dorm. I looked back once and saw the sorry looks of my friends. But professor Das had a permanent sneer on his ugly face.

I reached the dormitory toilet. I first washed my nose and put a cloth around it to stop the blood from flowing. I swear that I will someday punish that fellow. But I would have to do it tactfully. I looked at the toilet. It stank so badly and the area around it was covered in dirt and garbage. I took the mop and began to wipe the floor. I put the dirt and garbage in a bucket and went out towards the garbage can. On my way, I saw professor Das.

“Back so soon punk?” he sneered. “Looks like I need to give you more work!” And he kicked the bucket and all the dirt, water, and garbage spilled on the floor. “Looks like you’re going to clean the floor too!” He laughed and walked away. Cursing, I ran to the closet to get more supplies. As I cleaned the mess, I realized that this was how my life was going to be.

While everyone else was doing homework, I and my friends went to the initiation booth. We pledged allegiance to India and got many papers to do as a start. We then went back to the dormitory and started working on it. The papers were printed in Tamil for us, but I noticed that Vineet’s was in Hindi. I remembered that Professor Das had said that we would learn Hindi very fast, so I looked at my stack of paper for Hindi Homework. Sure enough, there were some basic translations that we had to learn. I immediately started working on it.

When I was done, I handed it to a teacher to check it. The teacher looked at it and gave me an F, which was the worst grade. I sadly slunk away to my bed and curled up on the sheets. I fell asleep in no time.

“Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” went the alarm at 4:00 am. I grumbled and groaned, but managed to get up. I took my bath and went to the cafeteria to eat my morning meal. Today it was some rice and khadi, which was a curry with yogurt and spices. I gobbled it up and went to the courtyard for roll call. Luckily, professor Das wasn’t there, but I saw another man. He was tall, gaunt, and slim. He smiled at me and introduced himself as Doctor C. I didn’t know what his real name was, but I didn’t ask.

“OK,” he stated in Hindi, “I will call your name, and you will say here. Understood?”
“Haan!” we all exclaimed, which is “yes” in Hindi. So he started calling names. He said my name, and I replied saying “jee shreeman,” which is “yes, sir” in Hindi. When he called Swami’s name, however, there was no reply.

“Where is Swami?” professor Das, who had just arrived asked. No one knew, so he sent someone to go get him. He was sleeping, apparently, and the other student had to drag him to the courtyard. Professor Das stood there with a plastic whip. “Those who do not wake up in time will skip their bath and meal, and receive 25 lashes.” Saying so, he whipped Swami 25 times, and each time Swami screamed.

“Sorry sir,” Swami whimpered, “I will wake up on time tomorrow.”

“Good!” professor Das exclaimed, and he walked away. Doctor C just stood there with a sickly look on his face. He resumed roll call.

Chapter 4

After roll call, we were divided into groups and were sent to the gym. Professor Das stood nearby with a whip in his hand. He was trying hard to find the slightest opportunity to use his brown, 6-foot long, leather whip, with a needle at the end. I saw as he whipped a boy for talking to his friend, and he screamed clutching his bloody hand. He didn’t get whipped again because he probably would have lost his hand. Professor Das smirked as the boy walked on. As I passed him, I walked in a straight line and faced forward, hoping he wouldn’t notice me. But he did anyway.

“Well well, look who is here!” sneered Professor Das. “My little friend, I am not done with you yet. And I’ll be keeping an eye on you. Or two eyes, or three. Now off you go.”

Phew! That could have been worse. Much worse I thought as I saw the boy who had been whipped before; an expression of contorted rage and immense pain shown clearly on his tear-stained face.

As I walked into the gym, I could hear the gym teacher screaming, “Oho little maggots. Time for some fun. In this gym, we train hard and no one ever has fun. So in this time for fun, you won’t have fun, which means you will feel terrible and sweaty and you’ll wish you were dead. And that will happen soon. For if you don’t sweat hard, I’ll be scraping your brains off the ground. And also I’ll have to buy a new weight and a new peasant to replace you. And we all know how much a peasant’s worth!” He doubled over laughing maniacally. It sounded more like seven walruses who had just caught the black death.

I fumed in rage and was about to say something when Vineet walked over and shushed me. “Trust me,” he whispered. “This guy makes professor Das sound like a sweet little puppy. He was a dangerous robber, and yesterday he had been put to work training peasants. Most say he likes to drink blood. Yesterday he was going to whip a boy, but the boy ran out of the gym. The gym teacher ran after him, and in a couple of minutes, came back. The boy was not with him.” I shuddered fearfully. I glanced around at the other kids and they were all looking as scared as me. One of the kids’ eyes moved to a leather sack beside the gym teacher. My eyes followed his, and to my horror, the gym teacher opened the sack. There was a metal whip in it. Professor Das’ whip looked like it was made from butter compared to this whip. It had spikes all over it that were long and sharp. The whip was 10 feet long and flexible. I watched as a stray chicken entered the gym searching for food. The gym teacher saw the chicken and brandished his whip. I gasped and he stared at me. “Do you like the whip, pretty boy?” he asked. “Well, I’m going to show you how beautiful it truly is.” And without another word, he brought the whip down on the chicken. It clucked once. Then it split in a half and blood gushed all over the gym floor. “Time to drink up boys!” he called out. And he bent down to drink the chicken’s blood.

After the chicken incident, we were made to do push-ups, weightlifting, and shooting. After lunch, we went to Doctor C’s classroom and learned Math, Hindi, Science, and India’s History. Then came the rec time, in which I started my homework (due to the advice of Vineet), and talked with my friends about the day, and the two idiots running around in the school. Professor Das, and the gym teacher (we called him “Chicken Splitter”). We ate a dinner of Naan bread and curry and went to the dorms to do homework. After that, I slept. I dreamed that I was a chicken and that Chicken Splitter was chasing me with the whip.

“Colors” by Christina Xiong

“Colors”
by Christina Xiong

The darkness was all I could feel and see. Everything was blurry without touch or feel. Plain and
broken as the dark shards of my mind. “What is red?”

“Red? Do you mean what red looks like?”

So I asked, “What’s it like?” I could hear her laugh, but didn’t understand why.

She paused for a moment and continued, “Well, it’s um… how do I describe it?” Now the question didn’t seem so dumb.

I just sat there and said “It’s fine, I’m blind.”

“Oh . . . sorry.” I heard that a lot, sorry, sorry, and sorry. Everyone felt sorry for me but they don’t understand how thankful I feel to be able to hear sounds. From listening to sounds, I felt that I could imagine colors but I don’t think I understand what colors are. What truly is red, orange, blue, green . . . what are colors? I fumbled with my hands, I knew the shapes of almost everything, I was told I have silky, long brown hair. I could feel its softness but what did it mean. There were days when I would think too deep, to the point, where I’d cry tears, big wet tears, but what was the color of tears? I’ve heard that it’s clear like glass, but how could I know what glass is like?

I sat on my bed, I reached out for my computer, it sat on the night stand, where it’s always stood. I opened it and felt the bumps below each key, I’ve gotten used to the position of the keys for the password but even then I mess up. Only if I had eyes. Round objects, that are supposed to be on each side of our noses and under our eye brows. Everyone tells me, “You have green eyes.” Sure they were green, but green was just a word to me. I opened the speakers on the computer and asked for and opened a Google doc. I began to type. A letter. I remembered my teacher wanted me to write this. She told me that writing could help me let out my feelings. But that was a year ago. I don’t know why I was doing this now. Out of nowhere I began to type, clicking and tapping on the buttons I wrote about colors.

Dear teacher,

Remember last year? You wanted me to write, so it could help me set myself free. I know you could see how lonely I was in class. Nobody would talk to a strange girl living her life in a colorless world. Even when they tried to explain colors to me, I couldn’t understand. But I wanted to write, to tell you how I feel about colors. To be honest, I’ve never seen colors, ever. I think that sounds have colors. I know it seems weird. I was listening to a song the other day. It had a sweet melody. I was always told yellow is a soft color, so I thought it sounded like yellow. Just last night, I heard thunder outside my window, and the rain beating down, I swore I could see black, dark blue and purple, maybe even dark red. I mean, usually red doesn’t have anything to do with rain, but I’ve heard that red is a color of violence, and the sound of thunder is very violent to me with all it’s terrible stories too. I can hear my neighbor’s dog right now, he’s really loud, I can see bright, bold colors. I think of bright yellow, orange and a tint of red. I’m usually asked what my dreams are like, my answer to them is I dream about my colors. But only if I could truly see them then I would laugh, scream, cry to my colors. I would react to each shade and each voice. Maybe one day in heaven, I’ll get eyes. Do you think that’s possible? I would probably laugh, scream and cry about normal things with the normal kids. I’m crying right now, just thinking about it but they’re tears of joy. Because one day I’ll be able to see my tears. And my eyes, my skin, my hair, me. That’s all I have to say about my colors but I wonder if other blind people feel the same way I do. That’s a question for tomorrow because i just want to live today to the fullest.

Sincerely,
Your colorless student