“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

“The Alpha” by Christina Xiong

“The Alpha”
by Christina Xiong

A hazelnut brown deer pranced around in the quiet melody of the forest, the golden sky glistened above the sweet green trees. A man stood in the open with a rifle in his hands aiming straight at the deer. The deer continued to eat the lush grass, not noticing the man with the rifle. The man took a step crunch! The deer turned and looked him in the eye as it began to run.

“Get back here!” the man shouted, pulling the trigger in a misleading direction, the bullet taking a spiral into the opposite direction while the man tripped over a branch. Ivory black ravens flew from the trees, screeching their lonely cry and a faint scream was heard from a distance. The tall man pushed himself up from the ground, dirt clinging to his pants, shirt, and hair. He ran toward the sound of the scream, searching for the source. He spun around in a hurry to find a little girl lying down on the ground.

“It’s fine little girl! You don’t have to be afraid of a gunshot, don’t you know the forest is full of hunters these days?”

The man smiled as he moved toward the little girl, who laid on the ground, without moving. “Little girl, please talk.”

Sweat began to trickle down his neck and a chill was sent down his spine. His face grew with an expression of fright and terror as he looked at the puddle of blood that splattered over her blue dress and seeped into the ground around her. Her eyes were crystal blue and lifeless, her soft skin felt cold, her whole body limped on the ground, motionless. “De…de…dead?” the man stuttered, his voice was crooked and broken. The blue eyed girl looked at him with those misty eyes that were stuck in his head, forever. The thought, that he had just killed a little girl, flowed through his body, sending chills and panic everywhere. Run. His long legs ran as fast as a leaf traveling down a rapid stream. Run. Ka-ta, ka-ta, as the leaves crunched under the flying feet. All he could think about was running, as the town was coming in view. His frantic eyes drew left to right, left to right. He felt as if a presence or spirit was watching him, or maybe the Devil. He began his run again as sweat covered him.
The markets were busy today as people walked along the road, the carts were pulled up and down with fruits and exotic foreign items, as people talked and bought. Through the crowds, he ran, people turned to look at him, with disgust written across their faces. His rifle hung to his side, bumping around at a steady pace.

Instantly, in a flash, a silver object flew across the sky and struck the man’s arm. It stood strong and firm as blood gushed out of the open wound. The crowd grew around him as confusion spread. Whoever had been there was gone but left one clue for the man. Slowly he grabbed the knife and pulled it out, blood dripped as he gritted his teeth with intense pressure. A lady from a clothes shop ran out quickly with some mauve cloth which she handed to a man who began to help wrap his wound.

“Who would attack the mayor’s son?” a lady asked.

“Richard, are you ok?” a man asked. Richard turned and looked at the wrapped wound as someone handed him the silver knife which was stained in blood.

“Oh no!” a woman gasped. Others stood and watched in shock. Richard took the knife and turned it around to see a symbol. It was an “A” with a sword crossed through it. But this symbol wasn’t just any symbol, it was the symbol of the Alpha.

“Why’s the Alpha after the mayor’s son?” the crowded turn and looked at Richard.

“I don’t know,” he whispered, as the face of the little girl flashed in his head.

“Were you running away from him?” a man asked.

“Does he want your money?” another asked.

When Richard got up and he looked at the confused muttering crowd, “What if he’s here to kill us all!” an old man shouted.

“We should tell the police immediately!” a man cried. The police, Richard knew what would happen if the police got involved, just the thought of it sent the little girl’s blood drained body and cold pale face into his bewildered head.

“Everyone calm down!” Richard’s voice rang in everyone’s ear as they turned to look at the young man.

“I’ll tell my father about this and we’ll will improve protection around the town, but tonight, he might strike, so men, get your guns ready and protect your families!” The crowd cheered and one by one rushed off, leaving Richard to walk off along the small narrow road.

*****

The rain casted across the stormy night as thunder roared in the silence. The street was damp and large puddles formed on the ground. Bu-bump! Bu-bump! A man in a heavy black coat rushed down the bumpy road of uneven rocks, passing the small plump townhouses. He panted as he reached the front of a brick house with a pointed roof and a tall, lean structure. He reached out his hand and gently knocked on the door.

The door opened, “Richard why did you come?” a man in a green sweater and tan pants asked.

“I was attacked, by the Alpha,” Richard replied with a sorrowful look.

“The Alpha?” the man looked back aghast. Richard nodded as the doctor welcomed him in. “Can I see the wound?” he asked.

As Richard lifted his sleeve to reveal the wrapped wound, suddenly there was a knock on the door, a heavy loud knock. “P-please wait!” the doctor said with a stutter. As soon as the doctor finished his sentence, the door burst open.

“I’m afraid I don’t have time for that.” A man walked in, he wore a black wolf’s head covering his eyes as the rest of the wolf dropped down like a cape around his furred clothing. His evil grin spread out across his face like a demon, sending a chill in the room. Richard jumped up, the wrappings on his wound fell off as the wound dripped with velvet blood.

“Run, run, run . . . HAHAHA! That’s all you can and will ever do!” The man started to draw closer to Richard. Lightning flashed from behind the man, the light piercing through the room. “A man shouldn’t hunt if he can’t tell the difference between a deer and a little girl.” The man’s voice was rough and angry as it echoed through the room.

“I . . . I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was her.” Richard’s stomach began to tangle and throw itself around while his head ached and his whole body began swell as the wound continued to bleed.
“Some say an eye for an eye but I say a life for a life!” In an instant, as fast as sound itself, a knife pierced through Richard’s heart and blood splattered everywhere. Richard’s soulless body fell into the night’s cold end.

The man stepped on the lifeless piece of flesh as he approached the doctor. His hand reached out with a folded piece of paper at the doctor’s direction. The doctor flinched at the large hand as he reached out his, shaking one, grabbing the folded piece of paper. He turned to look at the body, and the rifle that laid next to it. A tear streaked down his wet cheek. With massive strength, he grabbed the rifle and contorted it in half. A loud metallic sound filled the room when the pieces landed and the man ran into the dark tempestuous night. The doctor looked down at paper, “This won’t be the last time we meet. – Alpha.”

“This Poetry” by Isabel Ostheimer

“This Poetry”
by Isabel Ostheimer

This poetry is sorta sucky.
I can’t reach deep into my heart and pull out the feelings
The reasons why people write poetry is to get it out
Bu there are always some things that would be better off bottled up
So maybe can’t write poetry because I can’t fully access my feelings.
Oh well
I tried

“Free Style Poetry” by Isabel Ostheimer

“Free Style Poetry”
by Isabel Ostheimer

Many think this should be written with deep depressing thoughts
Voices in your head that you just can’t get rid of
Haunting thoughts that whisper in your head
Making up something would be so easy
My brain says it’s logical
My heart says it would be beautiful
But my soul says it would be dishonest
Poetry is all about being honest, about telling a story that connects with you
So I’m going to try to be honest
It might not be heart breaking
It might be trouble
But it will be me
So don’t tell me what to write
If you don’t want to see don’t read.

“My Dream” by Isabel Ostheimer

“My Dream”
by Isabel Ostheimer

It is the thing that I have been thinking of since Kindergarten
An achievement that can shape my life
I’ve been planning on doing this for as long as I can remember
When thinking about it I felt so confident
But now it’s sooner than ever
I’m not prepared
This isn’t the movie in my head
I’m freaking out
My parents tell me if I don’t get in it will be OK
They will love me all the same
I know they will
But mom never mentions it while dad continuously asks me
“Why don’t you study so much”
“Do you even care”
“You might not get in”
I’ve been wanting this since kindergarten and now I’m having to face the fact that it might not happen.

“Lisa” by Emma Lin

“Lisa”
By Emma Lin

It was colorless. Just like it always was. The world’s color seemed to vanish all at once. The dark grey sky hovered over the town as small white flecks began to drop out from them. It was as if the heavens was gifting them with these precious gifts. Soon, the town was covered in a thick layer of snow. The sky’s dark grey color became light. The ground was not visible for a thick white blanket covered everything. Within seconds children got on their thick coats, their little boots that barely managed to fit and their small gloves. Their hats dangled clumsily on their heads as they stubbornly laughed and threw snow at each other. Soon teenagers and adults crept out of their burrows in their comfy houses. Adults shoveled, and tiny figures dragged their wooden sleds up snowy little hills. Little did they know, this joy that was brought to them was the sorrow of someone else. Lisa. Lisa remembered. She remembered everything. The day of her first day, to her very last. Her colorless eyes stared from above in the clouds and watched the joy of those down below. She remembered it all very clearly.

It was a dark 1800’s night; her father didn’t come home yet. The snow was pouring down already. The wind howled for what seemed like for hours. Her little siblings curled up in front of the fireplace. Her mother was pacing in front of the door.

She was coming to her mother’s side and touching her mother’s shoulder. She wrapped her thick jacket around her and moved outside. She was going to find her father. At least she thought she was. For hours, the wind blew against her. Her fingers were white. Her face was red. Her boots were full of snow.

She still never found him. “PAPA!” She remembered yelling. The wind howled back at her. She felt tears well up in her eyes. Her last breath. Her last glance of the world. It was not with her family; it was out in the cold. No color. Only white.

“The Tale of the Gold Girl” by Sofia Manalo Kwaterski

“The Tale of The Gold Girl”
by Sofia Manalo Kwaterski

My name is Aiko Akamine. I have a sister. Well, more like I had a sister. Her name was IA(ee-ah) and I lost her long ago. Before I get into that I better start at the beginning, but don’t be fooled even though I am writing this—it is her story. She was a sickly child and for a long time we didn’t know what caused it. I still think it would be better if we hadn’t found out at all. She had the fatal disease Lebriah. It’s something you’re born with, and there’s no cure. Everyone who ever had it had died before 5 years, so I wouldn’t even call it living. Anyway, because of her illness we had to move to an underground city that supposedly treated people. Little did we know that this so called city was actually a trap. The city was called Hirashima Ugi but everyone called it Hell’s Corner. And it was. The city was not a medical treatment station but a slave trap. Anyone unfortunate enough to step foot in that place would surely not see the light for a long, long time. And, unfortunately for us, it was too late to turn back.

As slaves, life was hard and the work was grueling. If you stepped out of line they would murder you without a second thought. We grew up with death all around us. No hope, happiness—no nothing. We feared for our lives but mostly we feared for IA’s. She was nearing 5 years and not getting any better. Till one day my mother and father proposed something in secret. They knew that IA would likely not live but they still wanted to give me a chance at life. They would make me disappear. The devised a plan to make it seem like I had died of hunger when in truth I was being sent to a better place-or so they said. It was better but I missed out on having a sister and I don’t know if it was worth it. But I left and no one was the wiser. Even my dear sister did not know that I was actually alive at the time. She learned the truth eventually of course, when I finally found her. So, I’m going to go back in time, to a time where IA was just 5 years old. Keep reading, don’t stop.

*****

“Aiko has left,” “She’s just gone on a little holiday,” and “She’ll be back soon.” Mother had said these things over and over to me, but I knew the truth, Aiko was dead. I saw the man cart away her body that was wrapped up in a carpet. I tried to stop him I really did, but it was no use. Father hissed that the Absinthe soldiers would kill me, if I tried to interfere any more than I already had. She was gone, a year has passed since she died and I had moved on. Everything was fine now, no beatings, sure there were still executions but I lived with it. Everything was fine. Or so I thought.
Screams echoed throughout Hirashima. My father jumped up and ran outside to see what the commotion was. My mother was as pale as paper. She turned to me and said, “IA, I will go outside and see what is happening , you stay here and hide.

“No I won’t! I’ll come with you!” I protested.

“IA D Gold. You will do what I say right this instant!” I relented and hid while my mother left. There was a huge explosion that shook the whole house. I became worried that mother might have been caught in the blast. So I left to go find her. I ran and ran searching for her silvery pink hair, or her purple cat like eyes, I heard her voice east to me and headed that way. I spoted her with some of the invading soldiers.

“Why are you here?” She cried. “Just leave us alone. We’ve done nothing wrong!

“You Gold scum always think you’re in the right!” an unfamiliar voice sneered. “We came for the keys!
Now tell me where they are!”

The keys? I thought to myself. Oh yes! I remember now! (flash back 10 or so minutes before) “Oh wait!” my mother gasped. She quickly ran down stairs and when she came up she was holding something. 20 crystal keys that reflected light in beautiful shades. Each bore a different symbol. I was entranced by them. She put them in a little pouch and tied it to me.

“Why do I need these?” I asked.

“These are the Twenty Commandments. They are our sacred keys that have been passed down for generations. Keep them safe for I have a sinking suspicion that the reason they came were for these. I have to go now but soon—some day—all will be revealed!” (fast forward 10 minutes) I had the keys, my hand reached down to get them and save my mother from certain death but. She quickly looked at me, and did the smallest shake of her head. I stopped frozen.

“All right if you’re not going to tell me where they are, then your useless to me!” The soldier yelled. He unsheathed his sword and murdered her in cold blood without an ounce of mercy to share. I watched her fall to the ground. Saw the men cruelly laugh as if it was some kind of game. I turned around and ran tears streamed down my face, but still I kept on running. Away from the father that never really loved me, away the screaming crowds, the burning buildings and up the stairs and outside.

The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was shining down. I shielded my eyes temporarily blinded. I had never once seen the sun or sky only read about it in my books. It was ironic really. My mother had just died and yet the sun still shined and the birds still sang. I walked for a long time. Till I came upon a town. It was surrounded by a wall on all sides. I stared up in awe at it.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you around here, who are you?” I turned around startled to see where the voice had come from. It came from a girl with brilliant red hair and mercury colored eyes, “Well? I’m waiting?”

“Oh, sorry. Umm, my name is IA, IA D Gold,” it was a miracle I even managed to get something to come out of my mouth.

“I see. Do you have parents?”

“No,” I said, sad to say.

“Well, you can come with me I suppose.”

She led me inside the town and through a tall metal gate. She talked to a grownup who looked down on me with cold unfeeling eyes. They talked some more and nodded.

“What was that all about?” I asked her.

“I asked Korose if it would be okay for you to stay here.”

“Oh, okay. My names Akane by the way.” She held out her hand and smiled a warm smile at me.
I shook it and asked, “Akane, what?”

“Huh,” she said confused. “Your last name.” I insisted, “What is it?”

“Oh . . . I don’t have a last name. Or at least I don’t remember it.” She looked down sadly.

“Well that can’t be helped. We’ll just have to give you one.” I said.

“Huh? Give me a name?”

“Yeah!” I said excitedly.

“Like what?” she inquired.

“Hmmm . . . well how about . . . Oh! I know! Your hair it’s bright red like the color of a red rose!”

“So?”

“We’ll call you Akane Rose! Now I’ll never forget your last name. All I have to think about is your pretty hair!”

She thought about it for a moment and then answered, “I like it!” She grinned at me and right then I knew that everything was going to be just fine.

“Hidden” by Nilaya Kuntamukkala

“Hidden”
by Nilaya Kuntamukkala

I live in a secret village- only known to griffins like me. It protects us from dragons and other ferocious predators. Most griffins aren’t allowed to leave the village, BUT a select few are allowed to. To make sure we are extra safe there are jobs for all the griffins. When every young griffin grows up we get to pick a job. For many of the jobs, we must tryout to see if we have what it takes. The job options are . . .

The guardians. (I WILL HAVE THIS JOB. YUP. I WILL! And we all know it…)

The hunters. (I guess hunting is okay)

The scouts. (Yeah, I’d much rather be a guardian)

The caretakers. (Meh, kind of boring)

The mentors. (Teaching is so BORING. And mentors are so MEAN. I’m definitely NOT being one of those).

The guardians, hunters, and scouts are the more difficult and dangerous jobs. The jobs you need to try out for. The jobs you have to train for since you were a little whelp.
The guardians have the most dangerous job. They . . . well, guard. They protect us from threats. Fight dragons or any other creatures who mean us harm. In case you didn’t notice, it is the job I will have when I grow up. The job I WILL have. I WILL- there is NO DOUBT I will have this job. And the tryouts are tomorrow.

*****

“I’m so sorry Moon, you’re not cut out to be a guardian,” The lead guardian sighed.

“NO. THIS ISN’T ACCEPTABLE. THE GRADING SYSTEM IS BROKEN.”
This can’t be happening. I prepared! Since the beginning of my life. I mean . . . I might not have payed attention to the teachers. And I failed at everything I was supposed to do. And the teachers hated me. OK, so maybe I didn’t do a good job preparing. MAYBE. I thought.
“No, I’m not broken. Just so you know I grade you all; therefore, I am the grading system. I’m pretty sure I can grade perfectly well. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.”
I paused, “Oh. Oh. That’s true. Can I retake it? Can I redo the tryout? I PROMISE you won’t regret it!”

“No,” the lead griffin, Flare said. “The tryouts are held ONCE every six moons. You’ll just have to keep training.”

“But- but. I’m ready!” I begged. “PLEASE!”

“No. You’re dismissed,” Flare pointed at the exit. “I have to go grade the other students. Bye.”

“But, no! NO! I-”

“Go,” The big griffin said sternly.

“FINE!” I thundered off.

I sat in a corner. Thinking about what had happened. Then I heard footsteps of someone coming behind me.

“You did well . . .” A soft voice called out.

“You’re just saying that to be nice,” I argued before I even knew who I was talking to.

I turned around and looked at the griffin speaking. She was a tiny bit smaller than me but she was
just as fierce. Correction—more fierce. Her name was Breeze. She had already completed the tryout. Guess what—she’s a guardian!

Breeze thought for a moment. “Yes, you’re right. I was just saying that to be nice.”

I scowled at her. “Wow. Well, you’re SUPER nice.”

“Well, I was just agreeing with you.” She smiled at me. “You did have it coming.”

“You’re not supposed to agree with me!” I growled.

“I’m serious.” She sounded serious.

“I can tell,” I agreed.

Breeze frowned at me as if trying to decide if I was joking or not. “Let me speak! Okay. I’m serious-”
“I know.”

“STOP already! Okay, I’m serious, you—”

“I know.”

“SERIOUSLY. You need to pay more attention to your mentor,” she paused as if expecting me to interrupt again. “And, maybe. Ya’know, since I’m an expert, I can train you.” She winked at me.

“First off, you ain’t no expert. Second, sure great idea, EXPERT!”

“I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.”

I just smiled and then walked away.

Just as I was walking away someone else walked up to me. “Hi Emerald.”

“Hello, you did great.” She said to me.

“I feel like this is going to be a repeat of another conversation I just had.” I added, “No I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did.” She responded.

“No, I did not.”

“YES, YOU DID.”

“NOOOOO!”

“YESSSSS!”

“GRRRRRR.”

“GRRRRRR.”

And that pretty much sums up that conversation. So, it got pretty weird after that. You don’t wanna know.

As I was walking home I heard a horrible sound. A HORRIBLE SOUND. ALMOST as horrible as Emerald’s dancing. The sound I thought I would never hear . . . the sound of dragons. But—I thought our town is safe from dragons! The only way a dragon could have found our home . . . oh no. They got a hold of the enchanted jewel that hides our town. OH NO. I need to defend the school.

WHY’D THEY ATTACK THE SCHOOL? Oh, the poor little griffins trying to learn (okay, OKAY, I know I pretty much just called myself a little griffin because soon I will be going back to that school. UGH). And I know the guardians are the only ones allowed to fight, but I can’t watch the dragons hurt my fellow griffins.

My parents are going to hate me after this . . . I thought.

And then I dove into battle.

“If a Tree Fell” by Danni Klein

“If a Tree Fell”
by Danni Klein

Something was wrong as I crashed through the woods on my way to my shaded sanctuary. The birds were not singing. Not only that, but the birds were nowhere to be seen. I understood why the moment I saw the state of my beautiful banyan tree. It was my home away from home. My favorite place in the universe. No place was like it, no place brought back just as many memories. But there it lay, on its side, its branches cracked, broken, and bare. I had found it here three years ago. It had a disease, and I read about the illness and nurtured it back to health. But this spring it didn’t bloom with pink flowers, and I knew that this day was soon coming. I knelt respectfully in front of the fallen warrior and murmured a few words of goodbye. After a few moments of silence, I stumbled blindly back towards my home across the woods, feeling cool, silent tears trickling down my pale cheeks.

I lay on my bed like a statue. I was silent, but my sister Saoirse still padded in and pulled herself onto my drab gray covers and snuggled into the nook of my arm. She could tell without me saying a thing to her that I was broken inside. Saoirse understood me like no one else could- more than I could, even. She looked just like me with black hair, clover green eyes. But her hair was silky and curled at her chin. My hair was straight all the way down to my hips.

The next morning, colorless November light flooded through my shades, onto my face. I had tear streaks from the night before still marking my pale cheeks.

The night before I had decided I was going to sit with the tree for the whole day. I knew it was just a tree, but it meant more than that to me. I flung open my closet and pulled out my best dress. It was stunning- there was no other way to describe it. It was long and flowy, and the palest blue imaginable. A silver braided belt cinched the waist and the bottom was flowy silk.

Saoirse followed me out the door and into the forest. The wind howled through the branches above me. It dragged my hair out behind me and pinned the front of the skirt to my legs. I ducked behind a tree and pulled my hair up with the black ribbon I was wearing around my wrist, pulling Saoirse close.
When we reached the tree, we sat down against its fallen trunk, using each other for warmth.
The ribbon was ripped out of my hair, and got caught in a branch. As I reached to grab it back, something flew in from the other side of the tree and the wind pinned it to my hand.

It was a banyan seed.