Man Made By Enthony Chhin

“Dear Barbie,

Being pushed out was all I ever wanted to feel. But considering the fact that I was assembled like I was a Tonka truck, I never got to feel that. Or anything at all to say the least. I do love my parents, but then again, I don’t know what love is. I never felt it. And plus they’ve been annoying the shit out of me about how the business isn’t making as much money as the used to. I hate being lifeless.  I wish I can just have a heartbeat like a normal woman. To have something for a bra to hold up. To freaking lay in the sun without worrying about my motherboard overheating or my plastic skin melting. Can I just be normal?


Yüyi “

This letter was never sent because it seemed as though Barbie didn’t care anymore. She was always with Ken in their Dream House. And it would be pretty dumb of me to send a letter to a doll. But then again, I’m not human either. I heard my mom screaming my name from down the stairs. It made my wires spark. She asked me if i wanted to eat dinner.

“Yeah, right.” My mother was asking a doll if it was hungry. Sometimes I wished I could taste all the delicious food that was laid out on the table every night. I still went down stairs to satisfy my mother. Even though I didn’t eat, she still wanted me to be there at the table. I walked down stairs, well I tried to. It was hard for me to bend my knees because my mannequin legs restricted me. They are nice though. So soft, and I don’t have to shave, which is a plus. But it wouldn’t hurt having to shave every week. I sat in the chair cushion and I completely fell off the chair because yet again I couldn’t bend my legs at a 90 degree angle for the back of my knees to hook onto the edge of my chair. My mom asked me if i was alright. I was. I couldn’t feel anything. I’m fine. My parents tried to make conversation with me. They always told me the story of how my name came about. Dad would always say, “Lady Gaga has an alter ego named “Yüyi the Mermaid. She was the most unique mermaid out of all the mermaids and so are you, my beautiful monkey” but of course he didn’t speak so fluently since he was always chugging down a 40. Then mom would add, in her ‘proper voice’, “That’s right, Yüyi and since you were made by the company, Mané, that is your last name. Oh how I was so tired of hearing that story. They would always then ask me about my personal life and my school life. I wondered why they asked me about these normal things because I was something far from normal. I’ve never step foot into a school let alone be with a boy and experience things. Everyday, they told me that i was normal and i never believed them for one second. I am a living doll. no girl in America can say that but me. They cut the pep talk and began eating. They scarfed down the food like they haven’t eaten in a while.

As humans, my parents weren’t the most typical parents. Dad was always turning the machines and inhaling the chemicals that he combined with the melted plastic as he made the mannequins and as for Mom, she was always dancing with the mannequins and wishing she looked like the motionless statutes. She knew nothing about being a mannequin or the consequences of being the perfect model of the American woman. She knew nothing about not feeling anything. They began talking on and on about the company and how it wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t want to hear the argument because I already knows how it ends. Dad is going to keep raising his voice and mom is just going to give up and she would somehow always end up on the factory floor with a bottle of whiskey next to her. Before the commotion began, I walked my ass back up stairs, so I wouldn’t have to hear it.

When I got to my room, I laid there lifelessly, like any other day. I watched the fan on my ceiling spin and spin and I thought that the ceiling fan’s life was even more exciting than mine. I began to get dizzy so I stopped and walked to the bathroom. I stared at myself for a good 15 minutes. Besides the echo of my parents screaming, my “skin” was really bothering me. It was just so perfect. A little too perfect. No pores present or even a fine line. I wished I had crow’s feet like my mother but all I have to look at is perfect skin and lacquered lips. I was tired of looking at the perfect looking back at me so I turned around and began undressing myself. I took off my shirt and pants to reveal my painted panties and my nippless boobs. Damn. No life and no nipples. I’m a nightmare. I got into the bathtub and laid there and forgot that I can’t take baths or showers because my motherboard would be ruined and i would be dead, which isn’t such a bad idea. It would be the same as being alive now. So, grabbed a washcloth from the covert and wet it a little bit. I rotated the faucet handle and scorching hot water flowed through. I literally moved my hand away from the faucet so fast, my arm dislocated from its spot and broke the mirror.

“Fuck!” I screamed. “Remember that there’s a plastic woman living in this house! Damn!” Thank God my arm flew off because it would've melted since the water was so damn hot. Thanks a lot, mom. I avoided the disaster that was going to happen and bean wiping myself down. As I got to my you know what area, the paint of my underwear started to come off. Honestly this wasn’t my day. I opened the door to tell my mom to bring the white paint from the factory up. I heard nothing. Usually Mom and Dad would still be going at it during this time. I kept calling her name so she can bring the paint up but I still didn’t get a response. Then, I heard a sudden bang that startled me to death. I put my clothes back on and ran down stairs. My parents weren’t in the kitchen. I guess they heard my request. So I went back upstairs and did my business. When I was done wiping myself down, my father knocked on my door. I opened the door to see him drenched in red paint or that’s what I thought it was.

“You’ve got to see this, Yüyi.” He said to me in a shaky tone. I told him to let me get ready first before I saw what I had to see. Considering the fact that no one brought me the damn white paint I needed, I just put my clothes on when my plastic was dried. I walked down the stairs of the factory so my father can reveal his big surprise, which was probably just a new finish to the mannequins. I saw that my mother wasn’t in the factory with him. She wasn’t upstairs or in the kitchen. Where could she have gone? I looked at the figure that was standing under the ragged cloth. It was in the silhouette of all the other mannequins but this one seemed more thicker and curvier.

“You created a curvy mannequin? Dad, they already have those.”

“its not just any old curvy mannequin.” He removed the cloth to reveal what he called his masterpiece but from what I was seeing, it was complete horror, to me. It was not red paint that cascaded down the back of his ear. It was not red paint that was scattered around the factory floor. It was definitely not red paint that was filled in the bucket next to him. I didn’t want to see what I saw, but my father’s respect told me to. My mother stood on the stand with a chester’s smile on her face. Her feet were replaced with legs that modeled mine. Her milky white skin was now shiny finished plastic. My father had made my mom into a monstrous mannequin.

I looked at her and I saw my twin, a mess. I saw someone that I hardly knew. The face was familiar but the presence was gone. I reached out to her and touched her face.

“Mom?” She didn’t respond. I wanted her to though.

“Aren’t you glad she isn’t in our hair anymore?” My dad maliciously said.

“Dad what the fuck did you do?” I asked him. I wanted to know what was going through his head when he decided to end his wife’s life.

“Well, it wasn’t easy. Your mom is a fighter. She bit me a few times, but I bashed her face against the edge of the table and she knocked out. And I knew she was dead after that. What a better way to make her into something that she always wanted to be. She still has the same heart and mind but instead of blood, she has electric current swimming in her “veins.”

“So, she’s basically like me now?”

“Exactly. She has a motherboard and everything, but she’s more human than you. Which isn’t that bad.”

“Are you fucking kidding me, Dad? Why would you ever think this is ok? This is my mother. This is your wife. You made her into a monster hybrid. That doesn't hit you in anyway?”

“Correction she was my wife and your mother. No. Not really. I mean you’re a talking doll and you think it’s normal.”

“Dad, I’m far from normal. And she isn’t even talking or even acknowledging me.” I knew he has been hitting the bottle because I could smell it everytime he gave me a dumb ass reason to why he did this.

“Oh, Yüyi, I didn’t even start her motherboard up.”

“Dad. This isn’t ok. She had a life. Flowing blood in her veins and you just took it away from her.” Dad began drinking the 40 again. He tipped the bottle upside down to get the last drop. I swiftly smacked the bottle out of his hand and watched it fall to the ground. A loud clash met the floor and shattered glass was everywhere.

Well I’m tired. It was nice talking to you and reconstructing your mother. Have a nice night.” The way my Dad acted in that very second, I wanted to punch him so bad, but he might end me too. I turned around to stare at my new mother. What did she do to deserve this. I mean she was always saying that she wanted to be like me but not like this. This was just a mistake.

“Mom? Mom? Wake up please. I just need you please. Please?” She didn’t answer me but I was hoping for the opposite. I slightly lower my head to mourn the death of my mother and a minute later, I felt a slight touch on my head. I look up and it is the doll I used to call mother. I didn’t even know what I was looking at. I was a caricature of my mother or at least what she used to be. I saw the features of her old face combined with my face and honestly, I didn’t like what I was seeing. It was something I didn’t enjoy and for once in my life, I didn’t want anyone to be like me. A hollow piece of molded plastic. I just wanted my mom back. I didn’t value her enough for her to be gone soon. She was in front of me but it wasn’t her. It wasn’t enough. I tilted my head to mourn the death of the person who created me and I felt a slight grasp on the back of my head. It was the doll I used to call mom.

“There there, Yüyi. It’s ok. I’m here.” The voice I heard was nothing like the symphony my mom used to have. It was sort of like a more robotic and computerized voice. Even though she wasn’t in the condition I wanted her to be in, at least she’s somewhat alive and  she acknowledged me so, that’s good enough for me.

“Mom! I’m so sorry for what happened.”

“Honey, it isn’t your fault. It’s mine. I should’ve never cracked wine glass on his head. I brought this upon myself.” As a robotic mannequin, she seemed like she was more human than what she looked like.

" Where is your father?" I asked her why she wanted to know. She asked the same question again. I told her what she wanted to know.

“Thank you. Now get out of my way, Yüyi. I don’t want you to see this.”

“Tell me you aren’t going to kill Dad.”

“That is exactly what I’m going to do Yüyi.” Here we go again. She started to tear up. It was something I’ve never saw her do. “Look what he did to me. I’m a monster.”

“Mom, you don’t have to be a monster. You can live your life without him. Live your life like me. It isn’t as hard as I make it seem.” My mom rolled her eyes and it made me think she wasn’t going to listen to anything I was saying.

“Since he made me a monster, I’m going to show him how monstrous I can be.”

“No, Mom, Don’t do this.” I tried to block her from the door but she lifted me up and threw me across the room. It wasn’t that hard I weighed a feather. When she threw me, I lost one of my legs. Buy the time I found it, she was already out the factory door.

I quickly ran up the steps to find out where she was. When I walked out the door, a heavy kick met my chest and I rolled down the steps.

“Don’t disobey me, Yüyi. I made you and I can take you apart just like that.” She closed the factory door and locked me in. I wanted to warn my dad before anything destructive happened. I shook the door back and forth to try and break myself out. That door was locked shut. I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get out of there. I looked over and I saw the smallest window I’ve ever seen. But I knew how i was going to go through it. I started throwing my body parts out the window and finally my torso. I was freed but not freed from the nightmare I was going to encounter inside the house.

I snuck in the house quietly but the house was far from quiet. All I heard was Dad screaming his lungs out and Mom destroying the house. It never got this out of hand. I ran up the steps. I tried running as fast as I could but I seemed that I was only as fast as a car going 12 miles per hour. I screamed from the steps to make them hesitate the war they were having, but it didn’t work. I began running a little faster but I could feel my motherboard getting a little warm but I wanted to save my dad before I went. I reach the top of the steps and I couldn’t find my parents anywhere. I heard screaming so I followed the sound of his voice to find him. It was a very distant scream. I knew he was probably in the bathroom or in the attic. I checked the bathroom first because it was the closest room to me and it will take me a while to get up the stairs to the attic. As I walked closer to the bathroom, Dad’s screaming got louder. I opened the door of the bathroom and it immediately slammed shut.

“Mom, open the door!”

“No, Yüyi. You stay out of this.”

“Mom, you’re just like me its going to be fine.”

“No, Yüyi! Just go away I don’t want you to see this.”

“Yüyi!” My dad screamed. Step away!”

“No! You guys are going to hurt each other.”

“I can’t be any more hurt than this.”

“Yüyi, step away from the door now!” I listened to my dad and I stepped away from the do and my dad threw my mom at the door so hard, she wasn’t even in the bathroom anymore. I ran to my mom as fast as my long plastic legs could and tried to protect her. I used my body as a shield but it didn’t last for that long because I somehow ended up in the bathroom. I looked over and watched my dad hoover over my mom’s body. I ran over there and jumped on him. my strength wasn’t enough to keep him down. I couldn’t even hold his arm down.

“Yüyi, I said stay out of this!” He threw me across the room once again. I struggled to pick myself up. He needed to hear what I had to say.

“Listen, you fucker!” He immediately stopped in his tracks and turned around.

“What did you say to me?” he questioned.

“You heard me. You little selfish fucker. You are the worst thing to walk this earth. You are a sad excuse of a man. Since you can’t be happy, you make the other people around you as miserable as you. And when you don’t want to listen to the truth, you take another sip of the lies that swirl in the bottle that you hold all day. You killed mom so you don’t have to listen to the truth.” He was speechless because it was the truth he didn’t want to hear. But he needed to because i knew it was going to get into his head one way only. I watched him drop my mom and watched him walk towards me with fire in his eyes. i knew it was ending and this is what I wanted. I didn’t want to watch my mom be demolished again. I’d rather go before her.

“Yeah come on.” I wanted to provoke him so he can just get me over with.

“Jo, no! Don’t do this.” my mom said with a soft voice, “Its not worth losing our daughter. Don’t do it. I’m the one who should die. Hell, I’m already dead.” Not listening to my mom, Dad grabbed my neck and held me high. I didn’t know if he was trying to suffocate me because I didn’t feel anything and I didn’t know if he knew I didn’t breathe. So I pretended to struggle and act like he was actually doing something to me while my mom grabbed the empty 40 ounce to smash against his head.

He fell to the ground immediately. I waited for a few seconds to see if he was knocked out cold. He let out a little moan which made me know that he was still alive. And then he started moving and trying to get up. I swear this man was on steroids or something. I had to get to my mom fast and try to get out of the house before my dad got up on his feet.

“Yüyi, hurry!” I ran to my mom as fast as I could. “He’s coming.”I turned around to see my dad was already at his feet and picking the tiny shards of glass from the back of his head. I tried picking my mom up but it was too late. My dad picked me up by my scrawny little legs and swung me across the room. I picked my head up to watch my mom being carried over the shoulder by my dad into the bathroom. I dropped my head to the floor because I could feel my battery overheating. i didn’t want my mom to get hurt, or what was left of my mom. I tried to crawl to the bathroom but with every grab of the rug, I heard a sizzling noise. My battery started melting my back. I was being killed from the inside out. I didn’t want this to stop me from saving her. She was all that I had left. I looked up and I heard the faucet running.

“No! Dad, don’t do it!” I screamed. I knew he heard me but I got no response back. All I could hear was the screaming of my mom telling my dad to let her go.

“Jo, let me go! I’m sorry.”

“Cynthia, this was the last straw. You brought this on yourself.”  I continued to crawl towards the bathroom and when I opened the door, my dad was hovering my mom over a pool of water. I kept telling him to stop. This was all too much at once. My battery was overheating which I thought would only happen if I was laid up in the sun. My mom’s life was on the line and my dad was a fucking drunk addict who was about to kill the only woman who ever loved him.....again.

“This the last straw,” my dad said.

He glared into my mom’s eyes and dropped her into the water.

“Dad, no!” I watched my dad’s fat fingers let go of my mom’s neck and my worst nightmare came to life. Mom began screaming for her life. Electricity sparks swam through the water as my mom pleaded for help. I crawled closer to her but I couldn’t reach her in time. Her motherboard was out. I just stared at her because I didn’t want to end my life now that she was gone.

“Dad. Look what you’ve done.” I said. I was having deja vu because I knew I already said this to him but it bears repeating. he couldn’t seem to process what he just did because he stood there blankly. His face with no emotion and his body became statuesque.

“I’m talking to you, dad. listen to me.”  He didn’t answer me. I wanted him to talk to me because he seemed stunned. I got up and walked over to him and asked him to talk to me.

“You’re just like your mother.” He finally replied.

“What are you talking about?”

“You are just like your mother. An annoying bitch.”

“Maybe I am like mom. But you aren’t going to change me. You made me like this. It’s your fault.” Dad’s eyes grew with astonishment. I knew this was officially the last straw. He grabbed me by my neck and I asked him, “What are you going to do? Drop me in the water?” He replied with a simple no. He reached his hand down my back and pulled out my life system. I was out. I was now just like my mom, like he said.

Pulse by Betty Louis

These were her final seconds. Her last chance. All she has to do is accept it and help me out. I need her to work with me and come back. She could hear me, right? She has a pulse, she just needs to wake up.

"Mom! Mom, its me your son Mason! Please, wake up mom! I need you..."

Burying my face into the sundress she wore I cried. I cried because I prepped myself for this moment and I failed. She had been sick for a year and I knew her death would come soon. But, now I couldn't bare the thought of actually losing her. I worked so hard in fighting fate, when I should have just accepted and faced it. She was gone and not even the artificial heart and animare cells could keep her alive.

I wiped away my tears and walked over to the monitor. As usual everything looked fine and the monitor showed signs of a pulse, but she didn't move an inch.

“I guess you can’t beat death, huh mom?”

Silence was her reply. I slowly pressed the off button on the monitor and sat next to her in silence. I closed my eyes and rested my head by her arms. Memories of her rocking me to bed when I was young faded into my mind. Songs that she sang to to me with her soft whistle like voice came to mind and soon the tune hummed through my lips. Like it was happening all over again. Doing this my heart beat slowly and I regained some peace. I felt a cool rush to wind blow in from the only small window in my mother’s room, but I ignored the goosebumps that crept onto my skin and stayed comfortable in my mother’s possession. Since this would be the last time. But the suddenly I felt small faint movements within the bed. Knowing how my mind can play tricks on me I ignored it. Assuring myself that it was a figment of my imagination. But, then pokes of  dry crusty fingertips prickled along side of my arm and then my hair. I lifted my hair quickly as possible in shocked of what could be happening.

“Mom!” I shouted to her as I looked into her deep brown hazel eyes hoping she'll reply like “My baby or pudding,”

and a bright chocolate smile would appear upon her face. But all I got from her was

“Who’s Mason? And why do you keep calling me mom?”

Stunned by this reply I sat there and watched as she slowly sat up, caressing her head in her withered hands.

“She wants to see you now. She’s in room 306.”  Doctor Heath said with sorrowful and heavy eyes.

“Thanks.” I replied. I didn’t know what else I could say. Walking down the hospital halls, each step I took felt heavier to the point where I felt like I couldn’t lift my feet anymore. So I stopped, turned to my left and saw a family surrounded by an old women who appeared to be smiling at me. Her bright smile seemed to bounce off the chrome walls of her room and touched on me. I was smiling too. But once her smile had a ripple effect on me, her heartbeat had slowly left her and it was announced to all her family members as soon as she slowly closed her eyes with the monitor making that dreadful sound and that beautiful smile still on her face. Hoping none of her family members saw me staring, I quickly turned aways and began to walk again forget about the illusion of my heavy feet. Two rooms away and I heard urgent worried voices. No. One voice. It was Doctor Heath's voice and he was talking to someone I had never seen in the hospital and usually never forget a face. But he look familiar. For some reason I stopped to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“Is it true? Can it really bring back the de--” Doctor Heath said

“Shhh.. there’s cameras.” said the other guy. Then, he took Doctor Heath's arm and pulled him aside to a corner where a camera wasn’t monitoring.

“Listen, it took 3 -4 days but so far the ape has responded to the animare cells and  has a pulse. We need to do further research on how he responds to our test of fully ---” said the man before he heard my almost crushing a gum wrapper. Stupid robotic janitors must have missed a spot. Before he could move to see where I saw I made it to my mothers room. She was staring at the ceiling holding onto yellow sunflowers with a goofy smile on her face.

“Mom? What are you doing?” I chuckled,

“Oh hi my darling. I was practicing my pose for my funeral. With the flowers or without? What do you think?”

Mother always did have a way with serious situations. She liked to think of the bright side of even the worst case scenarios.

“I think that you have plenty of other important things to worry about then the pose you make when you're dead. Besides it wouldn't exactly be up to you, it would be up to the people who prepare you.” I’d always be the one to bring her back to reality.

“Not if I write it in my will,” she argued

“Oh mother,” I chuckled as I sat beside her and held her hand. “I love you.”

With her free hand against my cheek, “I love you too sweetheart,”

“Alright, how is my favorite patient doing?” interrupted Doctor Heath,

“You should know,” I replied back. Mother squeezed my hand as a hint to be nice. Doctor Heath always spoke nicely and respectfully but I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about him. To me at least he always showed signs of being robotic. As if he had no true feelings and did what he was ‘programed’ to do.

“Well we all know. Her heart is getting weaker and bigger by the second and her body isn’t strong enough to continue on with the state that she is in. What’s even worse that we’re seeing is that the chambers are having trouble filling with blood. So what we can do now is simply hope for the best and pray.“ he said, as if he ever prayed.

Mother looked away at what he said, trying to fight back tears. His phone rang before I could insult him on his incompetence, once he saw the caller he rushed to get out and said

"I need to take this. I’ll be back with your blood test results."

While rushing out the door a piece of paper that loosely hung outside of his back pocket fell to the ground. I picked it up and opened it. While going back to the seat next to my mother and caressing her back with on hand I read what was in there paper in another. It was the researchers inquiry.

'DNA animare cells give life' under the heading was a picture of an ape. So that was what Mr. Heath and that strange man was talking about.

“Mason,” startled by this I hid the paper.

“Yes mom,”

“Can you do me favor?”

“Of course mother,”

“Take this,” she pulled out an envelope and handed it to me.


“Take it,” She said interrupting me. “One day you’ll need it. And one more thing?”

“Anything,” I looked into her eyes.

“Can you remember me and tell your kids stories about when I die?”

“Mom, you can never be forgotten and thats a promise and I’ll make sure your grand babies don’t forget about you either.” I gave her a smile

She chuckled.

“Little tiny Mason’s running around,” she said as she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

As much as I wanted to stay as close to my mother as possible I had to find out more about those cells. Since they could possible help her. Although the thought of putting random cells into my mother’s body sounded creepy and untrusting with her being in her condition I had nothing left. She was going to leave me soon and we both knew it. But with these cells she could possible could stay just a little bit longer.  I went to the basement to find the old macbook pro my father gave to my mother when they were dating. I always tried to avoid looking at this thing. It was dusty and had a couple cracks but it was the memory of my father. He liked to do things the old-fashioned way. Inside of the front screen I see sticky notes covering everything, but the mid-center. No one ever touched his laptop because well it reminded us too much about him and his death almost destroyed my mother. After he left I put it in the basement so she wouldn’t have to remember. No one ever knew his password but my mother and I. My father was old, but he was smart. His password was a series of numbers and letters. I was surprised I remembered it all. As soon as I opened it there was a typed letter on display.

‘Dear Mason,

My darling Mason. If you are reading this then you are on the right track and your father and I have taught you well. In the envelope I should have already given you, there is a key. Your father, as smart as he is has been saving up since the day I told him I was pregnant. Now darling don’t get too excited but this money is for you to continue your studies in college. The key opens a safe that is in the back on the closet where we use to put all of our old shoes. If you pick up some of those old shoes and feel your way through you’ll feel a hole. That hole is really an opening to a small door. Open it. Once you do, you’ll find the safe. In that safe there should be about 3 million dollars. I know you’ll put it to good use. You father and I raised you beautifully. Baby boy, if and when you read this I should be in the hospital because you know my condition doesn’t allow me to live long. Please don’t cry or even feel sorrow. God will build a way for you and for me. I shall meet you father once again and we’ll be watching over waiting for you to join us. Please live a long and fulfilled live and continue to make us proud my love. I know you will do and discover brilliant things just like your father. If only he could see was wonderfully you have grown into an eighteen year old man. Our little Mason, a man. I love you and I know with all my heart your father does too. Bye now my darling.’

I looked inside of the envelope and it was a key. In the key was engraved my father’s password. That probably was the hint from my mom. 3 million dollars? Why save it when she could have used it to get new organs or even better treatment? As tempted as I was to take the money and rush to the hospital so they could help I knew it’d be too late and my mother wouldn’t accept it. For her condition a heart-lung transplant for her would be almost one fourth of that sum. So I continued on with my search about the animare cells. My father use to work for NASA and I’d always be around whenever he did his research. I use to always be so fascinated about how he conducted his experiments. I started by searching anything about animare cell in different search engines. I saw many articles that popped up like the one that Doctor Heath dropped. But they all said the same thing and I needed more than what those articles covered. Then, I started reading my father’s stickies around the laptop. One that really caught my eye. “DNA cells reanimate brain?” I quickly went to the search bar of the macbook and typed in “cells”. Many different searches came up. But I chose the one that said ‘DNA Cells’. In that was a word document. In that document seemed to be a journal in which my father wrote all of his thoughts down about what he knew about cells reanimating the brain. It would be a serum filled with micro highly advanced brain cells, blood cells and organisms that stimulates the human brain and heart. It turns out my father was the one trying to create this new technology, but because he died he was unable to finish it. But, who did? My father only had only one partner in NASA that he actually trusted. Rubert. Rubert was his high school buddy that my father entered into NASA with. My father always thought it to be  blessing that they both go in. I call it a conspiracy. I could have sworn I saw Rupert trying to make a move on my mother and since that day I never trusted the man. He could have been the one to take credit for my dad’s work and have tried to finish the process my dad started. I’d believe it and I’d find a way to make hims pay for it too. No wonder Rupert came by the house asking for my father’s laptop. It’s a good thing I lied about not having it. There was another sticky note that said “DNA cells prt 2…” I searched it up and found another file but this one happened to be cut off. The basement was my dad’s own personal laboratory. According to the journal he had created his own serum and wanted to try it on a dead animal out on the street before trashbots got to it. I guess he never got the chance. It says that he placed the serum in the mini fridge to preserve it. There was two.

The next day mother wanted to be let got from the hospitals care. She knew that she wouldn’t survive so she wanted to spend her last days home. I didn’t mind. I told her everything that I found and my plans. I still didn’t get the chance to look at the 3 million dollars, but she knew I’d find it and find out about father’s old plans. She too went snooping around his laptop. Though she didn’t want me to try it on her.  I tried to respect her decisions but she didn’t try to respect or understand how much I needed her by my side. She was all I had left, yet she still believed I could make it without her. I couldn't see that happening so I continued on with my research. Every since I got a job mother made me a bank account to manage my own money in my own way. That afternoon I took 1.5 million dollars from the safe and put it into my bank account. Then I spent the rest of the day with her. I cooked for her, laughed with her, and watched movies with her, lying that I finished all my work in school just so I could spend her last moments with me. Together. Just like how it use to be. That night when she went to sleep coughing I tucked her into bed and gave her a kiss goodnight. Then, I went online to amazone in search of the perfect artificial heart and surgobot to perform on mother. WIth the right amount of in the year 2043 you can find just about anything. Once I found right functioning heart with mother’s blood type, a 4 starred surgobot, and asked for express shipping the total cost rounded up to about 1.5 million. This is my mother’s life on the line here. I pressed accept without a doubt in my mind. I went to bed and looked at the article that I saw come out of Dr. Heath’s pocket. I’ve read the article a million times now at school, but for some reason I wanted to read it again.

The next morning mother grew even more ill. Each time she continued to cough blood would usually be the product of it. Whenever I tried to call an ambulance for her she’d just stop me and say “No. Just hold me hand.” And so I did. But I couldn’t bare to see her in this condition. I want to remember her as they way we were yesterday. Beautiful and happy. Now she is weak and exhausted. I closed my eyes and prayed for God to find another way for her. But it didn’t seemed to be working. She just just kept coughing out blood. When she finally stopped she looked me in my eyes and said

“You always did look just like your father. My darling, remember that I love you,”

My first tears in all of this began to fall from my eyes because I knew these would be her final moments alive. Thought my plan could work it there was still that chance that it wouldn’t and it crushed my soul to lose her.

“I love you too mamma,”

“Forever and ever?” she said hoarsely

“Forever and ever,” I replied

Then she closed eyes to what seemed like she fell asleep, but she lost her grasp in my hand. I knew she was gone.  I sat there in silence and a minute later the doorbell rang. I went downstair from her room to get it and saw it was a man with a clipboard, a high definition robot holding a large package.

“Are you Mason Smith?” he said looking up from the clipboard.

“Yes,” I said.

“Sign here,” he said as he handed me the clipboard to sign. I signed it and handed it back to him.

“Here is the manual for the surgobot. He is already programed as you asked and ready to perform. That is the organ,”

“Thanks,” I told him.

“Here’s the number of the seller if you need any help. You have a good day sir,” he said as he walked away.

“Alright. Let’s get to work surgobot,”

“Surgobot 5000 is ready to go,”

“Surgobot carefully take the box all the way upstairs and then go to the first room to your right. Wait for me there,”

Then surgobot proceeded up the stairs. I ran straight to the basement and took one of the serum. My father wrote that too much could possible cause brain damage. I went back upstairs to my mother’s room and found surgobot standing there, waiting.


“Yes master,” it responded

“Please. Do as you were programed to my mother,” breathlessly I pointed to my mother’s dead body and surgobot got to work. I watched it all. I sat down and watched as surgobot 5000 opened up his chest and display of all different types of surgery utensils came out on a tray and took some things from the package and hooked my mother to a monitor. I watched as surgobot cut open my mother’s chest, took out her weak and enlarged heart, put back in the heart I bought, and sew her back up. All the while, all I thought about was my father. I thought about what was he planning to do with this serum. Did he already know about mom’s condition before she even did? Why did he pursue to do such a thing? Maybe , it was because we worked in NASA and he mind just wondered to those things. Maybe he just wanted to discover or create something new. Maybe he knew something. I was wondered and could never figured out what was would go on in my father’s mind, but my mother could. It was like she was a psychic. Which is probably why he loved her so much. Mother understood father like no other. Mother understood me also. I wonder if she knew what I’d be doing. Oh God, please let this work. I can’t loose all I have, not now when I need it the most.

“Master?” surgobot said interrupting my thoughts.

“Yes,” I replied. Within 5 hours of constant nail biting and piercing thoughts rattling in and out of my head surgobot 5000 was finished.

“I am finished what I was programed to do. Is there anything else you would like me to do master?”

“No. Thank you surgobot,”

“Have I done a good job?”

“Yes, you may now go to sleep if you please.”

“Thank you master,”

Surgobot found a corner and put himself to sleep. The monitor now had a beating sound which meant a pulse, but she needed more than just that. she needed the serum. I opened up the top and poured the serum into her mouth and watched as it went down her mouth. Then, I sat down beside her and waited.

La Casa Perfecta Para Isabella

Screenshot 2014-06-06 at 9.48.51 AM
Screenshot 2014-06-06 at 9.48.51 AM
Screenshot 2014-06-06 at 9.49.16 AM
Screenshot 2014-06-06 at 9.49.16 AM

Nuestra clienta, Isabella D’Angelo, tiene quince años. Su apodo es, Sabelle. Es muy alta, guapa y extraordinaria. Ella es muy atlética. Sabelle practica remo, todos los días. Le gusta Starbucks café, así como Qdoba y Hip City Veg. Comida es muy importante para Sabella. Ella tiene un gato, su nombre es Ninny. Prefiere la casa moderna, enorme y en la ciudad. Una cita de Sabelle, “URBAN OUTFITTERS LIKE YAS SEPHORA LIKE YAS.” Ella quiere su hermano, Carmelo y sus gatos. Quiere cuatro baños y seis habitaciones. Le gusta ver la tele, ver películas, hacer arte y ir de compras. Su colores favoritos, son blanco, gris y negro.

¡Está casa es perfecta! La casa es muy grande y tiene mucho espacioso. Está casa es situada en la ciudad de Nueva York.

La casa tiene un solo piso y con un gran jardín. Puedes vivir cerca de la ciudad con está casa! Está cerca de muchos restaurantes, tiendas y parques. También hay un centro de tenis. Un río está también cerca de la casa. La casa está cerca de Urban Outfitters. La casa no está lejos desde cualquier cosa. Está en el centro!

La casa tiene seis dormitorios. Son todos muy espaciosos. Tiene tres cuartos de baño. Además, hay un bonita cocina y la sala de estar. Hay una película habitación en está casa. También hay un espacio de oficina. En general, está casa es increíble y le encantará!

¡La moderna casa es perfectamente situado cerca de lindo Parque Central! Es un elegante color blanco y cubierto en enorme ventanas, con vistas de Parque Central. La casa no tiene uno, pero dos pisos. La grandísima cocina es ideal para personas quién quiere mucho cocinar y comer! El dormitorio principal es bastante lujoso. Es cómodo y moderna! Cada increíble dormitorio tiene alta techo. Los baños tienen ducha de lujo y vasto espejos, perfecta para aplicando detallado maquillaje de Sephora. El jardín de la azotea tiene muy verde hierba! Además, hay una nueva, una especial, y azul claro piscina en el techo!

(Numbered in order from left to right: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)

1. La casa

2. La sala y el comedor, hay dos pisos

3. El dormitorio principal

4. El dormitorio #2

5. El baño #1

6. El baño #2

7. El jardín de la azotea

8. El dormitorio #3

Diseñado por: Grande Elsa y Pequeña Rifah Corredor de bienes raíces.

Contactar Rifah Islam:

Contactar Ella Donesky:

¡Gracias usted puedes contactar!

The Lost Sister

Deep in the expanse sparkling sea, lives a drop-dead gorgeous mermaid, Maria. Some might call her a sea goddess. Traveling through the sea one day, Maria came across a strange and beautiful creature.

“What is this beautiful creature?” she asked herself.  

“Uhh...hi...please don’t hurt me.” the creature said, looking indirectly at her.

“It talks!” Maria was surprised by this creature “Hi there! What are you? I’m Maria, the most beautiful mermaid!”

The frightened creature looked back and forth as if there is some kind of suspicion. “Don’t be scared, little one. I’m not harmful.” Maria said calmly. Maria carried the creature up into the palm of her hands and said “I’m here to help. I’m the good mermaid.” Maria looked closely “Wow, you’re a cyclops with antennas and very small ears! ”

The cyclops was scared to be touched and fear overcame him. As the cyclops was in Maria’s palm, the cyclops rolled on his back with his face towards Maria. They made eye contact for the first time and the cyclops never knew it was a stunningly beautiful and good mermaid.

“Wow! You’re different. You’re stunning!” the cyclops said.

“Hi there! I’m Maria...again. What do I call you?”

The cyclops felt comforted knowing there was someone to accompany him. He felt safe. “You can call me Plathro, Maria!” The sunlight was dimming and the dark moonlight overcame the horizon of the sea.

Together, they both swam and explored the bottom of the clear sea. “Look at all these fish, Maria. There’s so many groups of them.” Soon, they could see something gloomy and cloudy approaching towards the frightened mermaid and cyclops. It was darker than the night.

”What is that? It’s getting closer and closer to us. Look, ” the cyclops said. “I have seen a lot of weird stuff on my planet, but this is something surreal, for sure!”

Maria was astonished and anxious to see what could lie in front of her. As the mysterious object came closer, Plathro quickly grabbed Maria away from the mysterious object.

“Maria, it’s the Meranias! Get away!” Plathro said.

“A what?”

“Meranias. They are a group of wicked mermaids who seeks brains for them to form a one big Merania, called a Megarania. They’re vicious. Watch out!”

Together, they swam through across the sea looking for coral reefs to hide under. “Hey look! We can get in there. Come on!” Maria said. Maria was thankful that the Merania didn’t chase them, but she wondered why.

“Whew! That was close. How come the Meranias didn’t chase us? I thought they saw us.”

“Meranias can only see at a distance when their eyes glow red, meaning they are getting ready to take your brains out,” Plathro said, “The Meranias that we just saw were nothing like the one I saw before. They have grown from a medicine called Yortamite, created by humans that makes them five times stronger.”

Many questions arose for Maria as she listened to Plathro.

“How did the Meranias retrieve the medicine?” Maria said.

“Ahem. It is a funny story actually. A group of doctors were fishing on this sea and one doctor thought he caught fish, but it was one of the Meranias. The doctor was pulled down into the sea and got his brains taken out by the Meranias. Other doctors on the ship were unaware that the doctor was kidnapped by the Meranias. It all happened silently.”

“Wow, thats crazy!”

“Yes, very. Then the Merania took out his brain and used it for their own benefits in making a Yortamite medicine to make them stronger. They used the information and knowledge of the doctor’s brain to make the Yortamite. Meranias.... just be a lookout for them at night. They have changed.”

That night, they slept and comforted each other inside the coral reef looking out for each other. It was only the beginning of their journey.

It was finally morning, after the adventurous night.

“I haven’t even asked you this, but why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be in space on some planet?” Maria said.

Plathro laughed through  his miniature ears.

"Why yes! I am suppose to be there, but some rocks kept on hitting my planets. I came to the only planet that has water because I was thirsty and here I am! All thanks to my newly built spaceship control, where flying is always at ease. My spaceship equipped laser gun helped me so much by shooting out the rocks that were in the way. Thank the lord for that!”

Maria couldn’t resist his personality and laughs non-stop.

“Oh, wow! You’re a funny alien, Plathro. I’m glad that I met you. If you’re wondering, I’m here searching for my lost sister. She’s a mermaid, like me.”

Plathro thought for a second and looked at Maria.

“Hmm. How was your sister lost at sea?”

“My parents are human and they had two marbles. I was a marble and my sister was a marble. The marbles separated when my parents threw them into the sea. They wanted me to search for my sister. My parents claimed it was some kind of ritual that good thing would happen to my sister and I, if I found her in sea.”

Plathro had a blank and grossed out face.

“That is some weird ass ritual! That’s the first time I heard that.” Plathro said. “Yeah, well that’s my story. I’m on a journey to find her. Would you like to join me, Plathro?”

“Yes! Now, let’s get this mission on!”

They set out to search the sea together looking for Maria’s sister. It was midday and all the fish were swimming around the beautiful sea. Sharks, catfish, clown fish, and even stingrays all joined together with Maria and Plathro. It was an environment where anything can happen, fish eating another fish, sharks eating other sharks. “Wow, look at that clown fish stalking another clown fish!” said Plathro. Maria laughs as that got her attention underneath her. Out of the blue, Maria saw a beautiful mermaid a cuddled up in seaweed. “She’s probably cold.” Maria thought to herself.. Plathro behind Maria’s draft as she went straight to the seaweed, cuddled mermaid. “Be careful, Maria.” Plathro warned her. “Meranias are pretty sneaky and cunning and their powers are impressive” Maria got to the mysterious mermaid.

“She’s beautiful! Look at her sparkling scales! Amazing!” Maria said.

“Oh my, yes. She is beautiful. Hey, how you doing you beautiful creature?”

Maria ignored Plathro’s flirtatious comment and went on untangling the mysterious mermaid from the seaweed. Both, Maria and Plathro, carried the mysterious mermaid back down to the coral reef, allowing her to rest.

“She was gentle for first impression. She’s not growling, her crystal eyes seems normal. Maybe she is Maria’s sister after all.” Plathro thought to himself.

He kept quiet and didn’t want to lose Maria’s hope for finding her sister.

“Look at her. Beautiful as you, she could be your sister.”

“Thank you, little one...,” the mermaid said, “I see that you all are in shock. I am Elizabeth the Second. Nice to meet you.”

Plathro stood still and amaze of how soft and beautiful her voice is.

“It’s uhh...very nice to-to-to meet you too...” Plathro said.

“Where are you from, Elizabeth?” Maria said.

Elizabeth looked straight ahead for a while and moments later she said “I am from here. I was born here. How about you? What’s your name?”

Maria wonders why she didn’t answer her right away.

“I am Maria and I am from here as well. I was born artificially from a marble that my human parents threw into the ocean. My sister and I were the only marbles that ever grew into a mermaid. We were the special ones. My sister is lost and it’s my goal to find her.”

“Maybe I can help you look for your lost sister, Maria. As a matter of fact it’ll be my honor,” Elizabeth said, “And you only have one eye. It must be hard to search for Maria’s sister with one eye.”

Plathro felt offended and humiliated.

“Yes. I know. I’m a cyclops. If I have two eyes, you would be in trouble.”

Elizabeth ignored him.


As the day went on, they continued to roam the sea together. In the middle of roaming the sea, Plathro asked himself how Maria would know if a random mermaid is her sister or not and why didn’t she confront Elizabeth if she is Maria’s sister or not. Maria saw that Plathro was not being himself.

“Hey buddy, you alright?”

Plathro sees the careness that Maria showed towards him.

“Yes, I’m fine. But how do you know if a random ass mermaid is your sister or not?”

“That’s a good question. See this circular bump under my chest? When me and a mermaid make our tails touch each other and this bump and her bump glows up, that mermaid is my sister.” Maria replied.

“That’s amazing. So you can never mistake anyone with your sister. That’s awesome!”

“It sure is!”

As the hours get farther into the night, Elizabeth went out on her on path and forgets about Plathro and Maria. Elizabeth swims towards a group of creatures that can only look so disgusting from many different angles. Their glowing eyes can be seen for miles in the sea.

“She is found. What is that we must do now?” Elizabeth said.

The creatures all looked at Elizabeth.

“You must now find a way to get her brains out, before she figure out that her sister is a Merania. We will die from her crystal tears if it comes in contact with us.” said Suranian, the leader of the Meranias.

The Meranias, including Suranian, all looked at the incomplete formation of the Megarania.

“We will serve you well, Megarania.  We’ll get you your brains...eventually...”

Maria and Plathro came to a realization that Elizabeth was missing.

“Where’s my beautiful Elizabeth, I mean Elizabeth?” Plathro said.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her ever since I came over and talked to you.”

Out of nowhere, Maria sees something miles away that appears very odd to her. She figures out that it is nighttime and the only thing that she could thought of at night are Meranias.

“Is that...a Merania?” Maria asked.

Plathro hears Maria and froze. He was speechless only until when the hidden object came closer to them.

“Wait a second, that’s Elizabeth. I recognized her beauty and feminine scent.” Plathro said.

Maria looked at him strangely.

“You know you’re underwater, right? There is no scent.”

“Yes but I can sense it from my underwater antenna. Duh!”

The object appears larger and larger to them.

“Swim!” they both said.

“Don’t swim away! It’s me, Elizabeth!” Elizabeth said while still panting for breath, trying to catch up to them.

Maria and Plathro felt a sigh of relief from the surprise appearance.

“Where the hell were you?” Maria asked.

“I was just lost in sea. Good thing I found you guys though.” Elizabeth replied.

Plathro sense that Elizabeth is up to something. His brain is tingling under his hardish cartilage.

“I feel a tingling in my brain, Maria. Something’s not good.” Plathro said to Maria.

Elizabeth felt shakened and shivers got to her spine all the way down to her fin. “What is it, Elizabeth?” Millions of thoughts and reactions came to Elizabeth but she is afraid. She had no response but to flee the scene, roaming the sea. “Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” Maria shouted. Nothing was heard and seen except the shadow of Elizabeth swimming away into the night sea.

Moments later, there was still silence from Elizabeth. No sign of her. Silence. Neutral. “So are we still on a journey, Maria?” Plathro said. “Yes. My sister is still at lost. I will have to come in contact with mermaids for this bump to glow up.” Nighttime was much longer for them now as they wonder what Elizabeth is. “Come on, Maria. Let’s go get your sister!” They both swam together just like how they first met.  

The night lit sky is about to diminish and sunrise is beginning to shine through the clear, blue sea. The night left them wondering into different parts of the sea as they exerted all their energy swimming frantically.

“Man, I’m tired. Aren’t you tired?” Maria asked.

Plathro still trying to keep his head and staying awake.

“Hell yeah. Been up looking out for Meranias ain’t fun. Plus, we increased our chances of encountering them because we been all over the sea last night. Good thing we didn’t swam into them.”

Maria took a sigh of relief and guided Plathro to a beautiful resting place. “Come on, Plathro. Let’s take a rest over there. It’s much more calming and soothing.” Maria guided him and took him over to the clamshell, where they can just relax and rest for their adventurous night.

“Do you mind sharing your clamshell with us, little creature? We just need a place to rest and this is the most comforting shell that we can find.” Maria said. The little creature was more than happy to share some space for Plathro and Maria. “Sure! Here you are, guys! Come, sit down.” the little creature said.

The clamshell was so comfortable that they slept there for the entire day, forgetting about the consideration of the little creature. All their stress and tiredness all dissolve as the slept the day away. They both woke up that evening confused. Plathro grunted as his tries to get up from the clamshell. He stretched out his antennas, arms, eye, and his two short legs. Just when his eye is stretched out, he noticed something odd.

“Woah, why is it so dark in here? Hello?” Plathro said.

Maria was woken up by the high-pitched voice and is confused just as Plathro is.

“We are still in a clamshell, aren't we, Plathro?”

Platero took a moment to feel the surroundings him and felt something slimy.

“Yep. We still in the clamshell. It got shut.”

“Ugh! It’s too tightly closed. I can’t open it,” Maria said, “what in the world was that? Does this thing have feet?”

A sudden tilt of the clam left Maria and Plathro unbalanced. The clam rocked back and forth, causing Maria and Plathro to fall side to side. “It finally stopped now. What in the world was- AHHHHHH” Plathro yelled. There was a sudden jolt of the clamshell and unpredictably, the clam was opened by a Merania. Maria grabbed Plathro and swam to the back of the clam trying to hide from the Merania. Maria recognized someone very familiar. “Elizabeth? Thank you for helping us out the clamshell.” Maria said excitedly. Maria and Plathro both grasp as they saw something very unusual and shocking. “What the? Swim, Maria! Swim away!” Plathro said.

Just as the moment that Maria that she was saved, Elizabeth transformed from a beautiful and innocent mermaid to a vicious and ugly Merania. “Roar!” Elizabeth screeched. Maria and Plathro flees the area and they could still hear the distant screeching from Elizabeth. “There’s more!” Plathro said as he looked behind, hoping to lose sight of them. Plathro stopped and sent out mixed signals from his antennas towards the Meranias, hoping they would lost track of where they are going. “What are you doing, Plathro! We must swim and keep on swimming....far!” Maria said. Plathro continued swimming away with Maria. “Maria...why is your bump under your chest flickering? It’s trying to glow. your sister nearby?”

Maria thought of this was almost impossible because in order for it to glow, both Maria and the other mermaid has to make contact. Maria was surprised by the flickering bump. “Plathro...I need you to stay by my side. I am going to to swim around here to see if my bump will glow brighter. Look out for the Meranias.” Maria said.

Maria swam side by side with Plathro in different directions, hoping to get a stronger signal for her bump to glow up bright. “Come on, Plathro. We can complete our journey together. We’re really close to finding my sister!” Maria said. Plathro felt confident and proud of Maria’s perseverance. She never loses hope. Plathro thought to himself as to why he never has a family. No siblings, mother, or father.

“Straight ahead, Plathro.” Maria said.


“It stopped glowing... Did we went too far?”

Plathro sees this and continues to have hope for Maria.

“Probably. Let’s go back and we’ll get a signal. Let’s go back to where your bump was flickering.” Plathro said.

They both went back to the original place, where it first started to glow. This time was different. “Plathro, it’s not glowing anymore.” Maria said. They were too focused on finding Maria’s sister that they had lost thoughts about the Meranias coming towards them. Plathro still wonders about his family. They both stopped swimming and thought about where to swim next.

“Wait! Maria! It’s glowing again. Flickering still.” Plathro said.

“Yes! That means my sister is probably swimming near us. Maybe we should just stay still...right here. We probably have been swimming around too much causing us to get further to my sister.”

They both set still, looking around for any signs of Maria’s sister.

Out in a distance, they saw some object swimming closer to them in the sea. More and more was coming towards them.

“Umm..Maria.. I think we should go. It’s not safe here anymore. They’re coming.” Plathro said. Maria frowned and looks down at her flickering bump. “No. I am staying here. My bump is flickering less and less. I am staying here.” Plathro looked towards the Meranias coming towards them. “Maria, they’re getting closer and closer to us. It’s only for our own safety.” Plathro still advising her to go. “Maria! Behind you!” Plathro shouted out to the top of his miniature lungs. “Ahhhhh!” Maria, in pain as she was struck from behind by a Merania. “Maria! Swim away!.” Plathro shouted. Plathro tries sending out mixed signals from his antennas. It was too late. They were already too close. There was no point. A Merania sees Plathro doing some sort of alien cult, attacked Plathro. Plathro tried to gain back his conscious and swim towards Maria. Plathro saw a Merania coming towards Maria. They both race towards her, like the angel and the devil. “Maria! I’m coming!” Plathro said, trying to gain back his conscious. The Merania came first and gripped Maria by the neck. Plathro stopped and watched Maria suffers in pain. “Maria....” Plathro said softly, almost in silent. Plathro looked at the bump under Maria’s chest. Tears dripping down his alien scale face. “How?”

Maria still grasping for the sake of her life. She was in tears. “Look....” Maria said softly, pointing down at the Merania’s chest, still trying to escape the grips of the Merania’s hands around her neck. The Merania looked down to her chest, then at Maria’s. Her grip loosens. Maria’s tears mixed in with the sea water. Other Meranias suffocating, like a virus trying to escape from the body. Plathro watched the many beautiful mermaids in awe. More and more mermaids swam around Maria. Once Maria’s sister got back to her normal state. They both came together and tears of joy from both of the mermaids were strong enough to kill Suranian. The crystal, clear blue sea, full of mermaids. “It’s over, Mary. I’m here now. You’re here.” Maria said gracefully.  Maria’s sister was blessed to find her lost sister. “Your tears...your’s you.” Mary said while touching her face, smoothing out her cheeks from the tears.

“Oh I want you to meet somebody. He’s the one who has been helping me find you on this journey and of course running away from you guys...,” Maria said, “the Meranias.” Maria continued in a whisper in Maria’s ear. Plathro still there crying in tears of how joyful the reunion is. They both head over towards the crying alien. “Maria, this is Plathro.” Plathro was surprised at how beautiful Mary is. “Wow. You are guys are beautiful.” There lies a tale of a happy alien and two beautiful mermaids sister living in a vicious free world, the seaworld.

Living in Kepler but wanting Earth

It was 8 o clock. I should have asleep by now. Instead I chose to stay up and stare at my ceiling. I saw the shiny stickers of planets, dad put them on my ceiling to encourage my imagination. He said they are a part of something that is called the Milky Way Galaxy. It is probably very far from where we live since I had never heard of a place with that name in Kepler.

From a very young age, I remember my mom reading me stories about a place called Earth. She would say that Kepler is very different from Earth.

“Alec, did you know that Kepler is much closer to the sun than Earth and that it would take 20 years to go from Earth to Kepler.”

“No, mom I don’t know. I’ve never there remember, just heard about it from you.”

My father had never been to Earth either, since he grew up in Kepler.

I could hear my mom coming inside from the backyard.

“Alec?” I heard my mom call with a questioning voice from downstairs.

“He should be asleep by now.” My father replied, as he watched cosmos with my older brother, Ethan.

“Are you asleep yet?”

I did not reply. I just stayed quiet so she wouldn’t have to come upstairs to check.

“Alec?” She called again as her gentle footsteps came up the stairs.

I quickly covered myself with my blanket and pretended to be asleep as she began to open my door. I could feel her eyes staring at me from the foot of the door and knowing that I was not asleep.

“I know you are not asleep. You can’t fool me this time.”

I stayed still and didn't reply.

“Okay, fine if you're really asleep then I guess I will go back downstairs.” She closed the door.

I didn’t hear anything so I decided to come out from under my sheet. To my surprise, she was standing right next to my bed with her arms crossed. My mother had the face expression of a smile and smark combined together.

“So, I see, you’re not asleep. Alec, your five, you should be asleep by now.”

I started laughing because I knew my plan of staying up would not work anymore.

“I was thinking about when you told me the stories about Earth and all the cool things that happened out there.”

“Ah, yes the stories I told you many times about Earth. I’m guessing you want to hear another one”

I gave her a big smile and moved over so she could sit on my bed.

“Anything specific?” She asked.

I looked at the sticker of Earth on my ceiling. “Mom I know you grew up on Earth and that it must have been very fascinating for you. But you never told me why you came to Kepler or how you are connected to it. I do not know, you have always told me these stories so I kind of want to just see it for myself and know everything about it.”

“Well, then I guess its time to reintroduce your grandfather in to our lives.”

I listened carefully as my mother started to tell the story. I had a feeling that I would soon end up falling asleep, since I tend to do that when I hear stories like this.

My mother looked out my window into the dark night sky and began her story. “Your grandfather, was someone that studied the formation of things around Earth. He had always wanted to go to other planets, which was why he decided to looking into time machines or machines that could teleport you from one place to another. He would take me along to work and I would get to see the amazing picture of other planets like Earth or similar to it. I was never the child who was so well behaved like you. I would mess around my dads lab and find cool things to interact with. That curiosity of mine was good but it also got me into a big trouble. One day, I was walking around your grandfather’s lab when this beam of shiny light began to hit me in to the face. I looked around and saw that it was coming from a door that was slightly open. The perfect amount of sunlight was shining through it. I walked in and saw that there were these big machines. And then there was this one that looked a lot like a hamster ball with a chair inside. Remember I told you about hamsters and their toys”

She looked at me and I nodded in agreement. She continued.

“I looked around and saw a picture of outer space. On the image, something that looked like Earth was circled, labeled Kepler and its coordinates were written besides it. I didn’t know what to do so I decided to come back the next day to check it out. The next day, I left my dad a note saying that I had found out about Kepler and wanted to learn more. I went to the same room and inspected the machines a little more. I looked at the hamster thing really closely and then ended up walking in. As soon as I did I noticed everything turn on, I didn’t know or think that it was that touch sensitive. Inside, it had a huge keyboard and big screens. There were numbers on the screen, numbers that matched the numbers of Kepler's coordinate. There was also a chair, so I went and sat on it. I was startled when I heard a little voice greeting me with the words ‘greetings master’. I was  so frightened that my arm mistakenly hit a button. I had no clue what that button was for but then the machine started to move so I kind of figured that I activated something. Looking through its visible screen, I could see it was getting loose from the joints that it was originally tied to. I closed my eyes because I got scared and next thing I knew, I did not know if I was still on Earth or not.”

“So that must have been the first time you arrived to Kepler?” I asked curiously.

My mother was quick to respond. “Yes, at the time I did not know it was Kepler. I had thought maybe I just changed the screen of the machine but when I stepped outside I knew I was not on Earth. At first, I did not see any signs of living creatures or see anything that looked similar to my daily life on Earth. The place seemed to lack in water so I was getting very dehydrated. As days went by I become more weak. I ended up fainting one day. I woke up as I felt the touch of a wet substance on my lips. I opened my eyes and saw a floating leave that carried red liquid. I drank it and supposed that was their water. Around the leave was a shimmering figure that was very difficult to see. I looked closely and saw that shimmery figure had a face that looked a lot like the face of a male human. As years went by I became really close to him, although I could not see him completely, I liked the fact of having him near.”

I was began to get sleep but I still wanted to know more “How did grandpa feel? Did you know?” I asked.

My mothers face lost a little of its shine. “I never really found out how my father felt after I left. By now he had probably read the letter and is very upset with my actions. Who knows.”

My mother glanced over to the clock to see and the time, I glanced over after her and then looked back at her to smile about how late it had been.

“Mom, it’s about two hours past my bed time.”

“Yes, I know. This is what happens when you get me into story telling. Anyways, go to sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.”

My mom slowly walked out the room and closed the door behind her.

Five Years Ago On Earth:

For the past few years Alec’s grandfather had been working on a new plan that would allow him to send out a message to other plants, and hopefully he will get a message in return. The first planet on his list was Kepler since his daughter had gone there five years ago. He never thought his creation would lead his family into harm. He wished everyday for his daughter to be safe. He didn’t collaborated with anyone or told anyone, he did not want this message to get into the wrong hands.

It was the year 1995 on Earth. The grandfather knew it was time for him to finally sent out the message, to finds his missing daughter. He went to a lab that was in his basement, since that’s where he worked on his project so that it would remain hidden. The message is somewhat like a signal or sound wave that continuously echos and repeats the same thing. The message is “We are from Earth and we are looking to interact with other living creatures.

Fifteen years later on Kepler:

I was peacefully sleeping when I suddenly felt the touch of water on my forehead.  I quickly move from under the aim of the water. I saw that it was my younger sister trying to pour water all over me as I layed on my bed.

She looked at me with a huge smile on her face. “Wake up, Alec. Wake up. You are going to be late for your first day at the Laboratory.” She hopped on my bed and started jumping.

I smiled at her and said “You know that is so not true. With my speed I can never be late.” I got out of bed and walked into my dark bathroom. There I stared at myself, to see myself more clearly. All I saw was a shimmering figure I didn’t look like my mother or sister. They both seemed to be solid as I seemed to be in liquid form.

“ALEC!! Hurry up!” My mother yelled from downstair. “I don’t like rushing you everytime. Hurry...” Before she could get to her last word I was already standing in front of her, all ready to go.

“I love you, mom. See you, when I get home.” I said as I sped past her.

Once I got to the lab, I went to do some research about a messages being sent from one planet to another. My mom was recently telling me about a message being sent to outer space from a planet. She, herself, did some research to find out about how life may be on Earth and found out that my grandfather was the one that actually sent out the message, in search for her. I did some research and found out that a message or something to come to Kepler from Earth would take about 20 years.

The day went by pretty quick which was good because I went home right after. My mother was no where to be seen so I had to do a whole house search. I later found her in the basement near a Journal and a box. My mother looked up from the journal as I got closer.

“Oh, hey, I did not even hear or see you come in.” My mother said.

I nodded and looked every curiously at what she was doing. She was trying to cover up the journal because she saw me glancing over it.

“What’s that?” I asked as I placed my hand out to grab the book but instead she moved my hand and the book way. “Is it really that personal that I cannot know?” I went to grab a chair as my mother began to ponder the thought.

“Well, then I guess I could tell you since you are going to annoy me about it later on. In the journal are daily progress notes of my life on Kepler, everything that happens or has happened is written down in this book and my other journals. In the box is the key to where the machine is. I haven’t opened the box or even touched the key in ages. I wanted to come down now and look at it because I remember the conversation me and you had a few years ago about the machine that brought me here. I guess that you didn’t know that is was under our basement this whole time.”

I was shocked to hear that the machine had been in the basement this whole time and she was just now telling me, when I wanted to know everything about Earth and her childhood that night when I asked. She saw that I was upset about not knowing about this earlier. She tried to explain.

“I didn’t tell you this before or when you were younger, obviously because you were younger. I wanted to wait till you were older and till I found out about the message that was sent to outer space from Earth.”

“Mom, I would have really appreciate it if you told me earlier. I guess that dad already knew about this.”

“Well, yeah, he is your dad.”

I did not want to tell my mother that I was planing to use it and so I could go to Earth myself. My mother didn’t show me the machine so I decided to come back later to check it out.

It was ten o clock. By now everyone was already asleep. I could easily get away with things. I walked to the basement and got the key from the box and went to look around. I didn’t know what I was exactly looking for, instead that its big and looks like a hamster ball. I saw a picture of my sister on a shelf with nothing else on it, so I went to pick it up when suddenly the floor under me started to fall. It was as if I was in a box. On the side was a place that said insert key. I placed the key in and the wall in front of me opened half and there it was the machine was sitting right under our house and basement. I walked through the open doors of the machine and activated.

“Greetings Master.” said the voice.

It greeted me just like it had once greeted my mother. I saw many different buttons. There was a button that was labeled return. I had a feeling that, that would take me back to Earth so I went ahead and pressed it. The machine didn’t shake the ground like my mother had said. Around the machine everything became dark and then it became bright and everything turned off. I stepped out the machine thinking that I was still in Kepler but to my surprise I was not because the sky was much brighter and the water was not red but clear. I must have been on Earth. I started walked around but then ended up seeing two solid figures talking to eachother. I walked over towards them in curiosity but they didn’t seem to notice me. I figured they were just too busy talking to each other to notice me. I saw another group and walked up to them as well but nothing happened. I tried again and again no one said anything. I couldn’t understand what happened until, I got to a tall glass building and saw that I could barely see myself. I had forgotten that Kepler was much darker than Earth, which is why everyone could see each other much better. My mother never told me this would happen.

I was getting pretty hungry, so I had to find myself some food. I saw a place with many people sitting around and talking so I decided to walk in and hopefully find something. Nothing seemed like food I was familiar with. I decided to get anything and walked out. I never thought I would feel this much out of place. I guess this is how my mother felt when she arrived to Kepler. I decided to go back to the machine. At my arriving I saw something flashing on the screen, that said open. I pressed enter on the keyboard and the words “We are from Earth and we are looking to interact with other living creatures,” came from the machine. I figured that was the message that was sent out to outer space.

It would have been really interesting to meet my grandfather and say that his daughter is in good hand but what if he reacts to me and is completely frightened. Thinking of all the bad things that could happen made me think of going back to Kepler, a place where I would fit in without complication. I decided to go back and pretend as if nothing ever happened.

At my arrival my mom was surprised to find out that I went to Earth. However, she later understood when I explained everything. For most parts Earth was interesting but overall, I don’t think Earth is for me.

Revenge (or I Should Have Gone To Shul)

Ivan sat in bed, contemplating his options. A series of bad decisions had led him here. Apparently, Ivan realized, having big plans of getting work done on a Sunday night and actually getting work done on a Sunday night were two very different things. And now he had several options: stay up later and work on his device, stay up later and do work for his banking job, wake up early and do a combination of the two, or sleep now and sleep later and not get anything done. Ivan went with the last option, rationalizing to himself that he could get it all done the next day during work, as long as business was slow. And business was always slow.

Ivan worked at an independent bank. A real for-the-people operation. It prided itself on not giving out predatory loans and taking risks. The bank was not doing well. It has no name-recognition, and people would rather stuff their money right into fat cats’ pockets than trust a bank with no name-recognition. Who the hell had heard of a bank called Abernathy’s Treasure Chest? It was a clever name, a play on Thomas Abernathy, the famous 18th century English pirate who was rumored to have died trying to find a lost treasure chest. But who the hell had heard of Thomas Abernathy?

The next day, Ivan got no work done. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, it was that he couldn’t. Every time he faced his computer he wanted to throw up. Why was he wasting his time at a bank? I need to be working on my device, Ivan thought. With a sigh, he turned from his computer and pulled out the crossword puzzle he had been carrying around with him for the past few days. It was in that crossword puzzle that he saw it. He saw the answer to the “cute little side project” (as his coworkers liked to call it) that he had been working on for four years.

Ivan could not wait to get home. At work Greg Winters from accounting had ridiculed him for being excited about a science project. The 15 minute subway ride felt hours long. When he finally got to West 4th Street he shot out of the subway car and power walked to his apartment. 

“Hiya, Ivan! How’s it going?” said Aaron, his door man.

“Fine thanks.” 

“Another day another dollar, eh?”


“Hey listen, whaddya think of this new polish we’re using on the door? Look any shinier to you?”

“It’s glistening,” Ivan said and hurried past Aaron before he could ask any other questions.

He had done it. During a particularly dull day he had found the answer to a problem he had been working on for four years. He had spelled it out. Eight letters, going vertically down, starting with C.

Once inside his apartment Ivan sat at his desk and set to work. Chloride! All this time, how could he have not known. It was right in front of him. Chloride was the key. He got a beaker from the drawer and inserted in the tablespoon of chloride he had picked up from the lab after work. Ivan gingerly poured it into the opening in the device all too aware that if his hand was one millimeter too far to the left or if chloride was not the answer he would be set back years. 

Yes! It was working! He had done it. The name Ivan Kominsky would go down in history. His family in Romania would be proud to know they had not saved all their money to send him to New York for nothing. 

He picked up his device and placed it on his head, attaching the wires to his temples. He hummed and thought of the first person that came to his mind - his boss, Harold Marton. With any luck Ivan would soon be inside his boss’s dream.

White. It was all white. Every now and then there was a flash of dark blue, but maybe it from his eyelids when he blinked. White and hazy. 


Ivan turned, it was coming from his right. No, his left. No, it was circling around him. Coming closer. From the white haze emerged Mr. Marton, running, in a nightgown. “Eeeeeee!” The sound was coming from Mr. Marton. Ivan stared at his boss’s mouth, only it was closed. Mr. Marton stopped in front of him. The sound stopped. It seemed the screeching had been coming from his feet. A thought popped into Ivan’s head, were the feet and the mouth so different? Ivan’s head hurt. He spoke, “Mr. Marton, I am going to be late to work tomorrow, and you will not notice.” Ivan realized the words seemed to be streaming from his elbows. Or perhaps it was his belly button. Mr. Marton tilted his head back and opened his mouth. “Eeeee!” said his feet. 

Ivan woke up.

The next morning Ivan looked out the window of the subway car at the dark graffitied walls. How will Mr. Marton react to my lateness? If all had gone well last night he should have no problem with Ivan being late from now on. Ivan glanced at his watch. Five minutes. He was going to start with just being 5 minutes late. 

Ivan now stood, straddling the gap between the elevator and the eighth floor. His palms were sweaty and he was sure large unsightly pit stains were on their way. If this hadn’t worked, he could be in serious trouble. Mr. Marton did not play around when it came to punctuality. I should never have done this, Ivan thought. What would Bubbe and Zadye think if they learned I just threw my job away for yet another science project?

Ivan thought back to when he was a little boy, always doing science experiments. His father encouraged them, but his mother never wanted him to be spending his time running tests on bugs. His Bubbe and Zadye always said to their daughter, “Oy, Chava! That son of yours is a schlub!” And after his mother asked them to stop calling her by her childhood name (She was Hannah now) she made him stop so Bubbe and Zayde wouldn’t complain to her anymore. 

Only Ivan didn’t stop. When his family went to shul he would fake a stomachache and claim he couldn’t get out of bed. Once he was sure his family had left, he would leap out, get the treasure chest his Bubbe got him for his 4th birthday down from the back of the top shelf in his closet, open up his materials, and set to work. 

I should have just gone to shul with them, Ivan now thought. I should have never gotten into science. I just want to be a banker for the rest of my life. He squeezed his eyes, and counted to 3. I take it back. I take it back. I don’t want to go down in history.

“Ivan, are you alright?”

Ivan opened his eyes and realized he must have looked rather silly standing there. His boss was looking at him. 

“Yeah, just didn’t sleep very well last night,” Ivan mumbled. “I’m a little out of it.”

“That makes one of us!” said Mr. Marton, smiling. “I slept so deeply I woke up feeling excited to come to work! Imagine that! Now, I’m glad you’re on time because we have a lot to do today. Do you have those files I asked for?”

Ivan felt his insides flip over. 

Sitting at his desk Ivan thought the situation over. He used the breathing and counting exercises the flight attendant on the plane from Bucharest to New York had taught him so he would stop hyperventilating and disturbing the other passengers.

1..2..3… Inhale. I just invented a way to enter people’s dreams… 3...2...1… Exhale. I could use this...1...2…3…Inhale. I could take over the world.... 3...2...1… Exhale. No, I won’t do that, I’ll use it to help people...1..2..3... Inhale. I should get a patent on this as soon as possible….3..2..1.. Exhale. No, I can’t tell anyone….1..2..3… Inhale. I have power dictator’s could only dream of...3..2..1… Exhale.

Ivan decided it was best to play it safe, not let anyone know about his breakthrough. Turning on his computer he went to his email. Huh. That’s odd, Ivan thought. An email from an anonymous sender? With no sender, subject line, nor signature, it said: 

We know. 

Come to 881 West Stanley Ave. 13th floor. 

Tonight. Alone.  6 pm. Don’t be late. 

Ivan plugged “881 W. Stanley Ave” into Google. It was the headquarters of McOranges, the huge Fortune 500 fast food company. 

“Whatcha doin?” Ivan looked up to see Greg Winters from accounting hovering above his desk. Before Ivan could think of a response Greg had pushed him aside and was reading the email. 

“Whoa man,” said Greg. “You gotta go.”

“It’s probably some practical joke, I have better things to do tonight,” said Ivan, thinking maybe he should enter Greg’s dreams next and tell him to stay out of his business. 

“Whaddya think they mean by ‘we know.’ That’s a bit cryptic,” said Greg, scratching his leg with his foot.

Ivan wanted to take that foot and shove it somewhere. “The whole thing is cryptic,” he said trying not to roll his eyes. “It’s probably one of the guys from marketing.” 

“Sounds like an adventure to me, you’re gonna miss out! Anyway, what else is more important than a little adventure? It’s not like you got a girl to take out tonight or anything,” laughed Greg. 

“You don’t know that.”

“Yeah, right.” Greg poked Ivan’s side, laughed tauntingly, and walked away.

It was probably him, thought Ivan. 

Ivan took the bus home. He didn’t know what made him do it. Or rather he told himself he didn’t know what made him do it. He took the bus home because the bus route went past McOranges headquarters. I’m not going to do it. It would be stupid. It’s probably a practical joke. Ivan realized he had been mumbling this to himself when the woman in the pantsuit next to him gave him a dirty look and changed her seat. 

The note had said, “We know.” What could that mean? They couldn’t possibly know about his dream device, could they?

“West Stanley Avenue,” called out the bus driver. Ivan didn’t move a muscle. Then he did. He found himself pulling the cord for the stop, getting out, and walking up to 881. This is stupid, he thought. And yet, his feet still carried him to the front door and his hand opened it. Maybe it had been Greg’s comment about having a girl, maybe it had been that Ivan had been waiting for a moment like this since he had to hide his science experiments from his family, but something made him walk inside.

He took the elevator to the 13th floor and stepped out. Looking around he found himself to be in a fancy office waiting room. The walls were gray, except one which was all windows. It was filled with natural sunlight and there were plush chairs that looked more comfortable than some beds. A receptionist was sitting at a desk looking down. Ivan walked up to her. She had a fashionable blazer and straight shoulder length hair, a jet black color that couldn’t have been natural. Before he could say anything she looked up and said, “Follow me please.” Ivan was ready to leave right then and there, but this woman had a magnetic force, he found himself following her to a conference room. He walked in and she left. The door closed behind him.  

The room was similar to the waiting room, with comfortable looking chairs, only in this room three of the walls were entirely windows, giving a stunning view of the city. There were four men in business suits sitting at one end of the table. “Have a seat,” said the man second to the left with the bald spot on his head. What could he do? Ivan obeyed. The chairs were not as comfortable as they looked.

“Ivan Kominsky,” said the same man. He seemed to be in charge. “Let me introduce myself. I am Mr. Jobes, these are my associates. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kominsky.”

“A pleasure,” said Ivan.

Mr. Jobes grinned in a way that made him look like a lion about to kill a gazelle. “Let’s cut to the chase. We know about your dream device. Don’t worry about how, we are here to propose a deal. We want to bring you in on McOranges new advertising campaign.”

Ivan swallowed. “Why me?” He asked. Why not just buy it from me?”

“We all know that you built the device so only your DNA would activate it. We’d like to offer you a large commission for every 5 people, I mean customers, you tell about the potential of our fast food restaurants.”

Ivan understood what they meant. They wanted him to go into people’s dreams and tell them to buy McOranges food. 

“How much?” 

Mr. Jobes grinned again, wrote something on a slip of paper, and pushed it across the table to Ivan. Ivan looked at the paper and thought of his family in Romania. There were so many more Jews in New York, they would be much happier here. He could bring them here! They could live together in the land of the free. Ivan looked up and nodded.

Back at his apartment that night, Ivan put on the headgear for the dream device. He thought of his door man, Aaron, who had given him a friendly smile when he came in. Five people per commission. His first commission would be enough to bring his whole family to New York. He thought of Aaron, and plugged into his dream.

This time Ivan found himself in a green space that did not change when he blinked. There was less haze, more awareness. Aaron was sitting in a rocking chair a few yards in front of Ivan, smiling at him. Ivan walked up to him, “You want to buy McOranges food. Eating at McOranges is the best thing you can do.” Aaron just smiled and rocked.

Ivan woke up.

Ivan was waiting by baggage claim. He would see his family for the first time in five years in a few minutes. Ivan paced back and forth. They hadn’t exactly left things off at a good spot when he left Romania for New York. His family had saved up for years to be able to send one person to New York, and it was between Ivan and his younger brother Jacov. Jacov applied to Abernathy’s Treasure Chest; Ivan applied to Bank of Commerce. Jacov got in; Ivan did not. The day before Jacov was supposed to leave for New York, Ivan had cut the wire on his brothers bike that operated the break. Jacov crashed, snapped his leg, and got a concussion. Ivan went to New York in his place. Now he wondered if Jacov would snap his leg when he saw him.

“Ivan!” a voice cried to his left. “Ivan! Over here!” It was his father, waving his arms at him. 

Ivan needn’t have worried. His whole family surrounded him, pulling him into a big hug. Bubbe was fussing over his hair “Oy, what is this? You need a hair cut! I’ll do it for you when we get home.”

“Leave the boy alone, he’s a grown man, he can do what he wants with his hair,” said Zayde. 

“A grown man would know when he needs a haircut! This is not the haircut of a grown man!” replied Bubbe. 

His mother and sister Rachel cried and kissed him and his brother hugged him. “It’s good to see you,” said Jacov smiling.

Back at his apartment sitting around the table his mother turned to him, “So nu? What’s this job you have that made so much money you were able to bring us here all at once?”

“Yes! We’ve all been dying to know,” chimed Rachel.

Ivan hesitated. Then he told them about working on his dream device, finding chloride in the crossword puzzle, entering Mr. Marton’s dream, the note, and his deal with McOranges.

His family was silent for a long time. Finally his mother spoke, “So are you going to brainwash us next?” 

“What? No, of course not.”

“But you would do it to these innocent people?” said Zayde.

“It’s not like I’m doing something bad to them, I’m just advertising.” 

“In their dreams! Without their consent!” cried Rachel.

“I can’t believe you guys are reacting like this. I’m not brainwashing them. I’m making money! I brought you guys here!” 

“This is just like Ceaușescu!” said Bubbe. “It’s a dictatorship! McOranges is the dictator! This is not good for the Jews!”

“Bubbe, listen to yourself,” said Ivan. “This is America, we are free here! It’s different from Romania, and definitely different from communism, this is a democracy. I know you and Zayde lived through Ceaușescu, but this is America, you don’t need to worry about that here. It’s called a free market economy and I’m just working for the free market. Jacov, you know what I mean.” 

Jacov, who had been silent the whole time wouldn’t meet Ivan’s eyes. 

Ivan walked to work now. Since everyone he knew had begun eating McOranges, people had gained a lot of weight. Ivan didn’t want that to happen to him so he walked to work. Not that he actually ate McOranges, he would never. He saw what it did to people. After he entered their dreams and told them to they would eat the stuff for every meal. They would gorge themselves. Then they would throw up and gorge themselves again. It was becoming the most important thing to people.

That day, Ivan was on his way to quit his job at Abernathy’s Treasure Chest. He was making so much money doing dream advertising for McOranges that there was no reason for him to work at a bank anymore. Mr. Marton would be upset, he knew, but that couldn’t be helped. 

He walked into the office and knocked on Mr. Marton’s door. “Come in,” came the voice from inside. Mr. Marton was sitting behind his desk. Ivan flashed back to his meeting with McOranges. A nagging thought popped up You’re not doing the right thing. Ivan pushed the thought out of his mind. “Mr. Marton,” he began. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

“There’s something I need to tell you first, Ivan,” Mr. Marton interrupted. “This is a bit uncomfortable for me. I was in McOranges the other day, buying a gift card for my daughter. I had them email me the receipt. When they did, they accidently emailed me something else as well. It was an exchange between someone by the name of Mr. Jobes and one of his coworkers.”

Ivan swallowed hard.

“Ivan, I know everything,” continued Mr. Marton. “I know about the dream device. In fact, I know more than you do. And there’s something I need to tell you, something you don’t know. McOranges has been using you, and not just for your labor. This is hard for me to say.” Mr. Marton glanced out the window, and then continued, “It seems they have been pulling the strings your whole life. Since you were born, they were making sure your life went they way it did. They were the reason you were able to skip shul. They were the reason your family was lucky enough to be able to save up money to send you to New York. They are the reason why ‘chloride’ appeared in that crossword puzzle.”

Ivan was speechless. He tried to open his mouth but no words came out. He wondered if maybe his feet were screeching.

“You see, Ivan. McOranges knew how to build the dream device long ago. They just needed your DNA to activate it. So they made sure you invented the dream device, and gave you help along the way. They needed you to think you were acting on your own free will.

“What do I do?” said Ivan.


Ivan ran. Only he didn’t run away.  He ran past sick people, throwing up people. He rain past their vomit. He ran past the lines outside McOranges restaurants. He ran to 881 W. Stanley Avenue. He got to the 13th floor and walked past the fashionable receptionist to the room where he first got into this mess. He opened the door. 

His brother, Jacov, was sitting at the table where Ivan had sat a few months earlier. Across from Jacov were the four men.

“Ivan,” started Mr. Jobes. 

Ivan slowly raised his index finger, pointing at him.

“I see you have done some research. Ivan please, let’s not start this. We can all benefit from your new knowledge. You see, we have developed a way to let another person operate the dream device. We get to continue the operation and you get to feel good about yourself for quitting”

“How?” Ivan asked.

“A person similar in DNA.”

Ivan looked at his brother. 


The Sanctuary by Nia Hammond





Learn more at

Sometimes, the life you have and an ad like that is all it takes to give into it. Eight months ago, I saw that ad on my bus ride home. Despite the less-than-bold font, typical stock photo of a first world citizen in distress, and cheesy content, I was drawn to it. It could be my ticket out, I thought, and began to reach for my phone in my back pocket. Pulling up the browser on my phone, I punched in letter by letter the website I was eying on the ad across from me. What came up after hitting “Go” seemed like such a joke. Out of desperation, I played along.

* * *

It’s now day one seventy three of experimentation at the OHS—Opti-Human Sanctuary. In a week, everyone here will change units for the second time since our arrivals. I’m not sure I’m ready to move out of this unit though; I like it. In the Sleep Focus unit, the main thing to focus on is… well… sleep. The scientists here are pretty creative with names for these things, obviously. But, more specifically, in the sleep focus unit, we sleep how we’re supposed to. No fetal positions or burying your face in your pillow. Go to bed earlier and without distractions; wake up when you’re sleeping the lightest. The rules are only there to help you and the scientists. And the rest of the world, supposedly.

It does feel like it helps, though. Falling asleep is no longer like a hard task, and it’s not involuntary, either. They place you in a dark room, close to but far enough from others in the unit practicing the same concept. Your own bed is soft — not quite the sinking of memory foam but not the bouncing of a mattress full of springs. Once your body hits it, though, there is no way you’d want to get back up. There are no distractions. The bright screen of a phone or digital clock doesn’t exist in these rooms. If your eyes are open, you could think you’ve gone blind, because what you saw was identical to what you’d see if your eyes were closed. Every night of sleep felt like a peaceful, welcoming death and waking up to a whole new life.

Experiments like these make me wonder how normal people in the world outside OHS even got to function on such poor sleeping habits. I wish the rest of society prioritized their citizens’ health the way they prioritize the market, entertainment, and all the other unnecessary things we… or they, succumb to like sheep. But, if all goes well, and there’s enough evidence of humans in optimum condition, the world can gradually change into a society like this. Will they want to — that’s the real question.

Seeing as though I’m in the first batch of experiments, probably not. Or, maybe, the ads weren’t specific enough about what the goal was; they were very vague. Only those in search of an exit from their everyday lives — besides death — probably found their ways into this isolated place.

It was rough at the beginning. The day I saw the ad and got home, I did all the research I could find (which was scarce) on this OHS ad. Apparently, there were few ads of OHS that people saw and felt compelled to write about on the Internet or elsewhere for that matter. I dragged my finger across the trackpad of my laptop and clicked when the cursor got to “More Information” on the website from the ad. Less than two seconds later, a page full of more boring font from the ad appeared on my screen.

Through skimming, I assumed for myself the details: a group of scientists had the idea to begin a society with more reasonable aspects of an American’s everyday life to meet the actual criteria for how humans should be living.

“And that’s where we come in?” my friend Georgia asked over the phone the following day.

“Exactly. Also, since it’s an experiment with humans, there’s money involved, just like they do for like testing cosmetics and stuff,” I added.

“I don’t know about this, Des… You sure you’re okay with your life and everything now…?” The tone of Georgia’s voice seeped through the speakers into my mind with her unforgettable face that matched it.

“Georgia, I’m as fine as I’ll ever be. Please do this with me. Think about how amazing we’ll feel afterwards! It’ll be like studying abroad but coming back healthier instead of more culturized, yeah? What have—”

“Yeah, what have we got to lose, right? How much of that website did you read anyway?” she asked.

I shrugged my shoulders, and realizing Georgia couldn’t see that, I said, “Enough of it.”

“Oh, enough? All the fine print that probably binds you to the project for even after your year of being at that sanctuary, the absence of insurance of your own life at that place.. You’re allowing yourself to be their test rat! How do you even know if they’re real scientists? I mean, Odessa, do what you want, but just know this is how I feel about it. I don’t think you can count me in this one.”

“Oh, alright… I’ll let you know if I get to go in a few days, I guess, then,” I said, and we hung up.

Two weeks after I’d sent out my application for the program, I received a letter in the mail with more specific instruction, which sounded more and more like a voluntary kidnapping — we met the scientists at a place that isn’t very busy, they gave you a codename and either you got in their van or you didn’t. From within the van, you couldn’t see where you were going unless you were a passenger up front. The look on the staff member next to me’s face was crumpled into itself, looking just as disappointed as I felt.

“I guess it’s going to be a long ride then,” I say out loud, turning to face him. He caught my glare but didn’t maneuver towards me until I smiled politely. His face was still a little twisted — eyebrows furrowed and lips in a tight line and cheeks approaching the color of tomatoes. Maybe I wasn’t the only one nervous for this trip.

“Well, yes,” he finally replied, “about six hours according to our driver.”

“Whoa,” I said, truthfully. “Where is this sanctuary supposed to be anyway?”

He paused to glance at another worker who nodded, and then said, “It’s located in a small city not far from Boston.”

Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Oh cool…”

We didn’t speak again until everyone boarded off the van. Outside of it, the sun was high in the sky, with some clouds behind and around it, and we were all standing on concrete outside of a tall, fortress-like wall that went on for what seemed like miles in both directions.

Before we could go any further towards the fortress, the workers instructed us to line up against the walls with our belongings while we waited for other vans to pull into the lot, one by one.

“Welcome to the Opti-Human Sanctuary, everyone,” a woman’s voice from a megaphone said when most vans had arrived. My eyes wandered around the crowd to find the source of this voice.

She continued, “You will all be spending at least a year here, and we’ve broken up that year into different units in which you’ll study and practice different ways of living — the right ways of living. We still want you to be as free as this experiment can allow you. Once we get inside, we can match up your applications with the scientists you’ll be working with in your first unit.” The only noise you could hear besides her voice was that of her heels hitting the ground in a slow, saunter-like pattern. The megaphone sounded as she lowered it from her mouth and to her side, and, by her heels, I could distinguish her from the rest.

The woman had a short stature, her cherry red pumps raising her a good four inches off the ground. On the left side of her blouse was a nametag — I couldn’t make out the full name, but I think the first word had said “Dr.”

* * *

The worker from the van showed me to my living space after registration. The world behind the fortress wall seemed like a new one entirely — even on the other side of the wall the air somehow felt cleaner and crisper; every breath I took was a deep one, as the scientists asked that we’d do if it wasn’t too difficult for the first day. Hundreds of other people in the experiment seemed very on edge, so maybe that was it. We had no reason to be nervous, though.

The worker led me into a plain room with a closet, bed, and small but tall desk with a lamp atop. The chair was missing. I looked at his shirt for a name tag like the other woman had. “Where’s your nametag?” I asked.

“You’re quite the curious one, aren’t you?” he answered, smiling.

“You must be feeling better than you did on your way here, huh?”

“Oh, yeah. It was my first time outside of the wall for quite a while, and this time we brought back live experiments. Many people don’t know what this means to our team,” he said. “I’m Doctor Ren Sewell.”

The title “Doctor” took me aback, and he chuckled lightly after seeing my eyebrows and eyes raise at the term.

“For fun, I dressed as a worker to help with the rest of the team in getting our first bold batch of future opti-humans. How does it make you feel that you’re starting history by being a part of this?”

“Well, I never looked at it like that… I just needed this to get away from my life at home for a while, or maybe longer… I’m Odessa… um… Colton. People call me Des for short.” I offered my hand, which Dr. Sewell took in a firm grasp before letting his own fall back to his side.

“So, they’ve instructed me to tell you that your first unit of focus is exercise and other physical practices. Not everyone is starting at the same unit. In a few months, we’ll be rotating the experiments around,” he said, and I nodded, looking him in the eye. “The goal for everyone in this unit is to gradually adjust to practical everyday human things the way they’re supposed to be done. For example, sitting for less than three hours a day can add about two years to your lifespan. Some have linked excessive sitting to cancer, diabetes, and heart problems for the future. Watching the television while sitting adds even more to that…” He trailed off for a few seconds, as if he were pondering something in his own life that related to that. “We’ve already been sitting in that van for more than six, so I suggest you get up and move around or something. Exercising is a larger part of this unit, as you can tell.”

I slowly rose to my feet. My bottom did feel a little sore from such a long ride. “You guys’ll let us know more stuff as we go along, right? It’s a lot to take in at this very moment,” I said.

“Oh yeah, of course. We try not to put much stress or pressure into the subjects — it has potential to alter the results. But, there are ideas you should try to keep up on. And finally, here’s a little map of the sanctuary for you, just so you can get around. It’s great for this unit, because instead of sitting they can walk around, explore, and meet other people.” He walked over to the tall desk and opened a drawer, bringing the map out, which was folded in three parts like a brochure.

Dr. Sewell opened the brochure briefly, glanced at inside the cover, and stretched his arm out to hand it to me. “Thanks,” I said, taking hold of it.

“No problem. So I’ll just leave you to it, and I hope you enjoy yourself and live better. Listen out for announcements on the overhead.” He pointed towards the ceiling before stepping out of my room, closing the door behind him.

For the next several weeks, I spent less and less time sitting and more time doing all things else. I mostly explored the new grounds, which probably went on for miles in all directions. It really was a “sanctuary.” By exploration, I found a massive gym where many of my unit members went daily, even if they weren’t going to work out. Also, I noticed there were even children and their parents in the society, and wondered how the kid felt about living differently from all his peers from before.

My first friend in the Sanctuary besides Dr. Sewell was named Nat; who came from the food unit part every other day to use the gym facilities as scientists suggested for him. Whenever we weren’t focusing on our units during weekdays, Nat and I would talk about our lives before OHS.

“I lived in Cali, going to school for acting,” he’d told me one day.

“So is that you or a character you’ve played before?”

“No no, it’s the real me. I was going to school for a reason, Des,” Nat said, “I can’t act!”

“You wanted to be an actor that bad? My parents would have made me become a lawyer or something before sending me to school for something I knew little about. You Cali kids…” I snickered playfully.

“Oh yeah, us. But what about you? Where are you from?” he asked me.

“I’m from good ‘ol Philly, just outside of it. Decided against going to college.” My eyes wandered towards the ground in between where we were standing.

“Oh really?” he said, reaching out to lift my chin with his hand. “Why is that?” he asked.

I shifted before saying, “I dunno, man, school just wasn’t my thing. It drove me crazy trying to do well, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand another four years of that in college.”

“Ah I see, so what do you do instead?” Nat asked, still interested.

“I’m kind of a job hopper, but I normally work for a firm and do wedding photography on the side,” I answered. “It’s really not all that interesting…”

No matter what day it was, we still never got tired of each other’s stories. We also had a little trouble making friends besides each other as it was — maybe it was that we didn’t want any more friends.

* * *

After the rotation from the physical health unit, I moved into the sleep unit, which, thankfully, Nat was also a part of. We could spend more time exploring and practicing not sitting for that long, even though that wasn’t my focus anymore. After exercising all the time and taking big day adventures all the time, I felt like sleep was a good way to level all that out, even though I would probably be doing mostly the same things.

The scientists said that depending on the medical history provided, the sequence of units you’re placed in should build on each other. Like I’d already said before, the sleep unit was the better of the two units I’d already experienced. With a week left to spare, however, I spent more time focusing my unit, which the scientists in charge of it didn’t seem to mind. Dr. Sewell stayed in the physical focus unit, but we still saw each other around the sanctuary from time to time, talking if he wasn’t in a hurry to get somewhere, like yesterday.

“Scientists are always a little busier around the rotation period. We have to think about who’s going where and how they might cope with the new environment and how it’ll build on their old one,” he said.

“I’ll never understand how you guys can do all this, it must be so much work and dedication to the outcome of this project.”

“Well, yes, it is difficult at times, but we all look forward to the results of the experiment. Those are the main motivations for all of us, I’d like to think,” he said.

We were sitting at one of the few park benches. You’d think that by now everyone would get sick of trying to stand more often, but I guess it was really just me being lazy that day. I cast my gaze on the tree above us, rubbing my eyes sleepily. It was only midday.

“How are things over at that physical focus unit?” I asked, opening my mouth to yawn. “Excuse me,” I murmured, covering my mouth.

“Things are going smoothly, you know? People here are getting more used to the practices here, which is great — they’re adjusting faster than what we’d predicted. Maybe this batch of experiments is just a motivated one, you all,” Sewell said, placing his hands on his knees.

Just as I was about to throw out another conversation topic, a watch on his wrist beeped a few times, pulling him back into his regular duties as a scientist. “Well, Des, I gotta run now, but we’ll talk more after rotation!” We both stood — I felt like my three hours for the day was almost over anyway — and we headed in opposite directions. He went towards the main scientist headquarters, while I headed for the gym to try to lift my sudden tiredness.

There, of course, I ran into Nat, who was speaking to another girl he must’ve known from his first unit. Seeing me, Nat sprang up farther into his feet, for he was already standing. His eyes glowed with excitement while mine remained neutral. Nonetheless, I smiled because I was glad to see him.

“This is Des,” Nat told the other girl. Turning and gesturing towards her, he said, “And Des, this Elle, like the French for ‘girl.’” Elle giggled, bringing her hand up to her mouth.

“Nice to meet you, Des,” she said, extending the same hand to shake mine, which I took.

“Same to you, Elle,” I replied, curtseying and holding out my imaginary skirt while doing so.

“What unit are you part of?” she asked.

“The sleep focus unit, have you already been in it?”

“No, I’m in the psychological focus unit, and I was in the food one before with Nat,” she said.

“Well, it’s amazing. You’ll never sleep better in your life!”

“I agree with that,” Nat added.

“Oh yeah? I hope that’ll be my unit then next cycle,” she said.

“Well, we have two more days to find out,” said Nat.

“What’s this whole psychological focus unit? I haven’t heard much about it,” I asked Elle.

“The scientists said it was an experiment within the experiment. It’s kind of hard to explain. There’s just a lot of exercises for keeping your brain and emotions manageable, especially if you’ve had a rough time in the past. It’s like therapy without all the talking. You get the knowledge, and help yourself however you want. They also want you to work on how you interact with others so that everyone can be a little more decent to each other in the future, if this project is ever extended to the rest of the world, you know?” she said.

I could only stare as I tried to make sense of what Elle said in my head. By the twisted look on my face, she said, “Well, I guess you don’t. It’s really cool, though. My favorite of the two units I’ve been in so far. It just helps create lots of peace within yourself, which was something I needed.”

Nat glanced at me at this, and getting bored with the conversation, said, “You guys wanna go for a jog? I feel like I want to be outdoors right now.”

We agreed and ran our regular route around the sanctuary, taking in all the sights of this internal group working their ways up to being opti-human.

That night would be my last in the sleep focus unit, so Nat and I decided to head on back to the sleep unit building after grabbing a bite to eat with Elle at the food unit and walking her back to the psychological unit.

Outside the sleeping room, Nat and I stood against the wall talking for a bit.

“What are we gonna do next rotation? We probably won’t be together again,” Nat said.

“Well, we weren’t together the very first unit, and we still met each other then. We’ll always be around each other,” I said, trying to comfort his seemingly petty worries.

“I guess you’re right,” he said, stretching his arms to the ceiling. “Ya bruh’s gotta sleep now, Des. I’ll see you in the morning,” Nat patted my head and walked past me into the dark room.

“Enjoy your last amazing sleep,” I called after him. I stood for a minute, and followed his trails into the room but into my own bed.

* * *

Hands were all over. A groping, followed by a flash of light to the face. It was so blindingly bright that I couldn’t open them long enough to know what was happening. I felt like a bat in a cave. It wasn’t just me that felt hands all over, but everyone in the sleep unit. Murmurs everywhere. The figures that moved around were probably scientists, I assumed. Though nothing like this ever happened before, I could only think of them as a reasonable explanation for all the madness.

“Everyone, we’re sorry for disrupting your sleep, but please exit the building and stand outside until further notice. Let’s make this easy, now,” a voice from the overhead said.

I did as he said, groggily trudging out of the unit building and into the dim light cast by the night sky. Nat found me within minutes.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” he asked me.

“No, not at all… I was looking for Dr. Sewell to see if he had anything to do with it,” I answered him, feeling the heaviness of my own foggy breath leave my mouth.

More and more people were pouring out of the units while Nat and I watched. Whispers around us were all mentioning something about the psychological focus unit, and I could not for the life of me guess what was going on. Thankfully, Dr. Sewell, who was standing by a light pole, caught my eye. I grabbed Nat’s hand and dragged him over to where Sewell was.

“What’s going on?!” I said.

“They’re all saying that someone has escaped the sanctuary.”

“Escaped? Why would anyone ever want to escape?”

Nat, Sewell, and I all exchanged eye contact.

“Do you know who it was?” Nat asked Dr. Sewell.

“A woman from the psychological health unit. I believe her name is Elle something.”

“Wait, our Elle, Nat? Are there any other Elles in that unit?”

Nat sighed before answering, “I guess it was her… I had no idea she planned on trying to leave the place,” he trailed off.

“So you knew about this?” Dr. Sewell raised one eyebrow at Nat.

“Look, I suspected something was up with her. She puts on a happy front around everyone else, and is probably acting like the psychological focus unit is helping her. Truth be told, from the things she’s said to me, Elle seems far from healthy.”

“In what sense do you mean ‘far from healthy’?”

“Just generally unhealthy. She talks about how sad and angry she gets at herself all the time, and how there was no hope for her. I don’t think I’ll ever grasp what made her feel that way, but I’m guessing it was a problem before she came here.”

“Do you have any idea of where she might go if she’s left the grounds?” Dr. Sewell asked him.

“She always said she’d wanted to go to Canada one day,” Nat replied.

“Alright. Thanks for your help, Nat. I have to be getting back to work now, they’ll need a search team for her pretty soon I bet.” Sewell glanced at both of us before disappearing into the crowd.

After that night, though, Nat and I never saw or heard from Elle again. I hoped the best for her, wherever she was. What Nat said about Elle and her mental health hit me personally. Even though I’d only known her for a few hours, I reasoned that we had more in common with each other than what we originally saw. What if she came to OHS for an escape just like me? But, if it was so good for her why did she run away? My questions would never be answered.

* * *

The next rotation unit I was placed in was the food unit, so Nat and I weren’t together as often. Without him, though, I would think about what to do after the experimenting year was over. Maybe Elle left because she figured everything out. Or, maybe, she needed to fix something. I imagined her taking it to heart with the directions “learn your brain and then fix yourself how you’d like to.” I found that no matter what time of day, my thoughts always seemed to stray back to her. I was just so curious. It also inspired me to do what I thought Elle might have done by leaving the opti-human sanctuary.

Day in and day out, I would plan things out in my head — while eating, exercising, even before I slept I thought about my old life. The days and nights of it were long and complicated. My work in the firm was miserable and lifeless. I relied on my wedding photography to lift my spirits, but no one getting hitched wanted Odessa to take their pictures. My best friend, Georgia seemed to agree with me less and I still hadn’t talked much to my mother and father since graduating high school a year and a half ago. Because of where I lived, I was constantly reminded of it, too. OHS was the perfect way out. Throughout the second half of my stay at the sanctuary, I grew more and more conscious of my responsibilities as a growing human — not only my physical health and lifespan, but my life around others.

* * *

The final rotation: Nat and I were together once again, for the psychological focus unit. Elle was right about everything they taught. What made me feel better was that I was already figuring things out for myself before the brain lessons. Nat heard about my plans too, while we were on a jog one afternoon close to the end of the year there.

“Give me all you’ve got, girl,” he said.

“You’ll be so proud to hear all this.”

“Go go go, I’m listening.” Nat gently ran into my side.

“Alright, so, I’m staying away from Philly. It’s home, but it’s a reminder of all the complicated things. I’ll quit my job at the firm. As for my parents, I think I need to say something to them. It’s ridiculous not to talk to your own family just because of the choices you make,” I said.

“Completely agreeing with ya.”

“I’ll expand my wedding photography business, too, and move somewhere people marry more,” I continued, stopping jogging to tie my shoe. Nat slowed down next to me.

“Wonderful. You, Miss Colton, have gotten your life together. There’s just one thing you’ve forgotten about.”

“And what is that?” I smirked at him and raised my eyebrows, waiting for an answer.

“Your destination. But I have an idea for that.”

“Go on…”

“Room with me. We can keep each other in check.”

Surprisingly, the idea had never crossed my mind.

“But… I thought you were in college. Don’t you live in a dorm?”

“Comfortable apartment, with a spare room, actually,” Nat replied.

“Oh my god, Nat, you don’t know what this means to me! Thank you so much.” After I finished tying my shoes, I stood up and threw my arms around his shoulders. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you,” I said into his shoulder.

“Nah, thank you! I prefer company besides by own, and you’re an incredible person, Des. I need to keep you around, you know?” We pulled away from each other.

“So it’s decided,” I said. “When the year is over, we’ll opt to leave the sanctuary and deal with our lives head-on. Two weeks.”

“We can stay healthy too, I’m way too used to this lifestyle anyway. I’ll find a compromise. We’ll compromise,” Nat said, nodding his head.

That was that, and we were set in stone.

* * *

For me, it was the right choice I made. I’m happier and healthier, one of hundreds of anticipated opti-humans in processing.

The Flame Inside

“Wake up Remy you have to go to school.” I awaken, rub the crust out of my eyes, and do my early morning stretching. What’s the point, I think to myself as I ponder about going through another year of high school.

“Wake up!” my mother yells. My mother urging me out so that she may call her suitors over. She pretends to care about my education; I know what she really wants. Some early morning loving.

“I’m up Ma! Calm down.”

I go into the bathroom and scrub the filth from my body, then put on my Levi Jeans and army fatigue shirt for the first day of a new year. I walk downstairs to see my mother laying on the recliner, drinking what seems to be her fourth beer of the day while empty cans crumple under my feet on the way out the house.

“See ya ma. I’m going to school.”

School was never really for me, it’s not that I didn’t understand the material or I had bully problems. It just all seems pointless. I know I have a bigger meaning, a bigger purpose in this sick world we live in. I know I’ll change the world, for the good of mankind I don’t really know yet. But for now I have first period science class.

In class my teacher Mr. Bentz introduces and urges the class to pay attention so they we may strive. Right from hearing this I go to sleep until the bell rings signaling the end of class. I rise quickly and dart out the room.

“Give me your lunch money.”

“No, please.”

“I said give me your lunch money before I whoop your ass.”

“Ahh, help me. Help!”

I run to the screams, that lead me to a dark hallway with faint lights flickering in the distance. I see the bullies taking advantage of this poor kid. I don’t know if I should help him or not.This isn’t my problem after all. The bullies and I make eye contact for a split second before I decide to walk away to my next class.

Now in PE I can clear my mind of my mother, bullies, and whatever’s to come. I decide to hit the weights and work on my arms. I pick up the 30 pound dumbbells, to begin my sets.

“One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eig...,” said Remy.

“Yo, did you rat on me?”

“Nine, Ten.”

“I said, did you rat on me!”

I look up to see the bully towering over me with his fists clenched. His friend is behind him like some sort of body-guard. Trouble always seems to find me.

“No I didn’t say a word to anyone. Now let me finish my sets,” said Remy.

“I don’t believe you, now stand up and fight me like a man,” the bull replied.

Damn, I didn’t want to get into any kind of trouble the first day. But since he was asking for trouble, I had no choice. I stand up nice and slow and put the weights away. Before he knows it my fist slams into the bullies face. Crack. He drops hard to the ground rubbing his nose. He signals the rest of his friends for help. At least seven more stocky teens run towards me. Damn, I know I’m in trouble. I turn and run for the doors. I sprint through the hallways trying to find an escape or some type of hiding spot. I see a pair of doors in the distance that I go towards. As I went to open the doors they wouldn’t barge open. I turn around looking for another way out only to see the 8 bullies staring me down.

“You don’t want to do this. Just let me go. We can pretend it never happened,” I say, as I try to reason with them. My words don’t phase them, for they continue giving me evil blank stares. They charge me and slam me to the wall. They begin to punch and stomp on me aiming to crush and bruise my ribs and head.

“Now this is what you get bitch,” says the lead bully.

“Yeah dumb ass,” says another.

Blow after blow, I fade a bit more thinking of what my father would do in his troubled times. Half conscious, I begin to feel a sensation as my heart begins to pump faster and faster. What are they doing to me? My skin begins to tremble and vibrate and my body begins to steam ever so slightly. The bullies stop pounding me and back away a couple of feet. I caress my face only to feel massive bruises and a stream of blood flowing from my head on the green grid printed school floors.

“Ahhhhh”, steam begins to rise from my whole body. I stand up and look towards the bullies.

“What have you done to me, help me”, I plead out.

I look in their leader’s eyes and see fear, as he signals the crew to slowly back away. Suddenly my hands go ablaze. My eyes widen as my hands are on fire but I feel no burn. I’m not hurt. The fire consumes my body and heals my wounds. The bullies run away screaming.

“Fire! Fire! Fire!”

I step towards them, leaving a burning trail behind me. One of them pulls the fire alarm, the cold water puts the flames out. From the fire alarm I get dizzy and pass out.  

Opening my eyes, I see a white light dangling from above my head. I lift my head urging myself to get up but it’s a struggle as my body is completely in pain. I manage to lift myself up, but my head is still in circles. I lift my head up and notice I’m in the principle's office. I see my mother in near distance speaking to him. My head is in so much pain that I’m seeing in my mother in doubles. It takes a while but my senses start to come too. Damn, what the hell happened?! Once my mother and principle Philips see that I’m awake, they signal me to come sit in the empty chair that is beside my mother. I walk slowly to the chair, as I have no clue of what’s to come. My heart pounds and pounds, it feels like it may  pound right out my chest. As I sit down I stay I stay silent, waiting for them to reprimand me. The principal glares at me, while my mother wipes the sweat from her clammy palms and slightly shakes as she looks at me.

I look towards the principle, “What seems to be the problem?” I ask.

“You, my boy, are in deep shit. It seems you like to start fires. You’ve picked up some bad traits from your father and just like him you’ll eventually end up in jail. Just like him, you like to burn shit up.” says Principal Philip.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t start any fires. It just sorta hap ... happened. I’m telling the truth.” I was trying to plead my case as best as I could without knowing the true facts myself.

“I have witnesses that say you started a fire, so since you are clearly lying I ought to kick you out of the school. But since your mother has convinced me otherwise” he continued, smirking in my mothers direction, “you’ll just spend a week in detention.”

“That’s not fair, I haven’t done anything.”

“Not fair?! I should send your little arsonist ass to jail. You should be grateful you’re only getting detention. But for now I’m sending you home with your mother. You’ve started enough trouble for the day.”

As I walk to my mother’s old BMW three series, I think about what principle Philips said to me about my father. I’ve never known my father but apparently he seems to be an expert. Maybe now my mother will finally talk to me about my father. The rusted material on the door squeaks as I open it. I sit on brown ripped pleather seats. My mom gets into the car and we drive off. From the look in her face she doesn’t seem angry but she begins to sweat every time she looks my way. What’s on her mind? Does it have something to do with my father? Is the expense too much to handle?”

“Mom, I know there’s no true way to try to explain myself, but you have to believe it wasn’t intentional and I’ll do whatever I can to help pay off the damages.”

“No, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. It’s about your father and fire and well we’ll talk about it when we get home.” I see my mother’s face begin to drip in sweat like she’s made a big mistake or something. I’m sorta relieved though; I finally get to know about my father. She’s kept him a secret from me for so long I had almost forgotten he existed. It’s a long drive home in the car driving on the dirt desert road. While getting out the car, we rush in the house as we see a pack of wild coyotes in the distance hungry for meat. We manage to make it inside without them noticing. My mother and I sit down in the 2 recliners. She looks and messes with her own hands.

“Do you want a glass of lemonade?” she asked.

“No, I’m fine.”

“I’m going to get you a glass of Lemonade.” I can tell my mother is really stalling and trying to stray away from this talk. This is driving my patience to another level. I wait 15 minutes without her return. I then clench my fists. Bam! I bang on the table, causing it to crack at the core. I feel a stream of blood flowing down my hand before noticing my hands steam again like before. Oh no, I’m starting to feel that special sensation. What’s happening to me? Just before my hands combust into flames, my mother rushes to my side and pours ice water on my hands.

“That was a close call!”

“So you know what’s happening to me. You know what I’m going through.” I look into her eyes trying to find an answer. My hands are sore from the liquid relief. I search my pockets for some Advil.

“You have to learn to control your emotions. Your fire capabilities are directly linked somehow. Your father couldn’t handle that task. That’s why he’s dead now.” My heart drops; even though I never knew my father, I’d always imagined that we would meet up someday, that I would have the chance to meet this notorious man. But I guess I won’t be able to.

“How’d my father die... who was he? Did he use his powers for the greater good or for the downfall of mankind?” Questions of curiosity fill my head as I strive to learn about the lost stories of my father. I know he must have been a great man, regardless of what my mother will tell me, I just know it.

“Slow your roll Remy?, Calm down,” my mother said.I relax myself, sitting up in the seat and eager to learn about him.

“It’s a long story, starting on August 6, 1945 in the town of Hiroshima,” my mother began.

“That date sounds familiar.”

“The date should sound familiar, or all of Arizona’s public school teaching is a complete failure. It’s the time America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima killing over 135,000 people.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I can smell the beer on her breath as she tells me the story. I can’t really tell if she’s being sincere or if she’s on a drunken rant. For now, I’m going to decide that whatever she says is the truth. Maybe she’s finally telling the truth after years of lying and deception.

She continues, “Your great grandfather was a refugee there when the bomb hit the town. He was one of the lucky ones who didn’t die instantly from the blast. But, unknowingly, he had been affected with radiation poisoning that wound up killing him years later, after he had kids. Something happened to your grandfather before his death though. He was changed... Somehow, the radiation from the bomb changed his genes and DNA strands. Every other person affected by the radiation lost eyes, hair, or at the most grew extra fingers or toes. But, no, your great grandfather was special. The radiation gave him fire powers.”

“Fire powers?”

“Yes. Your great grandfather, grandfather, and father were all wonderful men before they discovered their capabilities. The fire took control of them, and they couldn’t control their emotions or capabilities. Before they knew it, the ones they loved were in danger. I thought, prayed, wished that this vile curse would end, and that it would skip over your bloodline, but it didn’t. Tears roll down from her face.

“Don’t worry, mom, I’m not like my father or his father before him. I’ll control my capabilities.”

“I don’t want to take that chance, so from now on I’m keeping you home until I can trust that you can control your emotions. Don’t try to plead, either. This is very serious and I don’t want you burning your classmates to a crisp when one of them steps on your shoe.” Even though I didn’t agree with her decision, I would have to accept it. From now on, my main thought would be control. I did research on being calm and watched a lot of superhero cartoons to get tips. I’m not going to lie I watched about 100 cartoons to 1 stress relief video. I was trying to find if any heroes in the cartoon world went through a similar dilemma, to find out if superheroes go through this a lot? I needed to practice using my powers on command. First, I went out back and set up a shooting range, basically a bunch of cans and bottles lined up that my mom didn’t need anymore. I needed to use the energy inside on command, and not by anger. I focused long and hard on my hands hoping they would come ablaze but never did. What was it? Why couldn’t I control my powers. I thought back to the comics and cartoons and didn’t really remember any tips on control but they were the goal I had set. I wanted to be one of them, to be a hero, someone that the public could look to for safety, someone my ancestors could be proud of. From this my ambition to be great helped me focus to where I created the sensation all on my own and before I knew it my hands had combusted into flames. I was still fascinated how my hands were engulfed yet I felt no pain. I managed to spread the flames to covering my arms and eventually the rest of my body. I can’t lie, the power felt good, real good. I take my powers into play as a shoot down the targets with ease, I’m a natural.

My mother just came from work was standing silently at the door observing me. “Just like your father.” she said. I  then looked in her direction, she looked scared as if she’d seen monster. I didn’t want to make her cry so I relaxed my body to shut my powers down.

That night before falling asleep, I thought of a plan that would make my mother proud of me, just like the heroes in the comics. She’s never told me she loved me or that I was special to her. We never had a real connection, I was determined to change that, I would make her want to praise me as a son. I then practiced my capabilities non stop until they were under my control. I was so good that I could light a candle from a mile away.

After a practice session outside in the back of my house, my mother approaches me with some lemonade.

“I’ve seen you’ve done a lot of practice on controlling your powers,” she says.

“Yea ma, I think I’m ready to go back to school now.” She puts the lemonade down and gets serious in her tone.

“I’m not to sure of that though, see you’ve managed to control your powers, which I congratulate you on but yet to have control over your emotions.

“But aren’t they same thing since they are so called “linked” together.”

“This is the same thing your father thought before the fire took over his body and pushed him to his breaking point.”

“I’m not my FATHER! I will never be like that clown, he’s not me, he couldn’t do what I can do. I am all powerful.” My head and body light into a flame uncontrollably.

“AHHHH” I scream and shoot fireballs into the air, it feels like my body is being taken over.

Coyotes from all around see the flames in the distance and come rushing towards us, damn. It’s hard to concentrate, it feels like my head is exploding. These coyotes aren’t scared of my flames but instead attack with no let-up, I guess they were hungry. At least 20 blood driven, red eyed, coyotes with sharp fangs and tearing claws charge towards me. The pain from the overpowering flame is causing me to see in doubles, I don’t know what wolf is real compared to the fakes. Trying to fight the coyotes off and protect the family is a tough task, but I have to get through it for the survival of the family. Before I know it, I focus on my goal of being a hero again and i’m able to control my abilities a bit more. I see 2 charging coyotes, I quickly burn them in a flash. More coyotes come to the fight to where my mother and I was getting shredded alive. I had no choice and unleashed my flame, causing my flame to spread turning all the coyotes into ash. I had done it, saved the day. Afterwards we went into the house to rest from the epic battle. Going through the fight in my head, I realized if I were ready I would of handled that situation a lot better instead of killing off a whole pack of coyotes. Good guys don’t kill and I did it effortlessly.  I couldn’t let my mother know of the concern that I had with my abilities so I pretend that everything it Ok.

“Mom I told you, I’m ready for the real world I clearly had things under control.”

“Oh but you hadn’t, it’s your fault that we were in that predicament in the first place.” Surely enough she had realized the same thing I had. As hard as it was I didn’t want to believe it but she was right. I caused all that fight, unintentionally but caused an unnecessary fight. I put my head down and mope to my room. I known know that these powers aren’t a gift, aren’t a way for me to do something great, but a curse like my mother said. She was right about everything, I would follow the footsteps of my dad and grandfathers. Even though wanting to be good, wanting to be a hero, I’m not destined for that sort of greatness. Rethinking my plans on what i’d do now with my life is a hard thing to do. I can’t go back to school because I might burn it down which wouldn’t be a bad idea. Theres no point in training anymore since controlling my powers are pointless, the flame inside of me is uncontrollable, it’s energy is pure evil which I can’t overcome. My mother is scared of me and hates me because of the monster I am.

Later on I hear a ruckus downstairs, I walk half way downstairs to see my mother and about 10 men in police uniforms. Knowing my mother, she must of did something.

“Mom what’s happening.” She doesn’t reply at first but points towards me so that the officers may get a clear view of me. There’s faces don’t look to pleasant.

“What seems to be the problem officers?” Again at first no response but they start to move in my direction. I’m sweating through my shirt and my hands begin to steam.

“Son, we have to take you into custody. Your mother has informed me that your a serial arsonist that has no sympathy for human life.”

“No that’s not true, I swear.” My body begins to steam a bit more. I didn’t want to combust and to prove my mother right, so with all my strength I held back the flame inside. The officers then reach for their pistols.

“What are you doing?” I look towards my mother, trying to urge her that this isn’t the way, that I didn’t want to die.  

“Just do it already, KILL HIM, KILL THE FIRE BOY!” said my mother. My heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach after hearing those vile words. I then knew that I wasn’t the monster, I wasn’t the demon, she was. She was the bad mother who never showed me any type of love or affection. She would rather be with her boyfriends than her own son. She couldn’t believe in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. She brought me this low level of self-confidence. She just wanted me out of her life.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots hit me clear in the chest, as I fall to my death a single tear rolls down my face, only ever wanting to be loved.


My dad was never home. He was either at work figuring out how to create a cure for all disease that sea creatures could have or at the bar down on Lambert St. When I did see him, it wasn’t something that I looked forward to. He also would nag me about cleaning my room or keep a B average in school. Every since mom left, he never really showed me any type of positive attention. It went from,

“Hey Jenny, you need anything?”


“Hey Jenny, how was school?”


“I never see you doing shit, get your lazy ass up and do some homework.”

This made me wish that  he was the one to go instead of my mom.  My mom had left us roughly 3 years ago. She never really told me why. I remember about a year ago receiving a postcard from Hawaii that simply said,

“Hey Jenny it’s mom. I’m doing much better. The people out here are so wonderful and I found a new man  that showers me with gifts and pays me all the attention that I need. I think I might marry him. Toodles!”

I guess she was receiving the cold shoulder from my dad that I am now receiving. I mean, my mom was never really there either. She was too busy tying belts around her arm to find that perfect vane to eject herself with drugs that she never really gave me the time of day. However, I would prefer a lifeless body laying on the couch for 3 days straight, then a mad scientist that gives me his ass to kiss as if I had done something to him. But hey, I couldn’t exchange the piece of shit parents that God left me with.

I was in my room painting when my dad knocked twice and came in,

"Get up Jen, you're going with me today."

"Going where?"

"Stop asking me questions, and get washed. Meet me in the car in 20 minutes." He walked out my room and slammed the door

The ride to the lab was much different from the last time. The old crumpled buildings were replaced with tall apartment buildings, so tall that when I tilted my head back to see the top of the building, it hurt my neck if I stared too long. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the lab and about another 20 for us to sign in.

The first time I came here I was probably about 5 years old. I know thats too young to remember a lot of things 10 years later but I don't remember going through these procedures.

In order to be allowed in the Lab, I had to get my finger scanned to make sure I was a United States citizen. A nurse wearing a all white jumper then dug a 6 inch needle in the side of my arm that felt like it was sucking the life out of me. She then took what seem to be a pint of my blood and squirted it into a tube. The tube turned a bright yellow and a bright green "A" ran across the screen that the tube was connected to . The giant double doors sled open and my dad and I walked through.

"What was that tube, and why did it glow up?" I asked

"Its to make sure that you weren't ill because if you were, you would not be allowed in the Lab. And if you were ill, The tube would turn blue, and the darker the blue the higher your level of of contamination  would be. In some cases the nurse would have to.. Never mind"

I didn't ask anymore questions. I knew that if I did, my dad would stare at me so hard he would burn 2 holes on the side of my head.

We walked down about 20 different hallways before we got to to the room marked “ML Testing 213”. If anything, this was the only thing that I remembered the last time I was here. I knew that once these doors opened I would be greeted with the most beautiful sea creatures god could have ever created.   

As we walked through the doors, I noticed something was very different. The room was quiet and deem. There were tall black drapes that started at the top of the ceiling and dropped down 2 inches before the ground. I reached for a string that seemed to be the key that opened the drapes when I felt my dad yank my shoulder and stare at me blankly.

“Jen, I promise you, what you remember being here is no longer here. “

What do you mean, aren’t there still fish?”

“There are, but they are much different, much much different.”

“Im sure its not that bad.” I reacher for the string.

My dad grabbed my arm again and with a stern look he said, “I warned you.”

I snatched away from him and pulled the string as quickly as possible. When The drapes were completely open, my eyes grew wide and I stepped back.

The fish were still here however like my dad said they were much different. So different that I could not take my eyes off of them even though I wanted to. Some had double heads with 8 eyes, others had tentacles growing out of the place where there eyes would be and others were covered in brown bumps that oozed orange every time the inhaled the mud brown water they lived in.

“Why? What happened?”

“They are sick, I have been trying to cure them for about 4 years now. But every time I dump a different cure in the water it has created a different mutation.”

“You did this to them?” still staring at the tank.

“Not exactly. They were already ill internally. “

“So  what are you going to do?” turning to look at him.

“I have made another potion that I believe is the answer. The answer to every single  disease that aquatic life could ever have. All I need you to do is go get it out of the closet.” he pointed near the door.

I walked over to the closet. There was a keypad on the door meaning that it needed a code.  Unconsciously, I typed in my birthday and the red light that glowed so brightly turned green. I reached into the closet. There was a tube that was similar to the one the nurse squirted my blood in, the only difference was that it was much larger and inside the tube wasn’t liquid. There were little fish the size of a quarter that swam back in forth so fast that I didn’t even know what they were until I stared for about 30 seconds.

“Come on, Jen, Bring them to me,”

“What are they?”

“I will dump them into the tank. This is the cure.” he grabbed the tube from me and stared at the tube as if he was amazed by what he was seeing “Help me.” he shouted to me as he tried to climb the ladder to the top of the tank where there was an opening for food.

“They are called Micro Aqafinic bots. Once I drop them into  the tank, they will swim in the heads of the fish,” he continued up the ladder, “they will than arrange the fish brain cells so they can send a steroid like substance to the fishes white blood cells. This will than make the fishes white blood cells strong enough to kill any disease that tries to enter the body of the fis....”

Before he could finish his words, we both were on the floor. The ladder had snapped into two and fell from the side of the tank. The  top to the tube was across the floor and the bots were everywhere. I looked to my left and I noticed that my dad was laying on the floor lifeless.

“Dad !.” I tried to get up and move to his body but something was holding me back. I felt a stinging pain on the bottom of my right leg. I pulled my pants leg up and one of the bots were crawling up my leg. It had broke my skin and was making it’s way to my brain.

“Ahhhhhh!” I screamed “Dad! Help me! Help me ! I cant get it out.”

But there was no response. I was too focused on how I would get the bot out my leg that I didn’t notice the pool of blood around my fathers head until  it was too late. I clawed at my skin but it would not stop crawling. I felt it maneuvering through all  the blood vessels and ligaments that were once placed so neatly in the muscles of my hip now being torn to shreds. My side, my shoulder and then my ear, the bot had finally reached its destination. I dug at my ear but there was no turning around. The bot had made its way in my ear and before I knew it my head had hit the floor and everything became a blur.

“Dad..” I said in a faint whisper reaching towards his direction and then the room fell black.  

I was awaken to a room filled with big white lights. I attempted to hold my head up but there were wires that ran from my forehead to a machine that would not allow me to do so.

“What is this? Where am I?” I attempted to yank the wires out of my head but they would not budge.

“Get these off of me ! ”I screamed so loud it made my throat hurt. I heard the clicking of heels as the ran to my bed side. Within 20 seconds, there were about 5 nurses wearing white jumpers standing over top of me. They all took turns looking at me and by the glow of their eyes, I knew they saw something that surprised them.

“What? What is it?”

but no one responded.

I looked to my right side where the machine was placed that feed the wires to my head to see if there was a way for me to detach the wires but I found something different . The machine contained  a blank screen which made it possible for me to see my reflection. Well, the reflection of what I was becoming. I reached to touch my face in disbelief of what I was seeing.

There was green slime falling from my eye socket and the soft skin on  my checks were replaced with rock hard scales. I tried to get up but the place where my feet once were was replaced with webbed feet. I fell back in disbelief. I heard as the monitor that I was connected to beep in an extremely fast past. Everything became a blur again, but I saw as the nurses put on gloves and started hitting buttons on the monitor. The room fell black and all I could hear were high heels clicking as they scattered to and from my bed side..

One yelled, “We have to operate!”

When I opened my eyes, I was back to normal. The scales were gone and my beautiful soft skin was finally replaced. I looked back at the monitor and watched as my soft black hair fell over my face. I wiggled my toes to make sure that those too had changed back and they did.  The wires were still connected to my head but they were much longer now and I was able to get up.

There were big glass windows but I couldn’t see what was on the other side. I remember this room when I was younger. This is where they would bring the test subjects so they could inject them with their latest creations. But I was no longer someone who observed a test getting ran on a species. I was the one getting tested. I looked around the room and noticed a white jacket with a black collar like my dad wore to work.

“Dad?” I thought “Where’d my dad?”

There was a thin remote next to my bed that had a woman silhouette on the side.

I clicked the orange button and in about 1 minute a nurse was at my side.

“Where is my dad? Why am I in here? I want my fucking dad right now!”

“Please Please just calm down.”

“I want my dad! Let me the hell out now!” I screamed.I hit her in the side and she flew across the room I had never been this angry before. My chest was beating so fast that I could see the print through my shirt. My face began to turn read and hot. When I went to wipe away what I thought was tears, I found the same orange slime as before.

the nurse got up and pressed a big red button on the side of the wall. A loud alarm went off that made me grab my and rage built inside of me. The webbed feet and the scales returned but not just on my face and feet, they were everywhere. I jumped up and the wires did not detach from  my head. I yanked them so hard that they finally came off with about 21 scales flew off of my face.

“Ahhhhhhh!” I screamed  and fell to my knees. I reached for the spots on my head where I expected the scales to be missing from. But just that quick they were replaced with new ones.

I saw the knob on the door twist and I knew that I had to hide but it was too late. The nurse I had hit across the room had regained her strength and was making her way towards me. I jumped up and grabbed her by the mouth and pulled her behind the door.  In barged a man wearing all black with some sort of gun in his hand.  I grabbed a serigen  that I saw on the table that was next to door the door and walked slowly from behind the door with the serigen  pointed towards her neck.

“ Let me out of here, and if you try anything I will plunge this needle so far into her neck you won't be able to get it out.”

“Calm down please, we will not hurt you. We are here to make you better. Please just let her go and let us take care of you.” the man said.

I could not bring myself to let her go. I saw as the man reached out towards me and before I knew it the serigen  was no longer in my hand but hanging from the nurse’s neck. Blood gushed everywhere.The man dressed in all black  plunged on the floor to catch her before she fell and by the time he touched her lifeless body I had slid past and made my way for the door.

I ran faster than I ever did before. I did not know where I was at but I knew I had to get to water quick because as I ran my hand on my scaly face, it  felt dry. Everything felt dry. It was so hard for me to breath the point where I was panting and fell to the floor every 10 steps as I was running. My mind could not think of  anything else but water.

The alarm was still going off and I heard footsteps running behind me.

“Stop her! Someone stop her !” a distant voice shouted.

I had came across a room at the end of the hallway that read “Releasing 23”. This was the first door I saw that did not have a lock so without hesitation I barged in. In the room was as flight of steps that looked as if it lead to heaven. I had no other choice but to climb, I was extremely clueless as to where the stair cases leaded.

When I finally got to the top of the staircase, there was a big glass window with a door in the middle. Behind the window, it seemed to be an ocean.

“Water!” I thought, and without hesitation, I reached for the doorknob. As  my hand touched the doorknob, a shock ran through my body that made me fall to the floor. My body was stunted and it was extremely hard for me to get up. Before I knew it, bars that looked like they belonged to a cage began to rise from the floor. I grabbed on to the bars in an attempt to get up but just like the door knob, a shock was sent through my body.

“A trap.” I thought, but it was too late for me to do anything about it. I still has not reached the water that my body so desperately needed and on top of that I was being electrocuted.

While I was laying there, I noticed that the alarm went off. I laid on the floor lifeless.

About 2 hours went pass when I heard a buzz noise indicating that someone had entered the room. I laid there stiffly as I heard the screeching sound of heels clicking up the steps.

“Jenn..” a male voice said to me softly, “Jenn, look at me. We are here to help you.”

The voice was so familiar. But I knew it was no way possible for it to be who I thought it . I did not have enough energy for me to turn around and see who it was. My eyes were so dry that they would not open no matter what.

“Jenn, turn around Jenn. Im going to help you, I just need to know that you are not going to hurt anyone else.”

I Felt someone stroke the tear away from my face and continued speaking

“Jenn, I’m so sorry I am the reason this is happening to you.”

I could not believe it. It was so hard for me to open my eyes but when I did, I was blessed with the presence of my father. He looked health and unharmed.

“I thought you were dead,” I bursted out in cries, “Daddy, I’m so scared. Please let me out of here, I want to go home.”

“We will, but it will take some time. I have to sedate you so we can operate. just stick your arm through the bar.”

“Okay,” a tear rolled down my face, “Just promise me you won’t leave me here dad promise.”

“I promise, Jenn.”

I stuck my  arm through the bar and I watched as my dad stick a 6 inch needle through my scales. I drifted off slowly and before I was completely asleep, I noticed one of the nurse who came up with my dad pull out a remote, point it to my father, and click a button and just like that he was gone.

I couldn’t scream. The liquid that the hologram of my father injected into me made me extremely weak and just like before, my head fell smack to the ground and the room fell black.

When I woke up, I was in a room that looked like a one room apartment, it had everything I ever needed for the rest of my life. I scanned the room, and I noticed, that this is where they planned to have me for the rest of my life because there wasn’t a door insight. Next to the bed was a huge tank, big enough to fit about 4 adult whales.

This reminded me of the fact that I was now  a subject in their experiments and I grew angry.  I kicked the tank constantly. I picked up any and everything that I could see and threw it at the tank.

“Stop it subject 453 before we have to shock you!” a loud voice ran through my room.

I didn’t pay it any attention. I picked up heavier and harder things which created long cracks through the tank, the voice  grew stern,

“This is the last time. Subject 453 stop it now!”

I screamed to the top of my lungs and began to bang at the side of the tank. I heard a buzz noise like before that indicated someone was coming in but there was no door. The top of my  ceiling began to rise and down fell 3 black boxes. There were wires that flew out the boxes and connected to every part of my body. Before I could react my body was already shaking outrageously and there was nothing I could do about it. I fell to the floor and orange slime ran out my eye socket. A bright white light lit up the room and I laid there lifeless.

“Im done please just turn off the light”

I realized that my life would never be the same. I was going to be stuck on this hell hole until I died and there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck in the body of an unknown creature and I had no choice but to donate my body to science.

Adventure To The Surface Of The Earth

Chapter 1:

I don’t know how I got here, living under water, but i know I want to explore above the water.

“What else is out there?” I asked my parents when I was younger.

“Nothing. Everything is down here.” They would always reply.

But if that’s true, then why are we the only people who lie down here? Not even animals are under water with us. My parents never talked about it, but I knew that they have been to earth before, they just did not want to tell me, knowing I would get curious and want to leave to explore whats above us. I knew they were lying to me, but never really cared and wanted to pursue my thoughts until I got older.

Before Thomas was born, when his parents were still living on earth, their neighbors figured out that they had gills on their bodies and that they were not humans. His parents decided to escape and start a new life under water before their neighbors exposed them to the world.

That’s when it really hit me: my teenage years. Being a teenager, one would want to go out and have fun with their friends, but me, I had no friends. My friends were literally my parents. Everyday I would wake up, clean the house, and cook dinner. My parents didn’t have jobs. They just sat outside the house all day and read books. They left me in the house all day everyday to think about how I was going to get to the top of the surface. And so, I began to think of a master plan.

Knowing that my parents know where I’m at, every single second of the day, I need to come up with an elaborate plan that would trick my parents into thinking that I was doing what I normally do while I make my way up to the surface to discover what is up there. I knew this plan would take time, so I started as soon as possible. First I took a few pieces of paper from my dads office to map out my ideas on how I’m going to get to the top of the surface. I figured that I would need to come up with a plan to get my parents to stay in the house for a good ten minutes while I make my way up to the surface. I knew this wouldn’t be easy and I had no help but I was confident that I could accomplish discovering what is up there.

Chapter 2:

I knew that this would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be this hard. My parents basically lived outside. From the crack of dawn, until it was time to eat dinner and go to bed while I stay in doing the work they don’t want to do. So there it was, I then figured out that the only time I could make my way to the surface was when they were sleep. I needed to also plan out how long I planned on being up there? Maybe just before my parents wake up, then I can come back down I thought to myself. What if I get caught? I don’t want to spend the rest of my life stuck inside a house. The night drifted on as I started to second guess my plans on going above the surface. It all started to turn into a bad idea in my head. But I couldn’t go much longer without knowing what is up there. Without knowing there could be a better life for me above the surface. More opportunities for me that my parents never took advantage of maybe. I have to do this. Theres no backing out now, I have to do this for my self. I repeated these words in my head everyday day and night until I was ready to leave home for the first time.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Chapter 3:

Today is the day. The day I’m gonna go explore outside of home. I figured that I would leave about 2 hours after I knew that my parents were actually sleep, like sound asleep and nothing could wake them up. I chose to leave out my window, I had tested it out earlier: if it made a lot of noise when I opened it and it made a little, but not enough to wake my parents out of their sleep. My supplies bag was light, but there was so much more that I wanted to bring with me. Even though I don’t get out much, I found ways over the years to keep sane. There aren’t any opportunities here, and so there is no reason for me to stay. Yet, I don’t know the world outside of these waters. But if I am ever going to do something with my life, I have to try.

Slowly, I raised my bedroom window. The rust from the window left a slight residue on my hands. Quickly, I wiped it on my shirt and kept pushing upward. Peeking my head out of the window, I could see the top of the water. A beautiful full moon guided my trail, as I swam as fast as my body would allow. The thrill of the water rushing across my body was so oddly familiar, and I have missed it greatly. The moonlight was perfect enough to keep me on the path to the top. Suddenly, I sensed something along my path. From the looks of it, a great white shark was headed near me. My mother once warned me of their relentlessness, so I immediately panicked. There was no turning back now, but I was its prey. Gripping my back sack close to me, I tried to shoot up to the top of the water. It was the only sure way to throw off the shark.

My timing was too slow for the shark, and it inched closer to me the more I panicked. I wish I could just disappear that very moment. Forget getting to shore, I just don’t want to die. If it bites me, I will be the next full course meal. I felt its nose graze on my foot.

Chapter 4:

What is this place called? It’s nothing that I expected it to be. What is this stuff that ‘Im breathing? As I catch my breath for the first time I’m distorted. I stubble over into the sand thats all around me. I look up and see big buildings, bright flashing lights and loud people. Well I guess there people. They resemble my parents a little, but they’re using their feet to get around. Underwater, we get around by swimming. I thought to myself.. I wonder if these things know how to swim. I hesitantly move a little bit forward, not sure where I was going but I was trying to get used to how people get around out here. I see a long wood made elevated surface that people are walking along. They often stop at these house looking things but with things inside of it such as clothes and shoes that everyone could see. So I decided I should go over there and see.                                         As I start to move, I feel this sharp pain in my foot. I had stepped on something sharp in the sand. I stop and try to make out what it was. It was dark outside still so I decided to pull out my flashlight and point it on the bottom of my foot to see what it is. It appeared to be some type of shell. It took me a while to get this thing out of my foot, and when did a read watery substance was leaking from it. I was in so much pain, I feel into the sand and held my foot for a while. I started to get tired so I thought I would just go back home, I knew that I could come back another time to discover this place even more in depth. Drifting off into sleep, I woke up and it was bright outside. My heart raced as I thought about how much trouble i would get in when I returned home. But then, I saw someone. A woman running along the beach. She was running towards me, and I knew she was looking at me, but not looking in a normal way.

Chapter 5:

It appears as though she was running towards me, and every second that she got closer, I knew she was coming to say something to me. I tried to avoid her and act like everything was ok. But I still had a pain in my foot. She stopped me to figure out if I was ok and did I need any help. I was startled. I didn’t know what to say. I never had a conversation with anyone other than my parents.

“Hello, are you ok?” She said again.

I replied with a “yes”, but it seems that somehow she knew I was lying. She seemed to be so concerned with me, that I let my guard down and told her that I had something stuck in my foot and could not get it out. I told her that I was in so much pain and could barely walk. She took me in as if I was her own child. She pulled out a kit full of band aids and alcohol to treat my foot.

“Where are you from? You live around here?” She had asked.

“I’m from out of town, I was just visiting a few friends.”

Knowing I have never had a friend in my life. I had told her I didn’t know where they lived nor did I know how to get in contact with them.

“So how are you going to get back home?” She replied in a concerned tone.

“My parents are coming to get me in a couple of days I think.”

“You could stay with me, well you could stay in my garage if you want to. I wouldn’t want you sleeping out here on the beach.”

“Thanks, but I know my friends are looking for me and I think it would be best if I stay here.”

“Ok. I hope your foot gets better.”                                                                                            

I thanked her for all of her help as she started her run back up the beach. Is everybody up here as nice as she is I thought to myself. Maybe I should take her generosity, at this point I think that I really need it considering I have no idea what I’m doing up here. Maybe she could show me around. Basically she could give me a tour of this foreign place. She had not run that far away so I decided to call her back, but I didn’t even catch her name. I managed to get her to turn around by yelling “hey.”

Chapter 6:

She turned around in shock, stood there for a couple seconds then made her way back to me. I think staying in your garage would be a good idea I told her. I do not have anywhere to stay now that I think about it. She looked at me and smiled. I’d be glad to have you stay with me until your parents come to pick you up.

“Want to go grab something to eat?”

I shook my head yes, not knowing what the food up here was like. Underwater, we ate fish that were swimming in the surrounding area. We go to that long thing made of wood were all of those house looking things were.

“Lets go into this store, I really love this shirt.”

I followed right behind her, scared of what was going to happen next. But I discovered what these house looking things were. They were called stores. I was looked at strange by everyone in the store, like I was an alien or something. I knew that I didn’t fit in, so I tried to act like they were. I began to look around the store, pick things up, then put them back down. Thats what everyone else was doing. We leave this store and go to another. But this one was way different.    

They didn’t have clothes in this store, they had what appeared to be things that people up here eat. Surprisingly they had what appeared to be fish. It was kind of brown and crunchy but it still tasted like it. She had got a salad, which back at home was seaweed. Up here, she told me that it was called lettuce, which was a vegetable and that it was good for their bodies. So I decided to try some. After we ate, we made our way to her home. It was kind of a long ways to go, but my excitement overcame me feeling tired.

Chapter 7:

I know that I should go back home, but I’m torn. We arrive at her home. This feeling of excitement, but scared at the same time, we walk through her door. She shows me around her house, then shows me where I’ll be staying for the next couple of days. I figured I would only stay for the night but a feeling came over me. I was torn between staying here to figuring out more and going back home, knowing my parents were worried sick about me. Wasn’t this the point of me leaving home? To experience what else is out there? I’m starting to feel like maybe I wasn’t ready to leave the nest. A couple more years at home with my parents wouldn’t hurt me. Then I thought, when I return home, I’ll probably be in so much trouble, I’ll be there for a long long time. She came to check on me only one time that night. But I knew inside that she was becoming a friend. My first friend and I must admit, it felt great to have someone that cares about you; other than my parents. I never had to make such a hard decision in my life before. I knew that I would eventually go back under water, but whether or not it would be anytime soon was what stuck in my head back and forth for the entire night.  I only got about 2 to 3 hours of sleep, waking up to the sound of her walking down the steps and opening the garage door. “Good morning” she said enthusiastically as I slowly opened my eyes. I yawed and told her Good morning back.

“Want to go for a run with me this morning, get some exercise?” What the heck is a run I questioned in my head. That thing she was doing yesterday when I first met her maybe? Whatever it was, I decided to go along with her. Why not learn more new things.

Chapter 8:

Unaware, His gills seeped into his skin overnight and that meant that he couldn’t go back into the water. His gills had suddenly disappeared from being up above the surface of water for a long time. I got up, got dressed and waited for her to come back to tell me she was ready to go for this “run”. Remember, try to fit in with everyone else. Do not stand out too much I told myself. I don’t want anyone to notice anything weird about me. She came down stairs with this strange attire I had never seen. Maybe I was the one who was dressed strange for this. I didn’t have to proper clothes so I guess this will just have to make do I said to myself.

“Are you ready?”

“Ready as I can ever be” I said. She opens up the garage door and the bright light from the sun blinds me. I’m not used to this type of sun. of course I can see it from under water, but the impact it had up here was a million times different.

“We’re going to run to the beach and back ok?”

“Ok.” I replied.

Little did I know that was about a mile, which I was not capable of doing, I barely knew how to walk and now I have to run, great. We started our run and she wasted no time getting there. She was so far ahead of me I would lose her once a crowd of people appeared. I could see the long thing that was built with wood. I knew we were close to where I entered this place, she was closer than I though.

Chapter 9:

We reached the beach. Now we started running on the sand. Excused from running, I decided to swim in the ocean at the beach while she continues her run. Little did she know i was trying to go back under water with my parents, but when I hit the water, I could no longer breathe under it. Did I come adapted to breathe up here now? I started to suffocate, and once again she came to my rescue.

“What happened! Are you ok? Why would you ever get into the water if you do not know how to swim?”

“What?” That you can just magically breathe underwater without holding your breath or something?” She said in a tone of voice I have never heard from her before. She sounded really upset with me. I think I should tell her what I really am, where I really come from and why I’m here. I could risk getting into more trouble than I imaged, what if she thought I was crazy and reported me to the police? I have so many reasons why I shouldn’t tell her about the real me, but I also have one good reason why I should. She’s my friend. My only friend. Listen, I’m not what you think I am, or what you portray me to be. I come from under the sea. That’s where I live. I came up here to discover something new. I was tired of being stuck in the house everyday and wanted to really just find myself and mature. This adventure didn’t turn out the way I thought. I thought that I would be back home by now and had got enough experience that if I wanted to, I could come up here again. But now its like, I don’t even want to leave. I’ve learned so not only much about this place, but about myself and what it’s like to have a friend. I can even prove it to you. Still, she doesn’t say a word. He lifts up his shirt to prove to her that he can breathe under water. When he lifts up his shirt, he expects her to see gills, but it was the complete opposite.

Chapter 10:

She sees that he doesn’t have gills. Theres nothing but skin in place of where his gills should be. He looks like a liar to her, but he begs her to stay, because he can’t explain what happened. I need your help more than ever he pleads to her. Can you trust me? I’m telling you the truth. My home is underwater I made everything up. I was not staying with my friends and got lost. I came up here to discover new things. I wanted to experience something new. My parents never let me outside. We’re the only people who live down there. I never had any friends, ever. Please don’t leave me. How will I return home? “You're crazy!” She screamed at me

“Are you insane?”

“No I am not! I’m telling you truth, why can’t you just believe me?”

“How am I supposed to believe you?”

“But I thought we were friends. Aren’t friends supposed to trust each other?”

“I mean we are, but this is just crazy. How am I supposed to believe that you’re really from under water?”

“Because you just have to believe me. That’s what friends do.”

“Im sorry, I just can’t.. nice to meet you.”

“Please, you have to help me find my parents.”

The Year 2050

“Louis! Get downstairs. Breakfast is ready!” said my mom.

As I was rubbing my eyes trying to find the courage to get out of bed, I couldn’t help but want to stay asleep. To keep my mom quiet, I found the strength to flip over, push the covers ff, and trudge downstairs to the kitchen.

“Eat breakfast and get ready for school.”

I nodded my head in a reply and ate my cereal. Another damn day at school. I powered back up the stairs, put on a white tee shirt, brushed my teeth, and walked out the front door.

“And please .. do NOT be home after dark,” said my mom; giving me that stern look she does every morning after she says this statement; in hopes that I don’t forget.


I don’t blame her though. You see, living in Huttson; which is right outside of Pennsylvania, wasn’t the safest place in the world. It definitely was the cheapest. The population was quite big and that’s because owning any home around here was under $30,000. Things have changed since the early 2000’s. It was  2050 and they all said life would get better as the world continued to evolve, as technology advanced, and blah blah blah. But no one was safe and no where was paradise.

In Huttson, it washighly recommended by every parent, teacher, priest, mayor, and even news reporters that you were supposed to be in your house before dark. Because if not, you just might be in trouble.

There was a group of members; no one knew their names, faces, or where they’re from. So, we gave them a name ourselves - the Hunters. There were six of them. They just simply showed up and attacked. And it happened every night after dark. Some people simply couldn’t help but be home after dark. Families worked late jobs, kids left parties. It was all up to chance whether or not you would make it home safely. When your mom used to warn you about the scary monsters under your bed; that’s what this was like.

So far my mother and I haven’t encountered interactions with the hunters and we don’t plan on it. I hung out with my friends for two hours after school, then I’d go straight home. And since it was just my mom and I, her shift at the local hospital ended at 5 o’clock. However, it was tough on the weekends. It was hard for my mom and I to make night plans because we were simply too scared to take the chance of trying to go home after dark - we were all we got.

The aftermath of these incidents wasn’t what Huttson was afraid of. It was just the actual experience. Because in Huttson, the aftermath of someone getting hurt, the wounds, the scrapes, the damage, didn’t concern us. Each house in Huttson was supplied with a first aid kit.

No, not the kind on television or the one that your school nurse pulls out of her drawer when you scraped your knee. In the kit was a spray bottled called “Mend-On”. The spray heals all wounds or illnesses, like the ones you go to your school nurse for. Or, the ones that you were faced with when you're faced with the Hunters after dark.

The spray contained cells that mend on to the person’s wound to redevelop the skin that damaged. The cells were from healthy skin from those who get paid to donate some of their skin cells. There was a big laboratory in Huttson that used the skin cells that were donated to produce even more cells, to create the spray.

Now you can see why the population was so big here and why it stays that way. No one dies. We all live pretty plain, simple lives. Which was why we were afraid with being faced with the adrenaline of dying from the Hunters; even though we knew we were covered.


I finally got to school and met Liza at her locker. She was the only one at Huttson High School who has been face to face with the Hunters. I’ll never forget the story: It was my 14th birthday and we had a party dinner at my house. Her parents were both working so they couldn’t pick her up. And she only lived around the corner. So she borrowed my bike and went home. It was 8:30 at night. No one was outside which made her even more scared. As she was pedaling, she turned her back to see if anyone was behind her. She was cleared. As soon as she turned her head, the Hunters jumped out and attacked her. They broke the bike and broke her arm. This was before Mend-On came to Huttson.

I forgot to mention - Huttson doesn’t have any hospitalization since Mend-On was produced. As I told you before, my mom worked at the local hospital; in other words - she was working there to pack up her things and find a new job since all of the hospitals were closing in a few weeks. Its been a debate for a year now whether or not hospitals should still be running. They just made it official that the money can be put to use for other things.

The only downside to this was that my mom losing her job. Besides that, Mend-On was the best! We all love living here even though it can be scary. Unfortunately, Mend-On can’t fix damages that were created before its time. So, Liza has had a broken arm for 3 years now. It was casted up and was good for no use. I couldn’t do anything but feel guilty for letting her go home that night.


The day went by pretty fast, thankfully. It was raining outside so I rushed home. I wanted to invite Liza over but my mom has always been on the fence about her coming over since she broke her arm. She doesn’t want her having to go home late at night again.

My mom wasn’t home yet, which always worried me because sometimes I’d have thoughts that she won’t make it home; if the hospital extends her shift for too long. So, I did my homework and too a nap to distress myself from the bittersweet reality I live everyday being in Huttson.

“Louis, I’m home. TV dinners will be ready for super soon.”

“Thanks Mom.”

We sat at the dinner table and told each other how our days were. Things were pretty quiet in our house. I admire my mom a lot. She plays all the roles I need to have in my life and she does it very well. I think my mom feels the same way about me too. We depend on each other for almost everything.

“Mom, I have a question... What if we run out of Mend-on? And one of us gets attacked by the Hunters? Then what?”

“Oh God, Louis. Don’t say such a silly thing. That will never happen.”

My mom went on a rant for the next three minutes about how I have to stop being pessimistic. But I couldn’t help it. Sometimes you have to think that way, in order to prepare for the worst. My biggest fear was being faced with death and knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop it. But my mom was right; that’s just non-sense.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------        Since my mom decided to catch an attitude during her rant, I went straight to my room after dinner and texted Liza.

“Wyd?” I asked.

“Bio HW. Hbu?”

“Laying down. I miss you,” I said. Fuck it, I clicked send.

“I miss you too bestie!”

Oh God.. “Bestie”? It was times like these where I tried to figure out what exactly my feelings were for Liza. I knew I liked her; it was obvious. But everyday, she hit me with the “bestie” title and I shut down. I guess I’d let that dream go. It was clear she didn’t like me. After that text message I was too irritated to reply. I went right to sleep.


I woke up in an irritated mood from what happened last night. I don’t know why it got to me every time; its as if I wasn’t expecting her to not respond like that - I should’ve already been prepared for the disappointment.

It was another day; so I went through the same process of my routine. I flipped over from my bed, pushed the covers off, and went downstairs for breakfast. Luckily, I beat my mom to the kitchen, so she didn’t have to yell up the stairs forcing me to come down.

“I found a new job!” said my mom.

“Where at?” I responded immediately.

“An animal shelter. I start tomorrow night!” said my mom.

“Tomorrow night?” I said, extremely confused.

“Yeah that’s the thing ... the shift I have is after dark. But they said they really need me and the pay is great.”

“No mom, I won’t allow it. Has what’s happened to Liza not mean anything to you?!

Doesn’t that scare you?!” I couldn’t even finish my cereal; I was too disturbed.

“Yes it scares me but we need the money Louis. I already set up a cab transaction. The driver will be at the front door of the shelter at 10 p.m when I’m off of work; and will drive me straight home. Everything is going to be great!” insisted my mom.


I stomped upstairs and got dressed for school; having to rush because I was too focused on what I just encountered. After getting dressed, I left out through the front door without saying a word.


I saw Liza in the hallway when I got to school but I pretended like I didn’t. Surprisingly, she came up to me first.

“You okay? You never responded to my text last night,” said Liza.

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

“Haha, good. Alright, I’m going to first period. I’ll see you later; maybe you can come over after school.”

“Yeah, I gotchu.”

Man, she’s so beautiful. And she asked me to come over! She never did that. Could this mean something? Ha, I’m funny as shit to think something of it. Just two “besties” hanging out after school .. Great.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                 I could barely concentrate throughout the entire day at school. I felt like there was so much on my mind and sometimes I thought: what if I didn’t live in Huttson? Would I be live a better life? I used to think Huttson was great; that we were all happy and untouchable - nothing could hurt us; especially because of Mend-On. All these great people to meet, no one can go broke - we were all living at reasonable costs, and we can basically live forever. I was very wrong.

I rather live in a normal town and live a normal life. Here, we were given unlimited power to live because of Mend-On but what good was it when I have had to totally limit my life and organize what I do, so I don’t have to be faced with the damn Hunters.

But it was okay .. Just like my mom says. Everything was going to be okay. I hoped.


I decided to go over Liza’s house. I met her on the front steps of school once the bell rang.

“Ready?” she said.

“Yeah, we taking your car?”

“Yeah, I don’t mind driving. And I’ll drive you home too.”

She never said that before either. I’ve known Liza for too long and we’ve always been close. But she’s never done things to go out of her way and be super friendly. Maybe I was just over thinking things because of last night.

I haven’t been over Liza’s house since the incident. We just thought it was too risky ever since she got severely hurt.


We got out the car and went in her house. No one was home.

“Let’s go to my room,” she said.

“Okay,” I said.

What the fuck? In all my life of being friends with Liza she has never asked me to go to her bedroom. I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or confused. Would this have been the time to kiss her or just straight out tell her how I felt?

We walked upstairs and she put a movie in the DVR. Every time we hung out, we’d watch “She’s The Man”, starring Amanda Bynes.

We laid on her bed and watch the movie. I sat down and laid back first; completely shocked that she decided to lay down right next to me, with her arm on my leg.

“Okay Louis.. Try not to panic. Calm down before she feels your heart beating fast; you fucking freak,” I repeatedly told myself in my head.

The room was silent.

“Can I tell you something?” said Liza. I was kind of happy she was the first one to speak.

“Go ahead.”

“I don’t think you feel the same way, but I like you. I always did. That’s why I brought you here,” she said, looking down at the floor.

“What the fuck, so what’s up with all the “bestie” shit?”

“It was just my way of covering up my feelings. Everyone sees us as best friends and that’s how I thought you saw us - just as best friends,” she said without hesitation.

“Liza, I’ve liked you since day 1. That’s why I didn’t reply back to your text last night. I was too mad - I thought I was in the friend zone.”

“Haha, not at all.” She smiled, coming towards me with a kiss.


I stayed later than I should have at Liza’s house. It was already 8:00 at night and I had 5 missed calls from my mom.

“Sorry, I got caught up at Liza’s house. I’m coming home now. She is giving me a ride - don’t worry. I’ll be home in 10.” I sent her a text message.

Liza and I both fell asleep after holding her in my arms and watching the movie. I tried waking her up.

“Liza! Wake up! Its past dark!”

“Oh shit. Okay, let’s go. I’m not letting you walk home.”

We walked downstairs and ran to the car, locked the doors, and buckled our seat belts. We looked left and right before pulling out of the drive to make sure we were clear of the Hunters.

We hurried up and drove to my house. The good thing about driving to my house was that the Hunters don’t carry weapons. All of their defense and violence was with their bare hands. So, there was no way they could get through to us if we were in the car.

We pulled up to my driveway; looking left and right again. I saw a black blur down the street but I wasn’t sure what I was looking that.

“Is that who I think it is?” My hands were shaking.

“Louis, its the Hunters. Get out the car now! Hurry!”

“No, I’m not leaving you alone here.”

This was the first time I was faced with the Hunters; and the second time for Liza.

“What’s it like?” I said.

“What’s what like?”

“Being faced with the Hunters,” I replied.

“When you see actors in scary movies running away from the killer.. and you think wow, it looks so convincing. I was the actor; but I wasn’t acting. You feel everything happening right in front of you but it goes by too quick for you to stop it. You just use that adrenaline you have from being so scared, and you experience it. You don’t know when it is coming and you don’t know when it is going to end.”

As I took in that message, I looked over in the rearview mirror and saw the Hunters approach us. We tried hiding by slumping and scrunching up in the car as much as possible, hoping they didn’t see us. My palms were sweaty, my heart was beating, and I was panting. I looked over at Liza and she was calm and content.

I heard the Hunters inching towards the car trying to look through the windows. Luckily, they don’t stick around for long - they didn’t notice us.

We waited another five minutes before we decided to lift our heads in safety.

“Shit, that was scary.”

“Yeah I know, I wasn’t tryna break my other arm,” said Liza, while chuckling.

“Haha, stop that. But you right. Okay, I’m gonna leave now,” I said

We kissed.

“Be safe Liza.”

“You too Louis.”

I ran out the car, opened the door, shut it behind me, and locked it.

It was such a weird night. I checked on my mom, but she was already fast asleep. Even though I was sleeping for three hours at Liza’s, I jumped into bed and went o sleep immediately. Too much has happened in one night; I needed the rest.


I woke up. Same shit, different day. I first went to my mom’s room to check up on her.

“Mom, you okay? I’m so sorry I came home late last night. Did you get home from work alrigh?”

‘Yes, I was fine. Coming home to find out my son isn’t home!”

“I know, I’m sorry. I feel like I should tell you - I saw the Hunters last night. Don’t worry; I’m fine. I was in the car, hiding with Liza. They peeked in the car, but didn’t see us.”

“Louis! That’s the kind of shit I’m talking about! You see what happens when you try to come home late?!” She got out of bed and left the room.

I followed her downstairs to the kitchen.

“I know mom! I’m sorry! It won’t happen again.”

She didn’t reply so I went upstairs to get ready for school.


I met up with Liza and we entered school holding hands. It was nice. I kissed her goodbye as we departed to go to our classes.


It was 3rd period, so I met Liza in the library for lunch.

“My mom was mad at me last night; I think it was because she was scared. But she’s okay.”


“So what are you-” I started talking as I got interrupted by the loud speaker.

“Attention! Students and teachers! There is an important announcement! The Government has just announced on international news that Huttson is currently experiencing an economic crisis! They are unsure of how this is going to play out. All they know is that all around the world prices for housings have been raised, and stocks are dropping. Some of us might be losing jobs. You will be notified when school will proceed. There is going to be a rapid dismissal immediately after this announcement. Associates from the governments are going door to door in all neighborhoods of Huttson as we speak to collect your Mend-On kits. The city might sell the invention to other town, so we can have money for all of the people. More information about this will be announced on the news tonight. Please get home safely to your families and do not leave the house! Beware of the Hunters!”

“Holy shit, I gotta go home. My mom can’t go home after her shift that late at night without Mend-On! What if the Hunters get her?!” I said as my voice was getting louder and louder.

“Louis, everything is going to be okay. You just have to keep calm. We will work this out. Let’s just get home.”


I get in the house and it was silent. I’m assuming my mom heard about the announcement. I think everyone in Huttson was being informed about it.

I sent her a text to check up on her then started working on my homework; hoping I could concentrate. The door bell rang.

I walked downstairs and opened up the door. Two men in suits stood before me.

“Can I help you guys?”

“We are from the Mend-On agency; here to collect your kit.” They both said, in deep voices; gesturing their badges towards me.

I lead them to the cabinet in the kitchen and handed it to him.

“Do you think we will ever get Mend-On back in our homes?”

“That is undecided, kid. Have a good day.” They shook my hands and walked out the front door.

I went back upstairs, jumped into my bed, and stared at my phone.


I rub my eyes and flip over on my bed. Fuck, I fell asleep. I check my phone for a response from my mom... nothing. My eyes were drawn to the corner of my home screen on my laptop. What the fuck! It was 7:30 at night. I looked out the window. It was dark. I jumped to my phone and called my mother.

No answer.

Okay, Liza told me to stay calm. Fuck that. I texted Liza to make sure she was okay.

“You good? Is your family home?”

“Yeah we’re good. Is your mom home?” replied Liza.

“No, and I’m worried. I’ll text you when she gets here.” I clicked send.

I go downstairs, pacing back and forth, staring at the front door - waiting patiently for it to open.

I decided to cook a TV dinner to stall time.


It was 10:30 at night. My mom fuckin’ drawlin’. Fuck it. I put on a jacket and went outside to walk towards the animal shelter. She should have been home. As I was walking, I kept calling her phone.

Still no answer. I’ve been worried; but now I was past worried.

I start picking up my pace.

“Mom!” shouting out to the neighborhood.

“Anne! Where are you?! Its Louis! Answer me!” I kept shouting.

I started running out of breath, so I slowed down. As I was walking, tears fell down my eyes. Was my mom being faced with death right now?

I got to the animal shelter and banged on the door.

“Hello! Is anyone there?! Someone help me! Where is Anne?!” I kept shouting.

No one was answering. I turned back around and started heading towards home.

As I was walking, almost arriving at my house, I saw the same blob and blur of blackness that I saw last night when I saw the Hunters. Could that be them?

I hid in a bush. Oh shit, there was a woman being attacked. I paniced all over again. Fuck, what do I do?

As I got closer and closer to the scene, my entire life flashed before me.

Its my mother.

“Get off of her!” I’m running towards them at full speed.

This time it was only three of them.

All this adrenaline and power poured out of me; it was completely unexpected. I punched one, kicked another to the ground, and stomped on the other. Long enough to make them all unconscious.

I ran towards the pavement where my mother was lying.

“Mom! Say something! Wake up!” I kept tugging on her, crying.

“Louis. I’m so sorry,” she said softly.

Blood was rushing out of her head.

“Mom! I’m calling the hospital!”

“Louis... there’s no point. Its over. I should have listened to you,” said my mom with her last breath, barely keeping her eyes open.

My mother was faced with death and she lost. Nothing could save her. No doctor, no Mend-On kit, no God could rewind this night and stop what just happened.

I froze and sat there for the rest of my night. I had no physical or mental strength to get up. I was now on my own for the rest of my life; no family to live with.

I knew this day would come but I didn’t know it was going to be so soon. I knew that one day this bittersweet town would have been in trouble. That time was tonight.

As I tried to stand up, I turned my head and right in front of me were all six of the hunters, alive and standing.

What Doesn't Kill Me......

Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is difficult sometimes, ya know? It’s like, one minute you're doing everything right then, BAM, you get hit with something outta nowhere, fucking nowhere I tell ya. I guess it all started way back when, if I can even remember what happened correctly. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another, it’s one of those things I just don’t get. Anyway, my name is Jack. I’m from Rome originally, but I moved to the states to find “The American Dream” or the cracked up version of it anyway in college in California.

Everything went well there I suppose, I graduated within the top 10 in my class with a double master’s in Philosophy & Clinical Psychology. I study the mind in order to understand my own. For the longest I’ve been on all types of medication. Mood elevators, Bipolar medication, you name it, I’ve been on it.  My parents didn’t know any better but to trust whatever doctors said. I’ve been taking those medications all my life. I can’t even function throughout my day to day life without them...but man 280 bucks a month on medication is a lot more the I can afford to blow on pills. Anyway thats not the story I’m here to I said; my memory isn’t the most reliable.

Living on medication your entire life isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially when you have skin like mine that looks like a cracking mask. It’s always been hard for me to wake up and look in the mirror. My face filled with craters, dead skin, and pimples the size of tennis balls. This in turn leads to one crappy love life and not many friends. Niko, Hayden and Laura, they get me through anything and everything. They have since our days at the University of Southern California. Best friends for life, Niko and Hayden follow by the book, helping my self esteem and my overall demeanor.

But Laura, oh man sometimes I don’t know how I conceal the words,


I’ve had a crush on her since Intro to Psych, freshman year. I could never tell her, every time Niko talks me into almost getting there I chicken out...and end up going home and drowning out my failed attempt in whiskey and meds that I should have taken a week ago. But, there was that one time, that one particular time, that thing that made me the way I am. That light at the end of the road. Even though I can’t reach it.

I guess it all started downhill when I started really paying attention to bills and how much my meds and drinking binges were stacking up. It really wasn’t pretty. But it got day I came home to see all my shit out on the sidewalk. So I elected to have a chat with my good old landlord, Martin.

“What the hell Martin ? You said I had another week before I got kicked out ? This is bull man” I said using most of the base in my voice.

“I said that last week ya donche, This ain’t the time to be getting all touchy feely, you knew the money was due. So pay up or scram”

After that I started picking up my stuff, because there was no way in hell I had the money to pay him back, I didn't even have the money to front him to make it look like I would pay up. I had just gone into another drinking fit last night after trying to talk to Laura again.

All I could really think to do was to call Niko, so I did. He was at work so of course he didn't answer. Just like every other time it was actually important and not about a girl, well Laura of course. I tried Hayden’s cell but all I got was dead with nothing to do and nowhere to go I just headed downtown. I remember distinctly how the air changed as I got further and further south. The air was thick with the steam curling out of the sewers and the smell of the fermenting trash getting heated up from the exhaust of the many cars parked around. It smelled sweet like cheap Chinese food and booze, but dank at the same time. Almost like mildew and sex.  Honestly it was a crap neighborhood.

After walking far enough and I found a pawn shop, which was actually helpful to me. I still had the stuff I could carry from my apartment with me so I decided to sell most of it. It was all useless to me anyway without a place to live. I made about $200 within an hour which was just about enough to get somewhere to stay. After that I just crossed the street and strolled into a cheap run down looking bar/motel. Convent enough right?

I head in with my money in hand, and slide right into a stool at the bar. I order a Whiskey Sour and wait. Once my drink was handed to me by a less than attractive bartender I downed it. Then another...then another. After I lost count of the number of drinks I had and how much money I had left I felt it. The inevitable effect of drinking in general but especially alcohol. I really had to pee.

Once I got to the bathroom I stood there doing my thing just kinda staring at the wall and I noticed that there was something written on it. It was an address and phone number next to a weird science looking symbol. All that info was boxed in then a sharpied on arrow pointing to another box, with the word “Nirvana” written in it. I took a blurry picture with my phone and figured I’d check it out once I sobered up again. Maybe there was a way to get enough money out of it to get my old place back, or even a new place. Hell I might even be able to turn my life around just enough to get up the balls to talk to Laura for real and not just in my dreams.

I woke up to the sound of yelling and throwing as the bartender kicked me out. So I went to go wandering  around until I found the building that I had the address to this science project. I went to the front desk and asked how could I get it in on doing this project for some dough. The front desk lady told me to take a seat until they called for people. So I sat around Doing just that...waiting. I had been sitting around for about an hour when I was finally told to go to the back room where I would talk to someone about the information I knew, what I could do to help them and of course in turn, what they could do to help me back.

I was told that “Project Nirvana” was a case study conducted by a nearby college. In all honesty it was about getting funding or some other B.S for their science department, I zoned out half way, but I came back right at the good parts. They would be administering a type of virus/inoculation hybrid drug into me once every other week and monitoring my progress or lack there of. So basically, I got a free place to stay, free meals, money handed to me, and a miracle drug that would make me ‘better’. I was so down it I didn't even care to listen to the rest. I signed the release and the waiver, handed over my belongings and got checked into the building’s living quarters; were I would be living for the next year.  

It didn’t take long until I got in the building. After I filled out the paperwork on the spot they handed me a room key and told me the address. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it wasn’t too crap either. Beggars can’t be choosers right? As I settled in I noticed there were two beds instead of one. My first thought was back to my days living in a college dorm, and all the trouble my roommate caused me. In any case, I was told that  was to keep us socially active while living there, since we couldn’t get cell phone reception in the rooms and the internet was slow as all hell to boot. But not knowing who’s gonna be rooming with you is kinda scary. The thought of knowing they’re going to see you at your best, worst and ugliest is weird. But low and behold who came clutching their black plastic bag through the door with that red hair and sleeve tattoo I could never forget. It was my old college roommate, Jet.

Jet was... I guess what you would think of when you hear “College Party Boy”. Jet was everything in those, coming home super late after the latest frat party and banging back-up quarterback’s girlfriend because he was too scared to attempt the starter’s girl and turning in everything late to every professor. I honestly don’t know how the kid made it through four years at college, or how he even got in the first place since he was the classic kid who the dean hates in every 80’s sitcom. We didn’t really talk after college, since he was going to become the next neil armstrong in biking and take the world by storm...but I don’t think shooting up in the middle of the night really helped him get that far in his pursuit.

“This block 47 A right kiddo? He said to me as he blew a ring of smoke that hit me right in the middle of my face,

“Yeah, your bed’s right over there. I moved all my shit on the other one, it’s down the hall if ya need me,” I said.

“Thanks. Hey wait….. I know you from somewhere don’t I Kid? I swear, were you on the back of a milk carton?” He said, as I saw curiosity from his face for the first time in, well ever.

“Nah dude, last time somebody said that to me was way back in was 2017 when I was a college sophomore or some shit at SC in dorm……”

“Hmmm, wait a sec…. Hold on, holy shit what’s up man? I haven’t seen you since the party days back at college” He said as another blast of cigar smoke hit my face.

We had a little chat about catching up and what we did after college, the usual shit like that. Turns out, a slacker can hold down a steady job at rite-aid and keep an apartment. That is until is your girlfriend throws all your shit out of the window when you have long “meetings” with your boss almost every week. I mean, it’s Jet I didn’t really expect much more.

Everything was pretty smooth for the first couple weeks. You know, treatments, monitoring, physical workups, social activities, diet changes, everything I was told to be expecting. Things only started to get weird after about a month or so. I noticed that most of the other ‘subjects’ that were in my dorm block had either left or been removed from the study as the nurses so politely put it. Why they were removed we were never told, but I also noticed that I saw Jet less and less, and when I actually did get to see him for a little bit he was different. I mean, he was always an asshole, but especially so then. He was always moving really sluggish, and really short with everyone he came into contact with.

Then things just got progressively weirder. The side effects of whatever they were pumping into me started to hit. I got really lethargic and lost all the want and need to eat. I started developing blackouts/fainting spells because of my lethargy combined with insomnia, and time skips to top it all off.  Apparently whatever hormone supplements were in the drug cocktails were warping my brains neurological receptors, making my  brain freak out and in the eventuality deforming it.

Now I still had full function of my brain and body although I still had the skips and no more than three hours of sleep a night.  

“Have you been having any body,muscle, or joint pain as of late?” Asked a looming nurse dressed in a pale pink scrub set, as though a peppy color would distract me from the fact that I had made a mistake coming here. I would look at medication without being reminded of the flowers I had not seen in the new coming spring season in the past 4 months I had stayed in this hell hole. Getting god knows what put into my body; because I thought it was an easy paycheck.

“No not really, still can’t sleep though...can’t you give me anything for that?” I said,  That is really all I could say. Thats all I ever said, ‘no can’t sleep’, ‘no can’t sleep’.    But this time I needed to say more, I needed to hear what my barely sober self had not bothered to pay attention to not even a year before.

“Look, I was really out of it when you guys explained exactly you would be doing to me, so would you mind telling me again, reiterating if you will, what it is you are doing?” I said

She never answered me herself. Instead she tore a piece of paper off her little notepad and scribbled down some numbers on it. They looked random to me, like she was just pacifying me or telling a child a story to pass the I was really just a number on a page, an appointment, a paycheck. After she left and I went back to my room in the dorm I took my time to go call the set of numbers I was handed. It rang for a while then eventually a machine picked up. But it wasn't really a machine, just a human recording.

“The purpose of ‘Project Nirvana’ is to figure out the correct cocktail of drugs to create a super soldier or highly advanced human. This may consist of warping the pain receptors in the brain, physically augmenting the body’s form or general makeup, or even hormonal supplements. In short the task is to dehumanize humans. This project will go on for a year, at which time the facilities will be sanitized and removed.”

Still not understanding the full picture I went back to my room and flopped on the bed. After about ten minutes I noticed I was laying on something, paper, small, pointy...mail. I opened one after another little spam mail envelopes, then I got to the last letter, addressed from Hayden. He was telling me to take it easy, brush my teeth and take my meds, which I hadn’t been doing since about exactly the night I was thrown out of my apartment, but I figured it didn't matter and he was just trying to mother me like the friend he was supposed to be.

About 3 months after that I was really tired of the poking and the prodding, the questions and monitoring. I just wanted it to get out of that place, so I packed my stuff and headed for the door one night.  I got about halfway out the door when security got there and tried to take me back to my room.

I was kicking and fighting, until I felt this calm wash over me. I really didn't need to work as hard as I was, I could kick ass without even breaking a sweat. I punched one guard, then another. Once they stopped coming at me the only one left standing was the administrator that checked you in and out. She was slouched against the wall and wouldn’t look at me. So I picked up my bag and walked away.

I walked through town, and it was completely empty. Probably because it was pouring rain and freezing out. A late autumn rain. I walked until I reached Laura’s apartment. Then I walked all the way up the stairs until I got to the landing in front of her door. I had just been through hell, getting all types of random shit put in my body and basically being held prisoner for almost a year. I was above having butterflies for my best girl friend.

Eventually I got up the courage to knock on the door and wait for her to come answer. As soon as she did I knew something was wrong. Her face twisted up into a play dough mound of terrified and disgusted and her eyes looked frozen in place. Then came the scream...and it all happened as soon as she caught a glimpse of me, or what’s left of me.


It’s 2048 and the earth has just begun it’s slow demise. The sectors of North America are each experiencing painful attacks; carbon fog roams the streets of Bruhan, only Lemons will grow in Gemack, the sun glares too brightly in Sict, constant earthquakes create thunderous sounds of things falling it Horen and the sulfur burns noses in Gruch. People all over are in constant pain while scientists desperately toil over what they can do to fix it. Finally the find solutions to each of the problems, although they fear for the discomfort it may cause.

“In the new proclamation,” the man with the tie started strongly, firmly; but he tightens his tie with shaking hands and continues, “In the new proclamation there are some rules, rules that must be followed.” The crowd falls silent. They’re standing in neat rows. Children of the age of 5 stand clean and proper behind a sign with a big blue 5 on the left side of the stage. Farther to the right are sequential numbers that went all the way up to 20. Then behind those neat rows were more signs “21-30,” “31-40” and so on up to “81-90”. As the numbers went on the people in the rows got taller, and then paler, and then more shriveled.

“Ahem,” The man tightens his tie again, “These rules, are quite different than the rules we live by today. They are stricter. Safer.” His eyes harden, his confidence returns, “I know many of you have been hearing rumors about us leaving the earth, but No!” He slams his pale fist on the wooden podium in front of him, “We have found a way to keep you safe here.”

The captive audience murmurs and whispers. Energy flies through them. The man with the tie stands still, waiting. The crowd notices, and stops, in sections. The 5 year olds continue making noise until everyone else has stopped. “Ahem,” he clears his throat again, “The formal statement:” ‘formal’ straightens peoples backs and focuses their eyes. “The world has begun it’s fight against mankind, releasing toxins into our air and food. Scientists have been working hard to stop the pain caused by these toxins so that we may continue our lives as naturally as possible. The solution they have found is to remove the sense that is causing pain to our people.”

Energy surges through the crowd. The neat lines loosen and turn into globs. Sweat, nerves and power course through the man’s veins and he slams his hand again. The stress hits him that second, putting tears behind his eyes that he quickly blinks away. He resorts to the only thing he knows, “I WILL HAVE ORDER.” He screams and a vein pops out of his forehead. The crowd freezes. Two women in the 21-30 section have stiff arms against each other’s shoulders. A woman from the 31-40 section has already pushed her way through to section 7 and is clinging tightly to a child. The majority of children from sections 10 and under are merging themselves into the teenage lines, searching desperately for older siblings. The small group of men and women standing in sections 71-80 and 81+ are clearly deep in conversation, a man and a woman holding withered hands. Only one person did not move in the mayhem, a boy in section 17 stands military straight, staring at the man with the tie. Then slowly, as if molasses had spread over the crowd with an invisible knife, they turn their heads, taking steps to reform lines. They aren’t straight or clean. Everyone who used to stand with hands at sides, now stand comfortably with arms crossed or hands on their hips. Everyone, except the boy in section 17, whose arms still hang firmly at his sides.

“Better.” The voice was firm, “But not good enough!” With shocking speed the crowd mimics boy 17. Hands at sides, feet together, back straight, “Now, that’s what I like to see.” The man smiles. The kind of smile that is normally described as evil or sadistic. But this man, with the tie and the power, is happy. They’re listening because they have to, because he is holding their lives in his hands. “Good cooperation, let’s continue.

“The statement reads, ‘Although it would be ideal for the people to retain their abilities, this solution is the best protection we can offer our people,’” In the crowd hands grip behind backs, showing the whiteness of knuckles. Bodies rock forward, pushing weight into toes. “No!” Both hands slam down leaving prints of sweat on the wood, “The senses will be limited,” The man stares straight at the crowd, speaking slowly without regard to the script, “Each sector of the country will now have. Only. Four. Senses. This will vary based on location because, as you all know, attacks have varied.” His lips push upwards, exposing his teeth and spreading warmth down his body.

“You can’t even do that!” Boy 17 screams. He’s wearing faded jeans that fit loosely around his hips, a plain white t-shirt, and canvas sneakers that seem to be more holes than fabric. His face is jeering but his posture stays straight. He appears secure with this expression. It’s clear that he’s the kind of person who enjoys a good joke, especially at someone else’s expense.

The man points, the smile falling from his face, “Would you care to be our example?” He points to the boy and then to the ground next to him. The boy just stares at him “Oh, I get it,” The man says, his fat belly leaning forward onto the podium, “You’re scared.” The boys eyes narrow, the left side of his mouth twitching up.

The boy steps out of line and his faded jeans carry him forward, avoiding the stairs and jumping onto the stage.

“What’s your name, boy?” The man with the tie asks.

“Is that actually important to you?” The boy’s voice is surprisingly soft. He feels as though there’s a rock at the bottom of his stomach but he keeps his expression and body calm. His mind floods with the sensations of his life. The plush silk of his dog’s fur against his cheeks. The bright reds and blues of his 8th birthday party. Sarah’s face, the olive skin with almost black hair. Her smell, soft flowers mixed with lavender. The pungent plastic of his sister’s dolls when they were little. The sirens that bled down his street last week. The whispered word, “You look really handsome,” his mom’s voice transforming into Sarah’s through his dreams. Mac and Cheese. Garlic Bread. Sarah’s mouth.

The man laughs a full belly laugh, bringing Boy 17 back to the present, “You enjoy pushing buttons don’t you?”

The boy doesn’t respond.

“Well then, let’s show these people what’s going to happen! Boy, where do you live?”

“Bruhan” He speaks casually.

“Ah,” The man with the tie clicks his tongue and begins to circle the boy, “You, my dear boy, will lose your sense of touch.”

A gasp rushes through the crowd, but the boy doesn’t even flinch. A woman rubs harshly at her eyes. She is slim the way he is, with a similar nose and curly brown hair. She stands in section 41-50, sneakingly holding the hand of the tall man in front of her. Boy 17’s parents. He just turns his head slowly to the left, staring at the man with the tie, “How?” The word comes out slowly, loudly and the gasp dies away. The tall man squeezes his wife’s hand, a silent statement of it will be okay.

“You underestimate today’s technology.” The man with the tie’s voice sounds like a whisper on the speaker loud but soft, threatening but obvious, “In the olden days there was a disease called Hypothyroid. We found a way to cause this through a special little cream. It’s going to work like this. You’ll give me your arm and I’ll put this special white stuff all over. It may burn a little, but you’re a big boy,” The man taps Boy 17 under the chin, “You’re not afraid. Then I’ll send you away, unless you want to get undressed on stage of course, you’ll finish getting covered and as soon as your skin absorbs all the cream, you won’t be able to feel a thing.”

The majority of the crowd is frozen with shock. The smaller children have collapsed into balls on the ground, some holding their hair or their eyes with tiny fists. The adults rock back and forth, knowledgeable on the consequences of speaking out. The elders clasp hands, the strongest rebellion they can muster. Boy 17 tugs his t-shirt with forefinger and thumb, cooling his chest and stomach, “I never said you couldn’t, I just asked how, now I know.” His voice comes out clean no cracks, no shakes.

The man with the tie can see fear in his audience. He sees the rational thinking that they possess, his brain attempts at logic and fails. “You won’t ever have to feel the pain of Earth’s smoke,” the man tries to soften his voice but Boy 17 wonders what pain? “Victoria, can you bring up the first box?” he calls to the left and wipes the back of his hand on his wide forehand.

A woman in a deep purple pencil skirt steps on the stage. She has dark chestnut hair that falls in intricate braids to her elbows and carries a small metal box. She carries it to the podium and places it on top. She refuses to look the man with the tie in the eye. On the top of the box is the word “Bruhan” written in thick black ink.

The boys hands are shaking as the man steps toward the box. He slides a heavy palm against Victoria’s waist and she sidesteps to the left. He wiggles his fingers above the box, ignoring Victoria’s rejection. “Ready?” the whisper again. The boy nods, quickly. The man grabs the box and nearly shoves it open on the hinge, “Come here,” he beckons the boy closer while the woman steps farther away, all the way off the stage and down the steps, darting back behind the guards.

The boy turns toward the man, takes a few steps and stops, he looks at his shoes, “Can I do one thing first?” His voice cracks, quickly losing its softness for a twinge of fear and a pulse of anger.

“Want your last touch to be something special?” It’s mock concern.

The book looks up, his eyes heavy and dark. His voice strengthens, “Yes.”

“Well, do tell us what that is.”

“My dog’s fur,” the boy hardens his face, “It’s not a request, it’s a demand,” and hops off the stage, clapping his hands and calling, “Roger! Roger!” He hops down between the sections 20 and 21-30.They spread away from him, some with looks of shock on their face and others with looks of pride and reverence.

A large dog with thick white fur comes bounding down the aisle, “There you are,” the boy grips at his chest and buries his face in the dogs back. 3 men push between the lines, disregarding all things. The man on the far left has a bushy black moustache with shorter bristles covering his chubby cheeks. The man in the middle has a thin face but large muscles. The man on the left has slightly smaller muscles and a very clean face.

“Well isn’t this just the sweetest?” The man with the tie grabs the back of the boy’s neck and drags him back onto the stage. The dog whines and the crowd tenses. The man in the middle of the three men in black scoops the dog over his shoulder and the walk single file back to their spot surrounding the circle. The boy just lets it happen. Half walking, half pulling, the man and boy ends up back at the podium with the open box in front of them.

“I’m ready.” The boy closes his eyes and whispers while the man grabs at plastic gloves and plunges his hand into the small box.

“Hold out your arm,” the boy did as he was told and the man grabs his wrist and spreads a silvery pink cream against his hairline. The boy tries to flinch away and gnaws at his lips.

“That hurts,” he breathes.

At the same instant a girl in section 17 cries, “He’s still a kid!” She has olive skin with heavy dark brown hair waving over her left shoulder. Boy 17’s eyes widen and he sways. “This isn’t okay.” The same three men are walking towards her, Boy 17’s knees hit the wood of the stage.

“Sarah,” he whispers, “Don’t.” The three men stand to her side, the one with the moustache touches her arm softly. Boy 17 bends in half, a ball on the stage. The children of the audience scream and the adults begin to talk to each other. A teary-eyed Sarah is being led away from the audience. She seems quiet, not up for a fight, only the people around her saw the way that moustache man looked at her. The way his hand held her wrist, angry and passionate. They saw the fear that hit her face, they saw the defeat.

“Everybody, quiet!” The man in the tie called, “We’re not done yet. The girl will be fine. She was merely experiencing hallucinations because of the earth attacks.” The man in the tie has officially decided to try and soothe the crowd, this is getting too intense, they will see his power later. He crouches next to the boy, “I promise she will be okay, but you must be strong. He holds a hand out to Boy 17, who stands up without taking it. “I think we need some positive energy here. This meeting is about happy news, let us cheer for, you never told me your name.”

“Alex.” Alex’s eyes bend down toward his holey shoes, defeat spreads across his shoulders and lips, red bags already forming under his eyes.

“Let us cheer for Alex!” Children try to wipe their tears. Teens and adults clap respectfully. The elders frown, still holding each other’s hands. The man in the tie smiles broadly, raising his, and Alex’s hand above their heads. Then he turns his head, “Are you ready Alex?”

Alex closes his eyes, breathes deep and inwardly cringes at the squish of the man’s hand against his, “I’m ready.” It’s barely a whisper and he only manages it for Sarah. The man covers Alex’s arms in the burning cold pink cream. He wipes it around his neck. Alex’s mind flicks to the idea of strangling, Please he closes his eyes, please kill me if Sarah is not okay. He thinks for a moment it’s happening when the burning pierces through his skin, but he keeps breathing.

The man scoops one last section of cream from the box with his right hand. Using his left he spreads it across Alex’s forehead. Alex lifts his eyes, holding some kind of connection with this man. The cream is placed along his hairline, jaw bone and nose, “You have to stop crying,” The man says it quietly but harshly, not into the microphone, “Your tears will stop it from working.” Alex just stares at him. The man takes the edge of his shirt and pushes at Alex’s cheeks. The touch isn’t rough which frustrates Alex, he hadn’t even realized he was crying. The cream is spread across his cheeks but this time he doesn’t feel the burn.

“It’s time for you to go, there’s more skin to cover that we don’t want to see here.” The man with the tie puts his hand on the small of Alex’s back and leads him off stage. Alex can feel the pressure and realizes that this may be the last time that happens. He looks down at his arms, swaying against his sleeves and realizes he doesn’t feel anything. “People of Bruhan, follow Alex.” Alex stumbles down the three stairs into the arms of Victoria, she smiles at him but still, he feels nothing.

Men in full black walk down the aisles from the back carrying tall wooden signs. Each sign has a word. Bruhan. Gruch. Gemack. Sict. Horen. The crowd flounders for their family, desperate to go through this pain with the people they love.

The children cry quietly, unsure of what’s going on. They’re carried to proper sectors by parents or older siblings walking with a nervous confidence. A few try to run but the men covered in black tighten around the crowd, standing so close that their shoulders touch. People of all ages plead with the guards, begging them for escape. The guards only looked ahead, pretending as hard as they can that they can’t hear. People shake violently, they know what’s going on. The man’s words on the stage did nothing to help. The elders walk calmly through the crowd, touching the shoulders of people crouched on the ground. They held hands and elbows, they hugged and wiped tears, whispering words of confidence to the children it will be okay. Then leading them to where they belonged.

The man with the tie looms behind the podium. The noise of the crowd increases and nervous faced citizens step up to the men holding the signs who pointed them to tables now set up in front of the stage. These faces, connected to shaking bodies found their way to the tables and slowly, slowly, lost one sense. Often the one they revered the most. A young girl with a passion for singing becomes deaf. An up-and-coming chef loses his taste. One artist loses her sight while another loses her touch.

Women holding children push to the middle. Trying desperately to save their children who cling with small fists to the cloth on their mother’s breast. A father steps into the circle, grabbing his wife’s shoulders and kissing her. “It’s okay,” he whispers, “They’re only taking our taste. We’ll be safer.” He doesn’t believe it but he knows that now is not the right time for a fight.

Alex was led to a small room behind the stage. Victoria followed him inside, closing the door and turning to a counter-top. “You’ll have to take off all of your clothes,” her voice was soft and afraid.

Alex made no movement to take off his clothes, instead saying, “What happens to you?”

“What do you mean?” She whispers.

“What happens to you?” He repeated himself, his words void of emotion, “You’re in the government. Are they doing this to you too?” Alex can see her hands tense against the countertop. He’s hitting a nerve but he doesn’t care.

“I have to go.” She moves her hands to the doorknob, “I’ll be right back.”

“You can’t leave. Then they’ll definitely do something to you.” Alex could sense bitterness within him but he was unable to understand it, “They won’t if you do what you’re told, will they?”

“They already have.” Her soft voice deepened and her muscles clenched inward.

“You’re lying.”

Victoria turns around, tears sitting on the cushion of her eyelashes, she sticks her tongue out, showing the raw skin that it is made of. “It hurts,” she said. Alex feels no sympathy.

In the end no one was saved. In the end, everyone had four senses. In the end, everything was different.

That wasn’t all the change North America faced that day. Fences were constructed. Fences that you couldn’t see in Sict. That you couldn’t feel in Bruhan. Couldn’t smell in Gruch. Couldn’t taste in Gemack. And couldn’t hear in Horen.

The world changed and it hurt. The people hurt. But years passed and things got better. People who were alive that tragic day struggled to recover. The government tried to maintain peace by providing counseling and support. They gained fighters for their reign and people soon began to think of it as natural. Years later the earth stopped producing it’s harmful substances and so the government changed the rules. Losing a sense became a right of passage when you turn 5. A right of passage, the way it was for Alex.

Aliens Abduct Earth

         Once upon a time, there were aliens who abducted the earth where humans lived. One night a team was on a road trip because they had important games to play. If they win they would have the opportunity to play in the basketball league championship game.  As the team arrived at the hotel in New York coming from New Jersey they were getting off the bus, and suddenly they had heard strange noises.

“Yo! do you guys see that light over there?”, said Matt.

            The team looked up and saw a green light beaming down onto earth. Matt was the best player on team and he was also the captain. As they begin to walk in the hotel, the light just disappeared out of the blue and they were all was confused. “Where would it have gone?” Some of his teammates questioned. As they players settled in the rooms they started to unpacked and discuss what the light was coming down onto earth. After unpacking and talking then had went to sleep, and got ready for the next morning. At the crack of dawn, everyone was awakened to the television in the hotel. There was breaking news that aliens were coming to earth to take over our planet.   

“Matt, are you okay this morning? We have a important game today and we have to get our heads in the game”, said Alex.

      Alex is Matt’s closest friend and who also was a captain of the basketball team.

“I am okay I am just worried about what's going to happen and why aliens trying to come to earth. I’m thinking that the green light we had saw while getting off the bus was from the aliens.”

    As the boys sat in silence in the locker room thinking about the aliens the coach walked in.

“Now boys lets stop worrying about this so called aliens and lets go win us some basketball”, coach said.

      The boys begin to get ready for the game as they ran out onto the floor not worrying about the aliens. The game begin with their opponent coming out aggressive and with a lot of energy. Matt and his team just could not focus and they were playing poorly with the result of no energy. The game had finished with the other team beating Matt’s team. As the game had finished, the team went to go sit in the locker room when they were suddenly hit with bad news. News that had has reported to the whole basketball sports nation. The coach had found out the bad news and he decided immediately to tell his players and all the staff on his team. The coach walked in the room with a sad face.

 “I have some pretty bad news. Its been happening around the league for a while now”, coach said.

      The team sat in silence with worried faces as the coach started talking again.

“The news is that different players, along with the teams have been taking drugs to improve their skills while playing during a game. The league does not know where the drug is coming from, but they are now banning it from the basketball league. Different players and teams who have been found taking this drug now are facing serious consequences. Come to find out, the team that we just lost to took part in using these drugs”, coach said.

       The team sat in disappointment shaking their heads with sad faces.

“How can this drug affect you on the court and affect you later in life?”, Matt said.

“The drug can change the way you play during a game, but the drug can also affect you later in life. It can also make you sick and you can die from this drug. This drug comes in a round bottle and the tablets are orange. I don’t want anyone taking this drug or you will face some serious consequences from the league, and will be kicked off the team.”

“Yes we understand coach”, said the team.

         Days went by and the team have been preparing to face more intense games to determine whether or not they would make it into the final round. Matt has not been acting the same lately and Alex noticed during the team's morning workouts. Alex walked over to Matt.

“Matt lately I have notice you're not acting like the usual you. I don’t know if you're still worried about the aliens who came to earth, or the drug situation that's been going on”, said Alex.

“Ok honestly, I have been thinking about both, but these couple days I have really been focusing on this drug thing. I think we should find out who has them so we can take them and win this championship!”

“Are you crazy, did you not hear what coach was saying? What if we get caught then what, we would not being playing ball know more.”

        Matt sat there looking confused on what to do or what to say next.

“You take that drug if you want, but I am not facing any consequences with you when or if you get caught”, Alex said.

“You don’t have to, but I know it will help us get the championship and win it.”

        The night before the game, the team had went out to dinner and celebrated before their important game. Matt had dismissed himself from the table and went outside to take a walk to think about everything. As he began walking, he heard that same noise from the first night they had arrived to New York, and the glowing green light from the sky again. He began looking around scared.

“Who is there?”, Matt said.

         Matt was looking up at the light as the aliens started coming down one by one.

“We are the aliens and we came to give the humans our drugs”, said the aliens.

          Matt begin thinking about what he said to Alex and if he should take the drug.

“Why are you guys doing this? What’s the purpose of you guys giving us this drug?”

“We are not here to hurt you guys, we were told that the drug was to help you and that humans would need it.”

         The alien handed Matt the drugs that was in a round bottle, with a tiny cap and a bunch of words around the bottle. Matt had opened the bottle and had seen over a hundred orange tablets. As he sat there and looked worrying about what should he do the light came back with the weird sounds out the sky. The aliens had then started going back into the light as he still sat there staring at the bottle fill out tablets. The team was coming out from the dinner place checking out if Matt was okay he hid the medicine  behind his back. Matt and Alex had made eye contact as he was hiding the bottle behind his back. Matt and Alex did not exchange any words but Alex knew what Matt was up to. They had then went back to the hotel to get ready for game to determine if they would their season without discussing anything about what he was hiding. As the team got ready for the game Alex walked over to Matt and Matt tried to avoid him as the made eye contact.

“Can we talk about the decisions you're about make before this game start?”Alex said.

“I don’t know what your talking about I am making a right decision”, Matt said.

“I know you have them drugs, where did you either get them from?”

“Okay I do but I am having second thoughts on if I should take it. And do you remember that we had seen that glowing light out the sky and heard weird noises.”


“Well that was coming from the aliens who had abducted the earth and they came back last night well we was at dinner. The aliens had then told me they're the ones with the drugs and their not coming to earth to hurt, but they want to give us drugs.”

“So the aliens have the drugs. I knew you were up to something last night and why you wanted to hide it.”

“I didn’t want to get in trouble because I had them, but I don’t know what to do let me just think about what my decision going to be.”

“Well I believe you would make the right decision I will see you on the floor warming up.”

         Alex headed out the locker room leaving Matt alone. Matt begin getting dress and tried hard not thinking about the pills the aliens had gave him. After he stop getting dress he started running out the locker room as he tripped over the chair and with his bag falling out the chair. As the bag fell off the chair the pills then fell out the bag, and he heard the movement of the tablets inside the round bottle. He paused as he looked at the round bottle roll up next to his leg. The bottle had stopped at his leg and he picked it up staring at it. He was looking around the room as he opened the bottle top seeing if anyone was coming. Matt was turning the bottle upside down to take out some tablets as he came across a section on the bottle that said, “only take 2 tablets every 6 hours.”  He knew this was an important game so he decided to take 4 so he could have the best game in his career. As he heard the horn he knew the game was getting ready to start so he decided to put the lid back on and put it back on the bag. Matt started running out as the coach noticed he was there on the floor.

“Where is Matt the game is started in any minute?”, coach said.

“I don’t know last time I talked to him he was in the locker room. Nevermind there he is coach”, said Alex.

      As Matt was running up, “Where have you been boy?”

“I was in the back just getting ready”, said Matt.

“Are you okay? Why are you sweating so much?”

“I am okay I just have pre game nerves, but I am ready to win this game.”

“Well go out there and win this game as a team and make me proud.”

      As the game started Matt came out with a different amount of energy then he have in all the previous game. He was more focus on the game and had nothing on his mind like other games. He was leading the team to victory but taking over every moment of the game. Matt and his team went into the locker room at halftime leading the other team by 13 points. When the team was sitting in the locker room Alex walked over to Matt with a curious face on how his game just change out of no where.

“Matt I know you didn’t do what I think you did”, Alex said.

“Alex calm down I just took one tablet and I feel perfectly fine, I will be okay don’t worry.”

“That’s not the point you heard what coach said, you might feel fine right now, but it would affect you later on.”

“I am going to be okay, but you have to promise you don’t say anything about this.”

“I promise.”

         Alex walked the away furious at Matt decision on taking the tablets after he promised he won’t say anything to anyone. As the team was running out the locker ready to finish the game strong Matt stay behind. Matt decided to take another 2 tablets without 6 hours even passing. As Matt was putting the tablets in his mouth one his teammate left his warm up shirt behind and seen him taking the medicine. Matt didn’t see his teammate looking at him as he teammate was hiding the door where the coach office was. After taking the medicine Matt ran back on the floor ready to warm up with the team. One of his teammates decided to stay behind to see what Matt was taking before he had ran out the locker room. He picked up the medicine opening the lid and seeing the little orange tablets. As he sat there and stare at the orange tablets he thought about what the coach said to the team about the medicine and what the description of the medicine was. He slowly put the lid on without taking any tablets and put the medicine in his locker hiding it from Matt. As he walked back on the court to the bench he said no words to the team on Matt taking the medicine that was banned from the basketball league. As he sat on the bench he watched Matt take over the game at another level ending the game with a career with 30 points. After the teams win they have advanced to the last round to go win the championship. The team was showering and getting dressed after a hard game with a very loud locker room on Matt’s career performance. As the locker room was emptying out because everyone was leaving Matt was still behind getting dressed. As he empty his bag to put all his things together he noticed the medicine was missing. He began to search the whole locker room tearing the place apart. He decided to go back to the hotel knowing he couldn’t find the medicine and there was nothing he could do about it. He sat up all night thinking about where could that medicine go and if Alex had something to do with it. The next morning arrived as the team had to get ready Matt was quiet the whole time. Alex walked over to Matt.

“Why do you look different?”, Alex said.

“I feel the same, but I have to ask you something”,

“What is it?”

“Have you seen the medicine I have been taking?”

“No I haven’t seen it and you need to find it for the coach puts his hands on it. If the coach see the medicine all hell will break loose in that locker room.”

      Matt walked away from Alex as the coach blew the whistle letting team know practice is starting. Matt wasn’t the same as before he was moving a lot slower from previous games with and without taking the medicine. He stopped practice early because he told the coach he was feeling light headed and like he was about to pass out. Alex walked over to Matt as he laid down on the bench.

“What’s wrong Matt?”

“I am feeling weird and not feeling good.”

          Alex walked Matt to the locker room to get his things so he could go back to the hotel to go to sleep. Well the team was heading out the locker room after a hard practice the coach had stayed behind to work on plays for the team. As he was straightening up the lockers in the locker he opened up a locker and came across the medicine. He grab the bottle and decided to open it as he heard the sounds of the tablets moving around in the bottle. He had an upset face as seen orange tablets all around inside the bottle. He wasn’t sure who medicine it was and who was taking it so he can only find out one way. As the team got ready for the championship game the coach called a meeting for the team because of what he had found. The team walked in the locker confused on what was going on and why they had a team meeting. The team sat around as the coach stood up looking at every player in their eyes not even knowing noticing that Matt was missing from the locker room.

“Do anyone know why I called this team meeting before practice?”, coach said.

“No”, the team said.

“Well someone on this team have been sneaking around taking the medicine that the league banned.”

       All the players on the team look around the room confused and what was going on even Alex and the one teammate that knew who have been taking the drugs. As the players looked at each other it was quiet and no one had anything to say. The coach then pulled out the medicine and was holding it up so the whole locker room eyes were focus on what was in the coach hands. Alex then took his eyes off the bottle of medicine and noticed that Matt was not in the room.

“How about since no one wants to speak up about who medicine this is everyone would take a test. The test would determine who is really is telling the truth and who is lying about taking these drugs in my locker room. Practice is off, everyone is dismissed and everyone would be taking the test tomorrow in the morning. Whoever have been taking the drugs would face serious consequences”, coach said.

     Everyone walked out the room quiet with nothing to say on taking the test. Alex had went straight to Matt finding him in the bed not feeling good. Alex say next to him while Matt laid in bed.

“I have some really bad new I should share with you”, Alex said.

“What is it?”

“Coach found the drugs in one of the lockers and we had a team meeting.”

“Oh Gosh, I am going to get in serious trouble. Did anyone who was taking the drug?”

“No that’s the problem he don’t know who took the drug because the room was so quiet, and no one was talking. He decided to give us a drug test tomorrow as a team and everyone has to be there.”

“I’m going to get caught and have to face the consequences. Did he even notice I wasn’t at the meeting.”

“No you should be okay, you only took 1 right?”

“No I took way more then 1 and I took more than what the bottle had told me to take. I think from me taking so much I am becoming sick.”

“Well either way you're going to take that test tomorrow sick or not.”

“I will be there now I have to get some rest for tomorrow.”

“Well either way you're going to take that test tomorrow sick or not.”

“Okay I will now let me get some rest for tomorrow.”

“Alright I will see you tomorrow in the locker room.”

     Alex had left the room and Matt tried to get some sleep. He couldn’t because he was so nervous about the coach finding out about the drug he has been taking. Matt was stressing about so much that he finally close his eyes and feel asleep with a lot on his mind. As the morning arrived Matt was still feeling sick walking into the locker with all eyes on him. The whole team was waiting for him so everyone would take the test at the same time. The test was for each player on the team to take a urine drug test to determine who have been taking the drug. The room was very quiet as each player went one by one to take a urine test in the locker room bathroom. As Matt turn was coming up to go take the urine test he whispered over to Alex.

“I am coming up what should I do. I don’t want to take test, but I think I should just tell coach that I am the one who have been taking the medicine. I think I should tell him where I have got all the medicine and why I took it too.”

“Honestly that’s no good just don’t say anything. You might even pass the test you never what’s going to happen, so for right now just take the test and pray.”

        The coach came in the locker room.

“Matt your up next”, coach said.

        Matt begin walking towards the bathroom very slowing as everyone was quietly watching as he took each step.  Matt sat on the toilet after locking the bathroom door so no one could come in. As he felt in his pants pocket it was a hand full of tablets in his pocket. He pulled them out his pocket looking at the tablets very hard knowing that these pills was the reason he have take this test. He knew that he was the only one on the team taking the test so he didn’t want to face the consequences. As the team sat in the locker room waiting he was in the bathroom sitting there taking one tablet slowly after another. The team didn’t know what was going on as they sat there quietly waiting for Matt to come out the bathroom. After a couple of long minutes the coach came in the locker room curious looking for Matt. The coached walked over to Alex.

“Umm Alex where is Matt?”,coach said.

“Coach I don’t know he never came back from taking his test from the bathroom.”

     The coach walked away very furious because Matt was still in the bathroom. He walked to the bathroom door very slowly.

“Matt, Matt, Matt.”

      There was no reply from Matt as he began touching on bathroom door turning the knob slowly and finding out it was locked. He was knocking on the door and Matt was not replying so the coach ran back out to the locker to the team.

“Boys come here quick its important”, coach said.

     The boy began running quickly following behind the coach. They knew it was something serious because the coach looked very scared as he came in the locker. Alex was walking behind the team and coach praying it had nothing to do with Matt.

“Matt is in there the door is lock and he will not answer”, coach said.

     The coach went in his office and grab the master keys to unlock the door. He came back with the team surrounding the door all crying. He didn’t know what was going on as he walked closer he seen Alex laying next to Matt holding him up off the floor.

“Coach he is dead”, Alex said.

    Alex had heavy tears coming down his eyes holding on to Matt. The coach put his head down slowly in his hands as he started to cry. The coach heard someone say, “coach” as his head was down. The coach slowly picked up his head as he seen Alex holding Matt hand out. Matt was holding the orange pills in one hand and the other hand was around his chest as he laid there.

Quarter 4 art

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.05.50 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.05.50 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 12.54.50 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 12.54.50 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.16.37 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.16.37 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.09.38 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.09.38 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.16.27 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.16.27 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.18.29 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.18.29 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.18.52 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.18.52 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.19
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.19
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.40.28 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.40.28 AM

Negative Space Drawings

Negative space in an image is everything other than the focus of the image.

In my cut out, I explored negative space by inverting one side of the image. Having one side be the negative of the other causes your eyes to notice different details on opposite sides. The negatives compliment each other to make a more complete image.

In my negative space drawing, I found negative space by looking at the background rather than looking at the still life itself.

It helps an artist to see in negative space because as an artist, you need to be more observant than an average person. By being able to see the whole picture, the artist can understand what makes a good image.

Negative space is useful in creating art because typically you do not pay attention to it, but you subconsciously notice it. Art is not just about the subject of the image. It is about how the subject interacts with all other aspects of the image.

Kame-ing Home

For the third time this week I woke up to the sound of her voice calling my name from downstairs. “Kame!” she yelled. I hated when she didn’t let me sleep in. We had only been living with each other for a few months now and since then my life has been pure hell. Everyday I have to wake up and take care of her like shes a damn baby. I tell myself I can’t live like this, then again I can’t leave her alone, especially not since the accident… nothing has been the same.

“Be down in a second sweetheart.” Kame replied slowly getting out of bed, making his way toward the bathroom. I splashed some cold water on my face and looked at myself in the mirror. My face was pale and there were blue bags under my eyes. I took my time getting ready hoping Kate wouldn’t scream my name again. I made my way down the stairs, one foot then the next, trying to keep the old wooden steps from creaking incase she had fallen asleep. Oh how I hope she is asleep. Turning the corner from the kitchen into the living room, I heard her sneeze and from there I knew what I was in for today. I turned back around and trecked back into the kitchen. I grabbed the meds I knew she needed today along with glass of water. Ever since the accident Kate had to take over 20 pills a day and even with all of that she still lived in pain. She can’t remember what happened that day only 6 months ago but at night she dreams about it. She wakes up in terror. Sweat pours down her beautiful face and her blue eyes turn red.

We can no longer sleep in the same bed. She mistakes me to be someone that hurt her and she tries to hurt me. Though, during the day things are easier. I can talk to her and laugh with her which reminds me that she is still the same Kate I married 2 years ago. Our honeymoon was the best! We went to Thailand and rode elephants everyday. We slept with families in their mud huts and we even saw what the tsunami did to the families and communities in that surrounding area. We played with the children and talked about how the day we adopt would be the best day of our life. We planned to have our own children first and after they grow up a little bit we would adopt.

I checked the fridge for who would be coming to see Kate today, luckily there was nobody on the schedule. I was so bad at being in charge of all of this but who else was going to do it? After she took her medication and I helped her shower we decided to go out to a late lunch. Taking her out was the hardest by far. Just getting her into the car was a struggle in itself and making it in the restaurant was a miracle each and every time. Not only were both of her arms broken but so was her pelvis, not to mention the cuts and the bruises which would lead to scars that covered most of her cold body. The waitress came and took our order, and she could tell something was awkward between me and my wife. She then asked in my wife was okay and what had happened to her. I was the only one who truly knew what happened well other than her of course. We decided we would just tell people Kate got into a very bad car accident.

After lunch we went straight home and I made sure Kate was comfortable watching Say Yes To The Dress and I decided to try and take a nap. Ever since the accident it was hard for me to fall asleep, of course this time was no different. I closed my eyes and everything from the accident just replayed over and over again in my head. The image I saw most was the green alien that picked her up from our daily walk around our new neighborhood. It had three big, nasty looking eyes and a huge mouth. It was like nothing I have even seen before. It came alone and just sweeped Kate right off of her feet. “Stop thinking about this!” I told myself right before I got up to check on Kate again.

She was asleep so I turned on Sports Center. As I watched the highlights I missed every second of every moment I spent on the ice. Ever since Kate’s accident, I haven’t been able to play at all. I had to tell the team and all my coaches Kate and I were in a car accident. They believed it and sometimes would come visit me. When they came to visit I would put on a fake boot and would wince in pain every time I got the opportunity. I missed playing more than anything. I missed getting checked by my opponent and the way I felt when I scored a goal in a tight game. If there was one thing I could do for the rest of my life it would be to play hockey. I know when I come back they are going to put me back to the semi-pro team in Philadelphia and that is really the last place I want to be. Kate moaned and mumbled “Turn this off Kame, you are only making it harder on yourself, remember that.” I got up, pressed the power button and chuckled. I can’t believe I actually listened to her.

After dinner I cleaned up Kate’s wounds and gave her the meds she needed to take at night. We watched a movie and ate some ice cream. When she started dozing off, I put a blanket over her and made my way upstairs. I laid in “our” bed and looked around “our” room. None of this felt like “ours” anymore. It was either hers or mine. This wasn’t the time to contemplate on our relationship so I closed my eyes and tried falling asleep.

I felt myself falling asleep until I heard Kate’s voice in my head. She was screaming. “KAME help me! I need you, help me!” She didn’t realize we were both helpless. There was nothing I could do. The little green thing had already had her in a death grip. There was no way in hell he was letting go. He dragged her by her hair at incredible speeds but her screams sounded so close. She kept telling me she needed help and I tried to follow behind them but there was no way in hell I was going to reach them. She was gone. That fast the love of my life was gone. Right before my eyes.

That night I couldn’t sleep, I sat on the couch with my feet up and tried to focus on things that didn’t have anything to do with Kate. I watched the Penguins play and tried to eat my favorite kind of ice cream but I couldn’t. I felt sick to my stomach. I asked myself if she was ever going to come back. I asked where she was. I asked if there was something I could have done. I asked so many things that I didn’t have the answer to. I don’t remember much more from that night considering I drank quite a bit.

I woke up the next morning expecting Kate to already have coffee made and my clean clothes laid out on the bed. I contemplated on what I should do next? I could go to the police but they would never believe what happened. I could get some of my teammates to come look for her with me but I can’t let them all find out how bad things really are. I finally decided I had to go about finding her on my own.

I made my way to the spot this all happened the previous night. There was nothing in my sight which made me nervous. I already wasn’t sure what to do and this made me want to give up even more. I paced up and down the street and tried to ignore all the stares that were aimed in my direction. I made my way closer to the store at the corner. As I approached it, I felt a strong gust of wind hit me and I stumbled backwards. I looked up and suddenly everything was black and I was somewhere I had never seen before. I heard a voice but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I tried to focus in here and the voices became a little clearer.

“Well hello there sir.” said Gus, the alien.

“Hello…” relied Kame, his voice uneasy.

“It’s nice to see you finally came to look for your wife. We are taking very very good care of her, as I’m sure you would too. She is waiting to see you.” said Gus.

“So are you going to tell me where she is, or should I find her on my own?” replied Kame.

“Oh, no. I will gladly show you where she is, just follow me.”

I followed Gus and observed everything we walked passed. My stomach was so uneasy but I knew it was all going to be worth it since I would soon see Kate. My nerves were only getting worse as we kept walking. I saw tons of people including children. They didn’t seem in their right state of mind either. They were just walking back and forth in a little clear space. They were alone and nothing was in their space. They didn’t even seem to see us walk passed. The rest of the area was dark and I looked down to tons of stories of the same thing I saw up here. We were walking on a little path with no railings. Someone slide on the right of me and I almost fell off the edge.

Finally, in the distance I saw Kate. She looked sick. She was pale and her hair was tied up tightly. She looked at me and we made eye contact and when I tried to smile at her and blow her a kiss she looked away in disgust. I asked myself if this was really Kate? Or had they done something to her that made her not remember me?

“What did you do to her?” Kame asked Gus

“Nothing, what makes you ask that? replied Gus

“She won’t even look at me in the eye.”

“I’m not sure what to tell you young man. We did nothing to harm Kate. We took a little blood and added another type to see how she would react. She seemed to have taken the reaction well, we also gave her some of the food we usually eat so she wouldn’t be hungry,” said Gus

“So why does she look so skinny and sick?” asked Kame

I was beginning to get angry. I knew Gus was lying to me and for Kate to get better I needed to know what he had done to her. I continued to ask him but he repeated the same things. At this point Kate was crouched over on the floor with her head between her knees. I walked over towards her until Gus and one of his little alien friends grabbed me by my shoulder and pulled me backwards. I hit the ground with a hard thump and Kate looked up startled by what had just went down. My anger reached the point where I could no longer contain it. I grabbed Gus and his friend and threw them off the side of the path. I watched them fall until their tiny bodies faded away.

That was my moment. I ran into the room Kate was in and picked her up as carefully and gently and I could. She was shaking and crying. At this point I wasn’t sure if she knew who I was but that didn’t really matter. I used every ounce of energy I had in me to run as fast as I could back the way we came from. I looked over my shoulder and I saw Gusx10 running after us. I tried running faster but they were picking up ground pretty quick. My shoelace became looser but I couldn’t stop and in that exact moment I fell. Kate flew out of my arms and off the ledge of the path. She hit the ground with a crash. I kept running as fast as possible until I reached her. She was back at the store I had first gotten taken from.

“Kate, love, are you okay?” Kame asked.

She wasn’t saying anything. I didn’t want to move her but I had to. Her head was bleeding a little bit and I laughed to myself… “I wonder which kind of blood this is?”

We made our way to the hospital and when we got there they took her away from me right away.

“Hello sir, we are going to have to take your wife for a good examination, we will be back to update you on how everything is going,” said the nurse, trying to make Kame feel as comfortable about everything as possible.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it,” replied Kame with tears filling up his pale blue eyes.

Sitting in the emergency room waiting area I had time to think. The most important thing on my mind was Kate and whether or not she was okay but I also thought about the aliens and I hoped they would never come back to bother us again. I remember seeing all the kids and adults there and it hit me that this isn’t some freak accident that will never happen again. It is something real that is taking over. This could happen again and we must do something to stop it. As I began to come up with something in my mind, the nurse came back.”

“How is she?” I asked the nurse eagerly.

“Right now she isn’t doing well. She has a slight concussion and needed 20 stitches in her head. She also has a broken femur and her pelvis is shattered. Other than that she is suffering from internal bleeding which we now have under control. She will need emergency surgery on her leg and pelvis in a little while but she would like to see you first.”

“Yes! That would be great. I would love to see her.”

“No problem, just follow me. She is still pretty out of it which I am sure you expect.”

I walked in the room and saw Kate laying in the bed. She looked better than before. She smiled at me and I could tell she remembered who I was. I walked over to her and grabbed her hand and kissed her forehead. I checked to make sure she wasn’t intubated before I sparked up a conversation. She wasn’t, so I began.

“Kate?” I asked.

“Yes baby? I’m okay now. I really am. The pain is under control and I’m just so happy to see you here. Are you okay?”

“This is not about me. Really. I’m just glad you're feeling better. Do you remember what happened?”

“Not really, I remember being taken and then after that everything is a blur until right now.”

I woke up. Sweat was pouring down my face. My sheets were on the floor and everything was all over the room. I ran down the stairs to check on Kate. She woke up startled by how I was acting. She didn’t say anything because she knew what it was about. I felt dizzy and turned around to leave the room. I made my way back upstairs and laid on the floor of the bathroom. I couldn’t move. My body just wouldn’t allow me. This is something I tried to tell myself over and over again. I couldn’t be with Kate after all of this. It wasn’t fair to either of us. I just no longer felt the same way.

I forced myself to get up. The walk from the bathroom to “our” room felt like eternity. I packed my stuff up, everything I knew I was going to need and I left Kate our wedding ring and a note on the bed. The note didn’t say much other than I just needed time alone and I would come back if it was right. I told her I was going to the store and I left. I needed to think of somewhere to go. I walked passed the store where all of this initially went down. After thinking about all of that again I made my way to the police station. It was time to confess everything I just witnessed.

They sat me down in a room and told me to wait for someone to come so they could listen to my story. I sat and waited for what seemed like forever. I reviewed what I was going to say in my head until the detective finally walked in.

“Hello sir, how are you this morning?” the cop asked shaking my hand sternly.

“I’m holding up, and you?” Kame replied.

“Good, so what happened?”


That is when I told the cops everything that happened. They didn’t believe my story and told me I was crazy. They set me up with a psychologist and told me that I might had a mental illness which is leading me to make these things up in my head and dream about them as if they were happening in real life. I went back home and Kate and I talked through everything.

A Universe's Story

“Welcome to our universe. A place where personality determines your destiny. A place where violence is not an issue because we have split our people into four different planets based on their personality, meaning no one will disagree and no one’s ideas will clash. A place where all thoughts and words are recorded through internal diaries/journals. Welcome to our four planetas; welcome to our universe. There are a few things you must know before you take the journey to our universe. Reginas and Rex is the planet for the proper and superiors. Feroces is the planet for the fierce and almighty. Mitis is a planet for the quiet and gentle. Ignotus is for the mysterious and unknown; the ones who don’t quite fit into any other planeta.” says an electronic voice far in the distance.

Aria rubs her eyes to make sure she’s not dreaming.

“What’s going on?”

“You have been chosen to look over Adrea and Silas, who have just turned eighteen,” replies the voice.

“Why? What is so special about being eighteen.”

“In our universe, eighteen is a very special year. It’s when the children become adults and they can finally be placed into the planeta they belong in.”

“When do I get to go back home,” asks Aria. She wipes a tear from her eye.

“Don’t cry darling. This is a chance to learn about your universe’s past. You will leave when you have your answers.”

“I AM IN THE PAST? What year is this?”

“It’s the year 3004. You’ve dreamt about the past, I’ve seen it, and now you’re here. You’re here because you are a curious one. You will be back by morning. Time goes a lot faster here. All you have to do is listen and you will hear the thoughts of Adrea and Silas.” The electronic voice shut off.

Aria sits and listens closely.

Dear Diary,

I wake up to a pounding on my door. Today is the day. There’s a sort of tingling in my fingertips and a churning in my stomach. Are the other 18 year-olds feeling as nervous as I am today? I’m about to chose my future. I may wake up 3000 light years away tomorrow morning. I may wake up and find myself in the exact same bed I’ve slept in for the past eighteen years. In the same 20-story brick building that I’ve lived in for eighteen years. What will I do if I have to spend the rest of my life in this hell hole? I’ve spent so much time locked up in this building that I swear I know where every single outlet and every sneak exit is. I’m bored, tired and so ready to find myself. I can feel it in my bones that my life is about to change.

I’ve never felt a sense of inclusion or belonging. While my roommates take three hours to get ready it takes me less than 10 minutes. They come out wearing short dresses that squeezes every inch of skin on their body into one straight figure. They wear so much make up that it makes me cringe. I can tell some of them don’t feel comfortable, but they’d do anything to fit in. It’s quite sad.

I don’t care. They look at me funny when I walk into the mess hall. They giggle when I trip and fall flat on my face in poise class. But I don’t care. I know that in a few days I will never see these people again.

But then I think again… Did any of the last eighteen years of my life matter? Instead of getting ready for the most important day of my life, I’m laying in bed writing in my diary. I should go. I should look nice today. I want to make a good first impression.

Hopefully I’ll be in a new bed tomorrow night. One that isn’t quite as big and fluffy because it makes me feel lost.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

It’s Monday morning. But not just any Monday. It’s the Monday where I get to move out. I woke up three hours ago, even though I don’t have to be ready for another two. This is not like me at all. I usually am awaken by the yelling outside my door telling me I’m the only one still sleeping. I never get a warm shower because I’m too late and all the warm water has been used up, but today was different. The water was so warm that the steam fogged up every inch of the mirror. I stepped out of the shower and wrote the lyrics to “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble across the front of the mirror. I sang “It’s a new dawn, It’s a new day, It’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good” all the way back to my room. I got a few glares and grunts from those who were still half asleep but I didn’t care. It was a good day and I was feeling hella good.

The longer I wait here, the more anxious I’m getting. I wonder how many Feroces are eighteen this year. How many will be joining me at the Annual Planeta Induction? Where will I be placed? Will I be Rex, the superiors? Will I be Mitis, the gentle? Will I be Ignotus, the unknown? I know I won’t be staying in Feroces. I haven’t proven myself tough enough. I’d cry before every shooting class as a kid. I was not afraid of getting hit by the sword, but of holding such a dangerous weapon. I really hope I’m Rex. They take fencing and archery classes instead, which is much more my style. I would be at the top of the chain. I once heard they live closest to the sun because they are the most worthy. I’ve also heard they drink wine and eat grapes every night. They live like royalty.

My biggest fear is being sent to ignotus. No one hears anything about that planet. It’s the farthest away from the sun, meaning it must be cold year round. Cold and dark. Very few get sent to Ignotus, so I bet it’s lonely.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

It’s cold and dark here. Where am I?

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

This is the last place I want to be.


Dear Diary,

I’m trying to remember what happened in the past twenty four hours. I woke up yesterday as usual, in Regina. But this morning I am in Ignotus. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. The breeze here is a little stronger and a little colder but I actually don’t mind it. It’s refreshing.

Oh! The Annual Planeta Induction. Let me tell you all about it. All the Reginas lined up in the Aqua Ballroom. We were each assigned a number and slowly but surely they got to 2948230. My number was called. My heart was pounding so fast in my chest that I swore I’d faint before I could get to the Induction Room.

An old, grumpy-looking man stood in the doorway. He handed me a sheet of paper and told me to go inside. I went inside and sat at the only desk in the room. It was situated right in the middle, nothing else surrounding it. I flipped the paper over to make sure nothing was on it. I was very confused as to what I was suppose to be doing. Then all of a sudden a voice came out of no where. A voice I’d heard before. I think it was the voice I’d been hearing in dreams the past few nights. The voice told me to take the paper and look at it very closely. I put it down on the desk and all of a sudden little pictures started to appear on the page. At first they were very faint and I thought I was just hallucinating but slowly the pictures became clearer and clearer.

After telling the voice what I’d seen in the pictures, I was sent to a new room. This room was completely empty except for a single door. I opened the door and behind the door was the spaceship that would take me to my new planeta. My new life. My heart was beating faster now than it had when my number. If that’s even possible. I stepped inside.  No one had told me what my results were. I didn’t know where I was going. All I knew is that I wasn’t a Regina anymore.

My whole life I thought I’d be a Mitis, but something felt different today. I don’t know exactly what it was, but there was something in my stomach, not butterflies, but drums. Not just a tap, tap either, more like a boom, boom. I sat so quietly in that space ship that I could hear every organ in my body working. The pounding of my heart, the wheezing of my lungs, the ticking in my brain. I could hear it all over my silence. This is why I belong in Mitis. I am quiet and reserved. I like being this way. I really don’t mind it most of the time.


Dear Journal,

I think the system made a mistake. I woke up in Ignotus this morning. Ignotus was not even an option for me. Or so I’d hoped. I’m praying that a spaceship will come to Ignotus and rescue me. An officer from the Induction committee will step out and tell me they’ve made a mistake. He is going to tell me I don’t belong in this eerie place. But of course, it doesn’t happen.

So I’m part of Ignotus. This is my new home and my new life. All the new inductees are gathered to learn the ways of this planeta. The first thing we are told is that everyone will stay here until Visiting Day. Visiting Day is the day we get to use the planeta’s spaceships and go to the other planeta’s to visit the friends we’ve left behind. I wonder where all of my friend’s are. I bet Brutus is in Rex. He was always a very proper and poised kind of guy. Claud on the other hand, will definitely stay in Feroces. He belongs no where else but with the strong and fearless.

They told us we’re here because we’re unique but I think it’s bullshit.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

The first thing I learned about the Ignotus life is that each member was placed here for a unique reason. Supposedly, it’s the reason we never hear anything about this planeta. We are put here because we possessed something greater. Something better than the confinements we tried to hard to fit ourselves into. Maybe it’s the reason why I’ve never quite felt that I belonged and why even on the morning of I had absolutely no clue of where I’d be placed.

I think I’m going to like it here. It’s quite refreshing. There are so many different faces and personalities. I wonder if I’ll ever get to know all of these people. I think there are about 2500 new Ignotus. Some look excited to be here but some look so confused and frustrated. I would’ve been happy anywhere, as long as I didn’t stay with the Reginas.

My eye catches the eye of a boy, who looks especially angry. But his anger is a soft and tender kind, not stiff and resilient. I can tell that deep down he isn’t the tough looking guy who puts on an exterior because that’s what he was taught. I’ve never even seen this guy before but the way he looks back at me makes me all tingly on the inside.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

I don’t know who she was, or where she came from but she was beautiful. Not in the way I’d ever seen before. Her skin glowed in the light, her hair dark hair flowing in the wind, and her eyes… Oh her eyes. They were this deep blue, like the depths of the ocean. She wore a velvet dress that hugged her body in the most pleasant way possible. I wanted to go closer. To say something. Or even just to take in the beauty. But something was holding me back. This wasn’t like me at all. Back in Feroces, I could go up to any girl and I swear I had the best game, but today I couldn’t do it.

Next thing I knew she was walking over to me.

“Hi,” she said in the most delicate voice I’d ever heard, “I’m Adrea.”

I stumbled to find words. I didn’t know what was happened. This never happened to me.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

I know I shouldn’t have but I giggled. I giggled at his uneasiness. But not because I was making fun of him, but because it was adorable. He shifted his weight from side to side and I could tell he was searching for words he said a thousand times before.

Finally he replied, “Hey, I’m Silas. It’s very nice to meet you.”

We’d been paired together for daily assignments, which meant we were going to spend a lot of time together. I was grateful I’d been paired up with someone who seemed to be just as awkward as I am. Our first assignment of the day was to gather our belongings and choose a room. I chose my room and Silas chose the room right across from mine.

His excuse being, “We need to be close together, since we are assignment buddies.”

I giggled again because who else says that kind of stuff? I was falling head over heels for this boy and I didn’t even know him yet.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

I think this may be the first girl I’ve been shy around. I hate it, but I also kind of like it. Her laugh is so delicate and sugary. Every time I see her, I feel a little taller, a little more aware of life. It must have been an angel sent from above that paired us together on that very first day.

Our next assignment is to create a piece of artwork. I am in no way an artist, but they think because we’re “unique” we must all be creative. I hope they aren’t expecting much because this is not going to go well.  

I knock on Adrea’s door and ask if she’s ready for the daily assignment.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

I hear a faint knock on the door and fly out of bed. I must’ve slept right through my alarm this morning.

“I’ll be out in a sec,” I call in a sort of panic.

“Oh. Take your time,” he hesitates.

It’s been three months. We’ve settled in pretty nicely. Each of the new Ignotus pairs have gotten a new daily assignment everyday. This will be the last time until they give us permanent jobs. The point of these daily assignments was to find what we excel in. Being an ignotus means your talents are hidden deep within you and they have not yet been discovered. Some pairs have discovered their talents. Some are still searching. Silas and I would be part of the latter group.

This is the last chance. If we aren’t fit for today’s assignment we will be set for re-evaluation, which would mean another ride in the spaceship and another three months of adjustment to a new planeta. I don’t know if I could do it.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

Adrea walks out of the room and we head into the art studio. The room smells funny and I already don’t feel like I belong. We walk over to the man who is silently spinning his clay pot. He tells us to chose anything in the studio and start working.

I walk over to box of paints and paint brushes. Anyone could tell that neither Adrea nor I knew a single thing about art. We had an hour to create a masterpiece. But how were we suppose to do that with no experience whatsoever.

I tell Adrea we should split up and each try until we find something that works. So I pick up the paints and brushes from the bin and walk over to an aisle. Adrea finds some new clay and sits down next to the man at one of the potter’s wheels.

I try painting a tree, then myself, then the view from the window. But each attempt fails miserably.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

I tried everything. I made a pot. I made a vase. Nothing is coming out the way the man’s pottery had. We have 15 minutes left and the clock is ticking faster and louder as the seconds went by. I’m panicking. We are about to fail our last challenge. I wass finally settling and now we’ll have to pack our bags and leave.

5 minutes left. I throw out all the old pieces of clay and took a new batch. This will be my last try. I gather my things and now 4 minutes to go.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

3 minutes and 59 seconds. That’s all the time we have left. I rip off the picture I was drawing of the landscape and I just stand there. I watch Adrea as she rushes around trying to put something together. In 2 minutes and 15 seconds the judge will come by to see our art. I stare at Adrea’s delicate body, her silky hair and I know I can’t lose her to another planeta. I close my eyes, her image implanted in my mind, and I just start to paint.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

We are down to 60 seconds and the timer starts counting out loud. It drives me nuts. I throw the pottery and walk over to Silas. As I get closer I can see the details of his painting. It’s amazing. It’s… of me. I was astonished. The clock keeps counting down. 5… 4… 3… I want to shake his shoulders and tell him to hurry up. 2… But he’s so into it. 1… BEEP. Time’s up.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

BEEP. I jump at the sound of the timer. Time was up, but my painting was is finished. The judge walks over to my painting. He praises it but tells us it would not do. We are going to be shipped back to be re-evaluated.

I hear a faint cry and turned around. Adrea is on the floor, palms pressed hard against her face. She cries so quietly, I almost don’t realize she’s there. I walk over and kneel by her side. I know exactly how she’s feeling. I’m feeling the same exact way. But I have to keep it together. I don’t want to show her weakness. I gently push her hair back behind her ears and kiss her cheek.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

“It’ll all work out okay,” He whispered in my ear.

And I want nothing more but to believe the sweet words coming out of his mouth, but I can’t do it. He gave me his hand and helped me up. We walk back to the rooms and pack our bags. This is it.

I look at the red and gray uniform I’ve worn for the past three months and start crying even harder. I have made friends here. I feel at home for the first time in my life. I have a sense of belonging and now it is all being torn away.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

We sit in silence on the spaceship. I take Adrea’s hand and interlace my fingers into hers. I tell her we are going to get through this together and that no matter what we will go together. We will not let each other go. If I’m not mistaken I catch her smile, just a small one, but I’m sure it was there.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

I must’ve fallen asleep on the spaceship because I woke up in the re-evaluation room. All I can think about was being separated from Silas. We are going to end up together. We have to.

- Adrea

Dear Journal,

All I have to focus on was Adrea. We will end up together. I don’t think I can live without her. I have gotten so used to waking up every morning, knocking on her door, and going down to the creation room and completing our daily assignment together.

- Silas

Dear Diary,

I am in Mitis.


Dear Journal,

I am back in Ignotus when I wake up.


Aria rubs her eyes and she’s back in her bed. She jumps up and runs into the kitchen.

“What year is this?” she asks her mother, who is making coffee.

“It’s 4820… Honey, is everything okay?” her mom replies.

“Oh NO! No, everything is not okay. Silas and Adrea aren’t together anymore. It’s all wrong. The system messed up.”

That night as Aria is sound asleep, the voice comes back.

“Aria, Silas and Adrea’s fate will forever be a mystery. However, we do know that the universe is now one because the system failed. All personalities are meant to live together, to fight, to love, to conquer, and to disagree. We should not be isolated from the rest of the world. This is why your universe is now one. There is a myth that says the planetas came together as one because Silas and Adrea’s love was so strong, it pulled them back together.”

Capstone Khari Evans

Project abstract:

For my capstone I wanted to have a project that was reflective of my interests in engineering. The goal, to create a arm will add 100 lbs lifting capacity to the user. I did this by using a system of pulleys and springs to create a mechanical advantage. By doing this project I now have  deeper understanding of some aspects of physics and about different materials and what I can and cannot do with them. In the end , I created a arm that works.


Honus. "How to make air muscles!."Instructables. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2014. <!/>.

From this site we learned the properties of something we call an Air muscle which is something we came across in another search. Air muscles contract and expand and can be used for to pull 400 times their own weight depending on their size. Many of them even work when wet. Another name for them are acutators.

Chewee. "Pneumatic Muscles." Instructables. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

Pneumatic Muscles are another kind of air muscles they can be used for even more things because they can come in different shapes. They can be used in pulleys and also work when wet and even under small amounts of damage

Mikey. "Air Muscles: Make an Artificial Muscle Robot Controller." Instructables. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

This is a instructable for a complex system of air muscles that are all controlled through a system of circuit board. The muscles can be monitored using the circuits and also operated the same way. We mostly wanted to observe a complex system from this link even though we don't plan to make a circuit board in our own.

Krasnow, Ben. "Tutorial: How to build an air muscle and use it in a force-feedback joystick." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Feb. 2011. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

This is another application of air muscles which is what we are really set on using at this point. In this video someone made a very simple air muscle in a joystick and how the system can be measured and used in a plane or helicopter

Daerdan , Frank, and Dirk Lefeber . "Pneumatic artificial muscles: Actuators for Robotics and Automation ." Publications of Brussels University Department of Mechanical Enginering. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2014. <>.

This is a publication of a document about the effects of a pneumatic muscle and how the displacement of the muscle works.

"Air Muscle." Air Muscle. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

Air muscles mirror what human muscles do. Air muscles, similar to actual muscles can only pull when air is pushed into them and aren't really meant for pushing. Another muscle or alternative needs to be used to create a force in the opposite direction.

"High power military robotic Exoskeleton." YouTube. YouTube, 26 Nov. 2007. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

This video is a purposefully made leak of military tech that utilizes hydraulic pumps and pneumatic muscles in an entire suit that can move cargo a lot more efficiently then people ny themselves.

Channel, Intel. "Student-designed Upper-body Exoskeleton Provides Augmented Strength." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

This was done by students at UPenn, and this is a more complex version of what we hope to accomplish in our own exo-skeletal mechanical advantage. This arm is lightweight and can give the user an addition 40 pounds of force that they are able to carry.

"Titan Arm." Titan Arm. University of Pennsylvania, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

This is the website from the video above that shows discussions with the studentsand more examples of the way the arm can be used. The arm itself, is something that doesn't wrap around the arm like some other designs we have observed.

"Arm and Hand." Mars Science Laboratory:. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. <>.

The robotic arm used on a rover has the same three joints as that of a human arm and can move almost just as much. It isn't an exoskeleton in anyway but it was useful for seeing how inanimate objects can mimicking humans.

The Hunter

Hard eyes glared up at him from behind an oaken counter. He paid no mind to them or their owner as he swung his legs over the rusty stool and dropped into its seat. His boots clicked down onto the bronze pole that served as a footrest. Jackson reached up and took his broad hat from his head, setting it down on the stool to his right.

“Gimme an ale. Somethin’ strong and dark. And a hunk of bread if you would be so kind,” he said. The barkeep continued to shine the glass in her hands for a moment before setting it down.

She was a pretty maid, couldn’t have been more than ten and seven with auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders. The soft flicker of a fire burning in the corner of the room brought out the green in her fierce eyes. She grabbed a tankard from the bottom shelf behind her and unstoppered the great wooden barrel that hung over the edge of the bar. A thick, dark mead flowed from the hole where the cork had been and drained into the glass below. The lass ripped some bread off of a hard white loaf behind the counter and set it on a tray with the ale beside. She slid it down towards him with a scrape and tapped the bar twice with her fingers.

“That’ll be two coppers for the ale, one for the bread, and another ten if’n you’ll be wantin’ a room,” she said with a cold stare. Jack took three coins from the purse at his belt and slid them to her over the countertop. He wouldn’t be needing a room tonight. Not if everything went as it should. He took a swig from his tankard and looked around the room, sweeping over the chairs scattered across the room and huddled around the hearth. The dusty men occupying them stared back with hard defiance. All except one. Do I know him? The man stared shiftily down at his boots as he drank from a rusty tin mug. He looked to be about twenty years of age with oily black hair hanging down to cover his bulbous nose and hideous twisted lips covered in scars.

It was not the most pristine of establishments. In fact, it was just about as dusty and forlorn as any of the saloons Jackson Blake had visited in his day. But if catching outlaws was a religion, this rusty bar was his Shangri-La. That’s Long Bill Waters, sure as day. I’ve never seen a bandit so ugly. Looks like he's got five or six friends in tow.

Jackson finished his drink with a few slow gulps and slid it down the counter to rest in the barkeep’s hand. The men around the fire were talking in hushed voices now, glancing occasionally in his direction. A few of them looked nervous, fidgeting as if they were waiting for something urgent. Jackson didn’t like that any more than he did the silver-grey six shooters that hung from each and every belt in the circle.

He casually reached down to his hip and felt reassuring cold steel beneath his grip. He was ready for whatever they might bring. This was not his first rodeo.

One of the men stood slowly and sauntered over to the bar, his boots clicking on the hardwood floor as he walked. He sat down next to Jackson’s hat and ordered a whiskey, straight. He cast a fleeting glance over in Jack’s direction, lingering just a second too long on the pistols by his side. They’re looking for trouble, but so am I.

“You been to Fort Griffin ‘bout this time last year? I’m lookin’ for a friend of mine. Might be you can help me find ‘im,” Jackson spoke up. The man fidgeted his gaze over to meet Jackson’s.

“Can’t say that I have. As to yer friend, I would need name or a face.” Jack reached into his pocket and set a crumpled piece of brown paper on the bar.

“Just so happens I have both. You seen this man before?” Jackson noticed the man’s neck tense as he unfolded the paper and stared at the face looking back at him.

“Son of a bitch…” The man’s hand shot down to the pistol at his side, but too late. Jackson’s own six-shooter was already in his hand and leveled at the outlaw’s chest. POP! POP! The first round caught him in the shoulder as he tried to rise. The second slammed into his chest right over his heart. He let out a soft gasp as his head hit the floor. The barkeep screamed out of shock and dropped the glass she was shining, glass shattered over the floorboards.

Around the fire the men were jumping out of their seats, drawing guns and kicking chairs out of the way. Bill Waters fired the first shot as soon as his finger found the trigger. The bullet whizzed past Jack’s head and buried itself into the shelf behind the bar. The barkeep fled the room through the back door as Jackson vaulted over the counter to take her place. Dozens of bullets screamed into the thick wood around the bounty hunter’s head as he huddled beneath the bar. The sound of their exit was so thunderous he had to grit his teeth to keep from crying out. I need to shoot my way out of here. Wait for an opening, stay alert.

By then three of the five that stood around the hearth had run out of ammunition and stopped to reload, kneeling on the hardwood floor. Jack took notice and drew his second gun from his belt. One, two, three. He jumped up, guns barking. A bullet struck through one bandit’s throat at the navel, sparking a fountain of red that sprayed in every direction. Another grazed the shoulder of the man next to him and knocked him from his feet, where Jackson finished him off. But for every shot the bounty hunter got off, his remaining targets sent three singing back through the air.

Jackson recoiled from a round that buried itself in the wood next to his arm on the bar and another ten that whistled past his head. He ducked back behind the counter. The outlaws continued to fire while he shoved six rounds into their chamber’s and caught his breath, protected by the thick wooden counter. This’ll never work. Those that are left won’t fall for that again. Jack unstoppered a bottle of gin that rested on the shelf behind him and took a long swig.

Suddenly the gunfire ceased and a cold silence filled the room. Smoke from both sides of the bar floated up to the rafters. “Bounty hunter!” a deep, gruff voice called out. “We’ll give you a choice now. Lay down your weapons and come on out here and we’ll spare the girl. Keep firing and my next bullet goes through her skull.” The girl. Dammit, how did they get to her? This’ll cost me.

He raised his hands over the edge of the counter and slowly rose to his feet. “I’m comin’ out.” Four bandits and one bartender stood in a semicircle around a scene of demolition. Blood pooled under a pile of what had once been chairs but had been reduced to firewood by the scrambling gunmen. The girl was unharmed as of yet but they had her surrounded, steel bared.

Long Bill flicked the barrel of his pistol over in Jack’s direction. “Walk.” He pointed to a spot on the floor in front of him. Jack climbed over the bar and walked slowly over, both palms raised. “You put up a hell of a fight, hunter. But we canyon boys have seen a fight or two in our days, and we’re not so easily incapacitated as it were.”

Jack looked over to the girl standing in the midst of their group. She caught his gaze and held it for a brief moment. He saw a flicker in her eye in that second, a look that frightened him. “Just you wait,” her eyes said. “Wait and see.” Jackson felt a knot twist in his belly. Ah, shit. She’s gonna try something.

Bill Waters took a step forward and raised his gun to level with the bounty hunter’s teeth. “Now, seeing as that you have surrendered, we will be doing whatsoever we like with your life and gold.” Jack swallowed back the nervous tension that had reached the back of his throat. He felt suddenly cold, then hot, as chills swept over his body. How am I gonna get out of this? The outlaw turned back and nodded his head at the barkeep girl behind him. “And hers.”

“You promised,” Jack scrambled to his feet in protest and advanced on Bill’s posse.

“Whoa, there cowboy. Back on up now,” Bill cocked the hammer of his pistol. “Now what we promised and what we intend to deliver are not one and the same. Being as we are humble thieves and murderers ourselves, we do not place too much emphasis on keeping promises. We’re bandits, you should know that. Are you ready to die now, boy?” Behind his shoulder, the girl inched forward. Jack looked down at her hands, which were removing something black and slick from the folds of her gown, he thought it to be a knife.

Jack cocked back his head and spit full in the outlaw’s face. “Well I guess that answers that,” one of the posse offered.

Bill raised his pistol again and made Jackson return to his knees. Jack closed his eyes. If you’re gonna do something, girl, do it quick. He looked back up and stared Bill dead in the face, defiant. Long Bill laughed, “I’ve never had much of a pension for allowing last words and the like, but…”

Suddenly the girl’s hands snaked out and Jack could see the object entwined within. If only for a fleeting glance, he could make out silvery circles raised over a a slick black surface. The length of the small flat rectangle was strewn with lines running from beginning to end. Small bright lights shone from one end, flashing on and off.

“What in the hell…” One of the posse began. But the room was suddenly filled with a shrill, high-pitched whine which seemed to echo off of the rafters and fill Jack’s head, his eyes, his chest. He sank to his knees and clasped his hands over his ears. The lights were shining violently now, throbbing red. Only the girl remained standing, seemingly unaffected by the sounds or the lights. The outlaws lay flat on the floor, rolling around and covering their ears. How the hell is she doing this?

Suddenly the lights and the sounds ceased. An eerie silence replaced them, and the light from the fire dimmed. Jack started to rise before… SCREEEECH! What looked like tiny lightning bolts flew from the end of the black device and shot out in every direction. Jackson was lifted off of his feet and thrown into the far wall, crashing violently against the wooden panels. A chair exploded onto the floor next to him and an empty tankard slammed into the small of his back.

He lay there on the floor for what could have been thirty seconds or an hour before he rolled painfully onto his side. He tried to open his eyes, but found that smoke filled the air thick and black. Off to his right someone was coughing as if they meant to die, so, Jackson crawled in that direction, bumping into rubble and burning chairs as he went. By the time he reached the source of the noise, he managed to open one eye and could see the room burning and collapsing around him. Three bodies lay atop one another underneath a fallen roof beam. Another had made it as far as the front door before he had died of burns, gunshots, or some combination of the two by the look of him. Jack crawled over to where he had dropped his six-shooters and gripped them tightly in his hands. He would do well to keep them around.

The coughing was coming from Long Bill Waters. He had fallen in the confusion of the blast, getting trapped by cascading debris, and lay with a pistol in his hand underneath the collapsed beam. Thick red blood clung to the skin of his chest, and flowed grisly from his mouth and left ear. Jackson kicked the pistol away and bent down over the man. “Your days of murder and rape are over, but not entirely by my hand. I’m sorry.” He raised his gun and put a bullet through the man’s brain. The blood spattered up into Jack’s face, and he wiped it from his brow.

Just then the rubble by the door shifted and a pair of dusty hands clawed its way out of the pile. Another one’s still alive. Jack looked back over his shoulder to see if he could find the last of the bandits, but when he looked back the pile was moved and the hand was gone. Shit, how did he move so fast? Through the smoke-blackened window he caught a glimpse of auburn hair fleeing towards the stables. Shit, how did she move so fast? He clambered over Bill’s body and went out of the door.

He limped slightly as he ran. The blast had slammed his leg into the wall with bone-shattering force, but he was hard to break, and recovered quickly. A crescent moon lit his way around the back of the burning saloon and into the barn doors.

She was saddling up a mottled brown palfrey when he caught up, her fingers working deftly over the old leather straps. Either she didn’t notice his footsteps crossing the stable threshold and creeping up behind her, or she did not mean to finish what she had started. Jack, however, was not given to such luxuries. “Where are you stealing off to with that horse? I have some questions that require answers.” Jackson cocked back his pistol to help make his point.

She turned and stared him down. “I’m done here. There’s work elsewhere for me. For you, too, it would seem.”

“So you’re a hunter.” Jack couldn’t believe his own ignorance. Of course she was. He lowered his gun, but didn’t put it away. “You know you didn’t finish Long Bill off. The credit’s mine.”

“I figured as much after I heard that shot. Thing is, I was headed out of the door when that building collapsed.” She turned back and resumed working on the saddle. The young mare whinnied. “Got trapped beneath a falling beam and couldn’t see much on account of the smoke—”

“How did you do that. I’ve never seen something so powerful.” Her silence told him more than her words could have. “Well you’re a fool if you think I’ll let you walk out of here. Not after that.”

She faced him and laughed quietly. Her eyes sparkled green in the moonlight shining through the open doors. “Good thing I’m not walking.”

And suddenly a pistol was in her hand and she was hurling bullets his way. Jack felt a force strong as a train rip into his stomach and knock him off his feet. A blinding pain rose up to his head and he screamed in agony. She swung up onto the saddle and kicked the horse twice in the ribs, galloping out of the barn. Jack realized he still had gun in one hand, and squeezed two rounds from the barrel. The first flew through the night sky past her head and off into the desert. The second slammed into her leg above the thigh and drew a dark stream of blood that shone in the blue moonlight. But she held onto the saddle with a yelp of pain and rode off towards the distant hills.

Jackson rolled to his side and pushed himself up to sit. The pain was nauseating, and he turned to retch in the straw on the floor. Taking leave of his senses, he drew in a sharp breath that sent a new wave of pain rolling over his stomach. He struggled to his feet and found a saddle on the wall. I can’t let this go unpunished. She won’t get away.  He hobbled over to a lean grey horse in the corner of the stable and threw the saddle up. He groaned his way through the straps and up onto the mount. In the distant moonlight he could see the dust from her trail rising into the night sky. Warm blood slicked down the side of his shirt and fell onto the ground in large drops; his head swam. He kicked the horse in its side and rode off after her.

At first the trail was easy to find. But as the soft sand turned to clay and rock, her trail all but disappeared. The only distinguishing path left was the rare drop of blood that fell from her leg and shone deep purple against the brown and red ground. She went to the hills, and he followed.

Jack caught her on a red sandstone butte three hundred feet above the desert floor. His horse made it only three fourths of the way up the trail before it became too steep and rocky to navigate. He continued on foot, passing a mottled brown palfrey along the way. The top of the butte was covered in green moss that proved a soft foothold; his boots dug into the soft ground. She was sitting on a twisted log facing away from him, the ground before covered in a pool of slick red. His own blood still seeped from the wound in his stomach, but he gritted his teeth and pushed forwards.

“End of the road, I fear. This is as far as it goes.” Jackson called out as he advanced on her seat. “That was a helluva shot back there. You almost did me in, but you’ll find I’m a bit harder to kill.” She stared ahead, ignoring his words. She still had a small pistol, but it lay on the ground in front of her.

Jack reached the log and hobbled around its side, using one hand for support on the rough, dry surface, and the other to nest the six shooter glinting in the moonlight. “You see, the truth is that I like a good fight, under the right circumstances. I like it almost as much the reward when I win. But you meant to take that reward from me. I’ve been tracking Long Bill Waters for longer than you’ve been playing this game.” Jack reached the front of the log and aimed his pistol at her head. “The game’s over.” She stared off into the distance, her hands resting on the dry wood to her sides. Talk about dignity in defeat. “Are you hearing this? I said it’s over.”

She made no move or sound. Jackson moved to her front and saw his error. She sat slumped over, the light gone from her emerald eyes. Her head drooped down into her navel. She’s gone. Jack breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t much like executions. He holstered his pistol. It should be just about morning now. He turned towards the coming light. But if he was looking for a sunrise, he didn’t find it.

Hard eyes glared up at him from behind a shiny six shooter. He stared back. His mouth gaped open in shock. “You’re wrong, hunter. The game’s just begun.”

“How did you…” but Jackson stopped himself before he started. Of course. He had seen it before, at the saloon. “You’ll pay for this.”

“You’ll have to catch me first.” She squeezed the trigger. POP! A brief flame burst from the barrel sending a hard bullet screaming through the air and through Jackson Blake’s left eye. Darkness crept up to cover the world.

— - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - — - —

Jack Masterson awoke in a cold, blue room with white sheets pulled up over his chest. His eyes felt heavy with disuse and his arms were leaden weights sinking into the firm springs of the mattress. It was daytime, the yellow beams of light streamed through the windows and thin curtains. He blinked to adjust his vision and pressed a small blue button to his side to raise himself into a seated position. “Game Master!” he croaked, his voice cracking and sharp to ears.

Electrical nodes attached to different spots around his chest, legs, and arms. The control cap sat heavily on his head, and he reached up feebly to pry it off. The wires that covered his body took slightly less effort to pull off, but even that proved to strain his fingers and wrists. He was reaching for the last pair on his legs when the game master came running in on two stubby legs, dressed head to toe in regulation blue.

“Masterson? What happened, you were first in the rankings since last week!” The man sputtered. He gave him a quizzical stare. Jack glared back and swallowed to clear his throat.

“I think we have a hacker.”

I thought you loved me?


By: Symone McCollum 

It was a warm summer day in Funnyton village. The sun set perfectly on top of the hill while the cool breeze blew to ease everyone’s mind of how hot it was earlier in the day. The birds flew in the sky as though they were chasing each other. The stray cats were roaming the streets trying to find a place to stay cool. The kids were playing hopscotch in the street and the parents were home reading books. This suburban area was always peaceful, full of perfect people, and quiet. Little did the people of Funnyton village know that their lives were going to change quicker than they could imagine.

My family was perfect. There’s me, Anna, my mom Sally, my father Steve, my two little brothers Jake and Jaaz, and our dog Kenny. My father is a successful surgeon and everyone in town always goes to him when they feel bad about the way they looked. My mother is a house mom and takes care of my baby brother Jaaz. My mother and father have been married for 25 years. My mom had me when she was 19 and my father was 21. They often tell me that they fell in love the moment they laid eyes on each other.

“I can still remember how your mother looked the first time I saw her. She was wearing a pink shirt, half off her shoulder, half not. She had on these blue high jeans with these gold shoes. Her hair was in a brown curly fro. Her hair was blowing in the wind. When she noticed me, she kept trying to fix her hair after every breeze of wind. I thought it was cute. Man, your mother was gorgeous.” My mother raised her eyebrows as she walked into the room.

“Was?” my mother asked.

“Honey, you were and still are,” he said as he gave her a big sloppy kiss. Yuck! I walked away and went into my room.

I laid down on my bed, plopped my white earphones in and put on my favorite Beyonce song. Suddenly, I heard a big bang outside of my window. It sounded like thee tree outside banged into my window. I got up and went to open the door and crawled out onto my patio. I looked around and nothing was there. Thump! I looked around again and saw nothing. I plopped my earphones back in my ear and was walking back into my room. As I grabbed the handle I felt a hand grab me from behind. I tried to scream but it’s hand was over my mouth. I turned around to see who it was, and it was my boyfriend Mike.

“Jesus Mike you scared the crap out of me,” I yelled. I smacked him on the side of his face playfully and he laughed.

“I just wanted to surprise you.”

“Well congrats. How’d you get up here?”

“I climbed the tree,” he laughed. “I know you’re in trouble but I wanted to see you. Glad I got you not to scream before your parents heard us. Can I come in?”

Mike and I walked into my room and he started kissing on my cheek. I’m still a virgin and Mike knows I’m not ready for anything but he tries to test me anyway. Sometimes I like it, but sometimes I just want to talk to him without any of the extra stuff.

“Knock it off Mike. You know how I feel about that.”

“I’m sorry Annie. You know I don’t mean it like that.”

“It’s fine,” I said as I was pulling my shirt back up. “What did you come here for?”

“Well... sit down.”

I didn’t know what he wanted to say to me but I kind of didn’t want to know either because I knew whatever he wanted to tell me wasn’t good. Mike can usually settle for FaceTime calls when I was in trouble, but since he wanted to be face to face meant a lot.

“Whelp, what is it?” I asked calmly while plopping on my bed.

“You know those things you can’t control? Like the weather or when your mom tells you no?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Um, yeah. There’s a lot of things we can’t control like how you’re preparing me for this speech but won’t get to the point. What’s going on Mike?”

“Remember when we first met? Up at riverside park. You were walking your dog and noticed me staring at you on the bench? You kept trying to push your hair behind your ear but it was too thick so it just kept sliding?” Mike asked me. He started smiling, so I couldn’t help but to smile back.

“Yes. And Kenny kept barking at you so you got really scared and wouldn’t come up to me.” I laughed. I had to gather myself before my parents came upstairs to figure out why I was laughing so hard.

“I wasn’t scared Annie, that dog is just crazy?” He said while laughing.

“Yeah right. So what is the point of your story?”

“I just want you to know that I love you, no matter what. I will never leave your side okay? And I need you to promise to never leave mine. Promise me, right now Annie.” He looked down at me and his face was serious. His light face now showed cheeks that were red and his eyes now resembled eyes of hurt.

“Did you cheat on me Mike?”

“Dammit Annie! No. Just promise me.”

“I love you Mike. I will never leave your side no matter what. I promise.” I kissed his cheek. “Now, tell me what’s going on?”

“You know how I’ve been in and out of the hospital for months now. And they’ve been doing tests with my heart but yesterday they finally told me that I had a cardiac tumor. You know what that is right?”

I blacked out. This couldn’t be real. No, it can’t be. This had to be a joke. I felt my face go hot not because I was angry, but because I was shocked. My entire world was crashing down before my eyes. The love of my life could be dying! What could I do? What do I say? they come. The water works.

“Babe, stop crying. It’s going to be alright.” He caressed my hand. He kissed my forehead and I decided that I had to get my shit together. If he was strong, I needed to be too.

“What are you going to do? Like what’s the next step? Is everything going to be okay? What did your mom say? What’s going to happen to you?” I started crying again.

“Annie, I am going to be okay. I promise. My mom is fine, she is dealing with it like we all are. But, that’s not all that I had to tell you. I met with this other doctor after I found out the news and he told me something different than my regular doctor.”

“What was it?”

He rubbed his chin. His face turned red and he turned away from me.

“The second doctor, James, told me that there was only one option. He told me that...”

He stopped. I held his hand and told him that everything will be okay. His face was full of tears before I knew it. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I could easily be selfish in that moment and cry too but it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about his mother or his family, it was about him. His life was on the line. I didn’t want to push him anymore, so I just laid his head on my chest and let him get it out. He’d let me know when he was ready to.

After he left, I sat on my bed looking up at my ceiling. My ceiling was painted with yellow stars from when I was a child. These were the stars I looked up to when something bad happened in my life. Like when my parents were talking about divorce, my dog died, and when my cat ran away. When I looked at these stars I kept thinking about Mike. I kept thinking of ways I could help, but realized there were none. Maybe I could give him my heart...but then I wouldn’t be alive. I just didn’t know what to do, but I promised to be there for him through whatever, and I’m keeping that promise.

Later that night, I kept calling Mike but he wasn’t answering his phone. My hands were starting to shake. A broke out in a sweat a few times while trying to take a nap and get my mind off of him. Suddenly I got a text in the middle of the night that said “open up.” I ran to my bedroom door as quick as I could to make sure everyone in the house was asleep. I heard my father snoring louder than anything else and knew it was safe to let him in. I tiptoed down the steps and went to the front door. I opened up and he was standing there. His hair looked like he placed acid on certain places because they were going bald. His eyes were red and puffy and his lips were dry. I hugged him.

“Come in,” I said.

He placed his bookbag down at my feet and hugged me. He kissed me on the forehead. His lips felt soft but rough. I held his left hand and with his right hand he picked up his bag and followed me into the house. We sat down on the loveseat and he laid down on my lap. I wanted to ask him why he didn’t answer me earlier, but I wasn’t going to say anything until he brought it up first. He kept rubbed my arm. His hands were soft and moist. I knew it helped him cope, so I let him rub away as I caressed his ear. After about ten minutes of silence and rubbing, he finally sat up and looked me in the eyes. His eyes looked like he was in pain. I tried to look away but I couldn’t. I wanted to know what he was going to say.

“I’m sorry about earlier. I went to go see the first doctor this morning and the second one in the afternoon. I’m just now getting back in town. Neither of them had any good news for me man. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” His face turned red. He put his face into his hands and left it there. I held his thumb in hopes that he would continue his story.

“The first doctor said I have a week to live. We caught the tumor too late in and it was no pills or anything they could do to prevent it. The only option we have besides me just dying is to have a heart transplant.”

“What’s wrong with getting the surgery?” I asked.

“It cost one million dollars Annie. I don’t have that kind of money. My mom doesn’t have that kind of money. No one can have that much money in a week man.” His eyes started to water but I wiped them before anything fell.

“What did the other doctor say?”

“Annie, what I tell you, you can not tell anyone. Can you promise me that?” he held my hand.

I knew something was up, but nothing could be worse than trying to deal with his death if I lost him. If the doctor had any news that could save him, I was game.

“I promise.”

“Well, I went to the second doctor and I went into there scared of my mind. Annie, I’m afraid to die. It’s too soon for me to die. So, when I went to him he told me the same thing as the other doctor but he offered me one more option. He said that I can have someone else’s heart but I would have to get it on my own and the machine. The machine costs $10,000 but he said I didn’t have to buy it if I knew what he meant.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Do you mean...steal someone’s heart?”

He looked at me and grabbed my hand. “Uh, yes Annie.”

I brought my hand back from him. My face got hot. My hands started to shake. I started to get up but he grabbed my arm.

“So who’s heart can you get?”

“That’s the thing. And you can not tell anybody! But... I took Joey’s.”

My heart stopped. Joey was Mike’s little brother. He was only seven. Before I could even talk I started crying. I tried to get up and run away from him. He was no longer the boy I knew and loved. He was a monster! I know he’s sick and needs help, but how could he end his little brother’s life?

“So where is Joey?” I asked while tears poured from my eyes.

“I hid him in the basement. Mom thinks he ran away... I feel terrible Annie I really do but there was no other choice. He was right there.” He started crying. “And you promised to help me out and be there for me. Remember? Remember Annie? I need you right now. I need you to get that machine for me. Please Annie there is no other option. Do you want me to die? DO YOU WANT ME TO DIE?” He started yelling. As he yelled, tears poured down from his hazel eyes. I wanted to hold him, but I couldn’t bring myself to. He was a monster.

“You are a monster Mike. You killed your little brother! Anyone you could’ve chosen and you killed him! What is wrong with you!? You’re a monster. I hate you and get out of my house!” I pulled him by his shirt off the couch and tried to push him towards the door. He didn’t put up a fight. He let me. I started slapping his chest crying in frustration. How could he do that to his little brother. And imagine what he could do to me!

“I’m sorry Annie. I’m sorry. But you promised to help me. You have to help me.” He grabbed my arm to stop the blows. He put his hand on my chin and lifted my head up to look him in the eyes.  When I looked at him I saw a little boy afraid of what was about to happen. There was a weakness in his eyes I couldn’t help but to feel for. I pulled my head away and asked him what he wanted from me.

“I need you to get the machine for me. The place is right up the street. They only have one security guard so it’ll be easy to sneak in. I can’t go because I’m becoming weak. I will get caught. Once I get this machine I’ll be alright Annie. Please. All I have to do is put the circular machine on my brother’s heart. It’ll suck his heart into it and hold it in place. Then, I place it on my heart and it sucks my heart out, shoots it on the ground and puts his heart in the place of mine. The doctor said it’s painless. Please.”

He kissed my forehead and held my hand. I couldn’t look him in the eyes though. Now I was stuck. Should I save my boyfriend’s life? Should I report him for killing a child? Would he betray me? Would the machine accidentally take my heart instead? I didn’t know what to do.

“If you do it, it has to be tonight Annie.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t Mike. Please, leave.” I took my hand away from his and opened up the door for him. He bent his head down and turned around. Then, he faced me, kissed me on the forehead and turned back towards the door.

“I never meant to hurt anyone Annie. I love you.” He walked out and I closed the door behind him.

As I laid down in my bed, I started crying. I wanted to know what could’ve happened if I would’ve gotten the machine for him. I would’ve saved his life, but I would’ve been committing and condoning a crime. I loved him, but because I loved him I needed to let him go. I didn’t want to apart of that. I kept thinking about him until my eyes closed. When I woke up the next morning, my mom was sitting at my bed side.

“Mom? What’s going on?” I stretched out across my bed and rubbed my eyes. She sat there with a blank face. Her eyes were red as if she was up all night. Her face was pale.

“Something happened with Mike. Get dressed I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Although I was done with Mike in my mind, I wasn’t done in my heart. I brushed my teeth as quickly as I could, threw on a top and some shorts and ran out my door downstairs. I grabbed my mom’s arm to get her attention because she wasn’t facing me, but she didn’t turn around.

“Mom? Hello? What’s going on! Look at me!”

When she turned around I jumped. Her eyes were now black. Her nose was missing and her mouth had green snake like features coming out of a hole. Her skin was purple and when she opened up to say something to me, it came out as a dry moan. Within seconds, she fell out on the couch. Her eyes closed, she lay there still. I ran around the house to find everyone else. I found my father in the kitchen, laid out across the table. His face was turned towards the wall. When I titlted his head towards me, his eyes were opened but he wasn’t moving. He looked exactly how my mom did, but the snake things in his mouth were still moving. I left his head dangling over the table and ran to find my little brothers in their rooms. They were still in bed sleeping. As I turned around to run and find help, Mike was standing behind me. He looked like my parents, but stronger and taller.

“Mike... what is going on? Did you do this to my mom and dad?”

He started walking closer towards me. “Yes. You hurt me Annie. I had to hurt everyone around you. Your brothers are next, then you.” He kept walking towards me.

“Before you kill us, how did this happen?” I asked, backing away slowly.

“Joey had a a good heart, but I grabbed the wrong machine. The one I took was nuclear and instead of leaving Joey’s heart as it was, it leaked nuclear acid on it that formed me into this monster. If you would’ve gotten the machine for me none of this would’ve happened. I just needed you for one thing Annie. How could you hurt me?” He kept walking towards me while his snake like features were snapping towards me... ready to bite.

Without hesitation, I took the baby’s stroller in the room, swung it at Mike and he fell back. I grabbed the boys and we ran downstairs. Mike wasn’t too far behind us.

“Come back here!” He shouted.

We kept running. I pushed the boys out of the way as Mike kept chasing me. I ran into the kitchen and saw my father had a knife in his hand. I snatched it and kept my body turned away from Mike. When I felt him on me I turned around and put the knife into his stomach. I twisted it  and as his soul was escaping his monster features disappeared and his regular face was showing. When I realized it was Mike and not a monster. As he fell to the ground, I ran.

I grabbed my brothers and we ran out the door and up the street. We didn’t stop running. I didn’t know where we were going. I just had to get out of there. As we were running away the only thing I could hear in my ear was Mike’s voice saying, “Annie...why couldn’t you help me? I thought you loved me?”