Under the Moon

By: Arianna Gammon

A loud bang echoes into the forest coming from behind us. The sound of a bullet cartridge falling to the ground nearby confirms my worst fears. A high shriek pierces the air and ahead of me, I see my brother’s body drop to the ground with a thump.

“Marco! No!”

My walk turns into a sprint as I run to his limp body. He can’t be dead. I press two fingers to his neck and can see blood blossoming on his shirt over his heart. I try looking away but my eyes are frozen on his pale face. Blood oozes from the wound. So much blood. Too much. There is nothing I can do to stop the flow. A faint heartbeat pulses against my fingers, growing weaker by the second. I brush a tear away with the back of my hand and squeeze my eyes closed to keep from crying.

“Please... don’t cry, Sheena. You must stay strong.” The hoarse voice breaks me from my trance and my eyes flutter open.

“Marco! Stay with me, please!”

He smiles softly. “I’ll be waiting for you, up there with the Moon Goddess . . . we will watch over you always, and so will the rest of our ancestors. You must be strong. Remember everything that happens is for a reason. It’s all part of the bigger picture... Goodbye, my Sheena, my beautiful little sister.”

Marco smiles for the last time, and his pulse under my fingers fades away to nothing. I cover my eyes with my hands as if to hide the tears from him.

My brother, my pack, and my other half are all gone. Nothing will ever fill my brother’s empty space in my heart. I don’t know how I can move on, maybe I never will. Just the thought makes bile rise up in my throat. Will finding the killer help me move on? But is that really what Marco would have wanted? For me to become a murderer?

Marco is dead. Nothing matters now except finding the killer. Vengeance is the only thing that will let me sleep at night. As long as the killer still breathes, I will never rest.

“You must stay strong.” Marco’s voice pounds through my head. I nod up at the black sky, knowing he can see me, along with the goddess Selene.

Before standing up, I lean down and close Marco’s eyelids. It almost looks like he’s sleeping, if you ignore the blood.

I stand up and walk to a small clearing, tall pine trees surround it. Adrenaline rushes through my body as I get ready to make the change. I look up at the beautiful full moon, and the light shines down on me as she embraces me with welcoming arms.

My mind slowly clears and my breath softens. I begin to shake violently, causing me to drop to my knees. The sharp scent of a musky fur coat hits my nose, and my vision sharpens as if a wall is being lifted away. I’m forced to hunch over as my bones shorten and my hands change to large paws with long sharp claws. Now that I change almost every night it’s not as gut-wrenching as the first time. Tonight I welcome the pain, for it is far better than the overwhelming grief that fills me from claws to the tips of my ears.

As quickly as it started, the change is done. My black fur shines in the moonlight, causing it to have an eerie glow. I shape my snout into a toothy grin and tilting my head to the moon I let out a low and long howl.

Whoever killed Marco, I’m coming for you.

With a leap, I dash over a low thicket of bushes clustered around the twin trees that stand across from me. I run into the darkness, away from my light. Away from Marco. Away from the life I once knew. Today, I am reborn. And whoever stands in my way is going to pay with their life.
 

Arianna is 13 years old; she lives in Poland, Maine.  Arianna loves soccer and has been playing since she was 3.  She enjoys reading, writing, and drawing and her favorite music band is BTS.

 

image: Hans Benn from Pixabay



Boy is Alone

By: Noah Morales

Boy is Alone

Boy is alone. He lives on an empty planet. For thousands and thousands of miles, all that surrounds him is darkness. All he’s ever seen beneath his feet is the same colorless gravel. And all he’s ever breathed through his lungs is the same smoggy air. He never had anything to do — there was nothing he ever could do — except walk.

All his life, Boy had been walking around in search for something. Anything. In all his life Boy had never seen another human, but he always felt in his heart that there were more people out there — maybe he just couldn’t see them past all the haze. All his life, he’d lived this way, but today he had enough of it.

He was tired of walking, and he grew weak with the feeling of hopelessness. He laid down and rested for the first time in ages, running his fingers through the fine gravel under him. He reached his hand deep down and scooped out a handful of pebbles; he flicked them away, one by one, watching them fly into the distance. He looked back at the ground and noticed the small hole he just made. He scooped his hand into the dirt again and made an even bigger hole. He kept going. All his life, Boy had been travelling north, south, east, and west across the planet, but never once did he consider going down. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the hole became a crater, large enough to fit his entire body. He kept scooping up rocks and throwing them over his shoulders. For the first time in his life, he was having fun; for the first time in his life, he had a purpose. He needed to reach the bottom. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the earth grew darker, harder, more compact. As he continued his descent, his hands started getting blistered, but Boy stood determined. For the first time ever, he saw a clear path — there was no fog down there to block his view. The more he dug, the more of the world he could see. His heart started beating faster. He was excited to keep going. He continued to dig. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that he started to see a color glaring through the crevices of the rocks. It was a bright, orange color — the first color he’d ever seen in his life. He dug even faster now, even more eagerly to see where that color came from. With each rock he picked, the color emerged brighter and brighter. It also started getting hot, and it wasn’t long before he started to sweat. He felt exhausted, but he was determined to keep digging. He dug. And he dug. And he dug.

He dug so deep that the warm, orange light completely engulfed him. It was blinding; it was all he could see; it was just like the fog at the surface, but this light was comforting. It was a constant reminder of his achievement and a constant motivation to keep digging. The rocks felt hot to the touch, and they were too heavy to be picked up anymore.

Boy was running out of options, but he wasn’t about to quit. He started punching, kicking, slamming, and jumping, trying anything he possibly could to break through the rocks. He was knocked back by the bright light, but he kept swinging. The ground wouldn’t budge. Boy started to burn in the intense heat, and his body told him to climb back up to safety. But his mind was set. He kept kicking.

Finally, with one strong blow, he cracked apart the bedrock and slipped through to the planet’s core. He fell for thousands and thousands of miles as beaming energy flowed into his heart and filled him with life. He looked back up through the hole and watched as his empty world drifted away.¬

He dug. And he dug. And he succeeded.

 

Noah Morales is an 18-year-old student born in Queens, New York. He is currently a first-year at MIT, and loves playing chess on his free time.
Photo by iStock Getty Images
 


Queenie and the Boot Shaped Library

By: Safyre Joseph-Etheridge

 

 

At one particular time in my life, I lived in Manhattan. I had recently moved there for my job as an editor. One day, I was walking down the street from the main library, disappointed I had not found The Book Thief. I had heard such good things about this particular book and wanted to get my hands on it. I love libraries but today it was too crowded. The noise level, even with the librarians shushing everyone, gave me a headache.

I was looking for a cab to take me to the closest café, when I stumbled onto an empty street. It was so quiet; I could hear my boots clicking on the concrete sidewalk. I turned and stopped, stunned. There stood a building shaped entirely like a boot! A painted mural replicated lacing rising from the foot up the ‘leg’ of the building. The tip of the building was curved slightly, pointing up towards the sky.

I looked closer to see a small green sign that read ‘Library.’

I couldn’t help myself. I pushed the door, the tinkle of a bell sounded as I entered. The inside was only one small room, with books all stacked neatly on top of each other. The place smelled of dust, fur, and something unfamiliar, it resembled the smell of pineapple, but was different somehow.

A small, white cat sat on the counter, her tail big and fluffy and her nose pink. I stroked her fur, her sapphire-blue eyes locking with mine.

I read the name tag. “Queenie. Huh.”

I looked around but nobody else seemed present. I noticed a silver bell, lying on the table. I picked it up, flicked it, and waited.

“Hello?” I called.


Nothing.


I rang the bell again.

“Hello?” I said a little louder.
 A small man jumped from under the desk.
“Ah!”


“Ahem, hem. Yes?” he asked impatiently.


“Uh, yes, I’m looking for The Book...”
The man held up a hand, interrupting me.

“We don’t have that. Good day.” He started to disappear again under the table.


“Wait! Wait! Can you double-check, please?” I wasn’t giving up—not yet, anyway.


The man frowned. “Wait here.”
He bent down, disappearing from view, and popped back up again. “Hmph. Sadly, I have the book you need. Do you have a library card?”

“Yes!” I said and handed him my card from the main library. “Will this work?”

“You have two days to return the book or there will be a fine," the man replied, not answering my question.


“Two days? That’s not much time!”


“Well, then, I guess you better start reading.”


I frowned and left the library, book in my hand and bag slung over my shoulder. 
At home, I fixed myself some tea and grabbed my bag looking for the book I’d shoved into there on the walk home. I felt something furry inside and when I pulled it out, the white cat nibbled at me to free her.

“Queenie?!” I asked as she leaped onto the table and sauntered over to my cup of tea, to lap at the hot liquid with her pink tongue. I stroked her soft fur and considered keeping this perfect,
 friendly, and curious cat. I thought about keeping her, but I couldn’t. Certainly, the shop owner would be looking for her, so I decided to return her come morning.

I read through the night, Queenie asleep beside me, purring as I stroked her fur.

The next day I followed my same route to the library, Queenie tucked into my leather bag, snoring quietly, but when I turned down the quiet street and then left, there was no building shaped like a boot, no library, nothing at all.

I stood, puzzled, trying to make sense of it all, only my mind was blank. I wondered if yesterday was some kind of dream but yet I had read the book all night and Queenie was in my bag.

Was this some sort of prank?


People filled the used-to-be empty street as I headed back to my apartment. 
The day continued, and I did my best to make sense of it all then decided to return the book to the main library. Maybe I was hallucinating and I did find my book at the main library after all.
 But what about Queenie? Had I randomly decided to adopt a cat? No, it didn’t make sense. As I entered the library, the smell of people overwhelmed me. I walked up to the counter and handed in my book.

“This isn’t ours, Jamie. Where did you get it?” asked Margret.

“Um.......never mind.”


Suddenly, it all clicked. The answer had been in front of me all along. Why did I have to make sense of everything? Why couldn’t some things just be magic? Because then, I knew, Queenie and the boot-shaped library were magic, and I had been lucky enough to be a part of it.

I handed Margret the book and walked out shaking my head. That evening I stared at Queenie curled up on my favorite chair.

“Are you real?” I asked her.

She just purred in response.

 

Safyre Joseph-Etheridge is a twelve year old student in seventh grade. She lives in Salwa, Kuwait. She loves writing, physics and her dog Sandy. This is her first published short story.

Illustration by Aidan McDuffie

 



Sit By Me

By: Sonia Mehta

“Excuse me.  Is this seat taken?”

Anika glances up to see pleading eyes.

“Sorry,” Anika says, looking past the girl. “Our friend asked us to save the seat.” She resumes her lunch.

The newcomer leaves.

From the corner of her eye, Anika watches the new girl navigate through the crowded cafeteria. Two noisy upper classmates jostle her to the side.  Anika clenches her fork, but they keep walking as though the girl is invisible. The newcomer chooses an unoccupied table in the corner and sits.  Anika’s chest tightens.  She takes a deep breath.  No relief.

“Anika, you’re cold,” Cynthia says.

“Her name’s Darsha,” Meghan adds from across the table.

“Who?” Anika feigns.

“The new student,” Cynthia replies.

“Oh, I don’t know her.”

Meghan pushes her thick glasses to the top of her broad freckled nose. “Is she from the same part of India as you?” She tugs at her thin red hair.

“No. Different region.”

“She looks a little like you, Anika. But darker.” Cynthia twists her wavy chestnut hair around her plump index finger.

Anika feels a guilty pleasure hearing these words.  The desire for lighter complexions in parts of India is a poorly kept secret.  The classified section of the India Today newspaper is filled with matrimonial ads.  Prospective brides are described as having “wheatish” or “cream” complexions.  The defining characteristic of men is “successful.”

“I feel bad for her,” Meghan says.

“Someone should talk to her,” Cynthia adds.

Anika knows this means someone else.  The friends look at Darsha.  She is short and thin. Her long black hair, which glistens with coconut oil, is pulled back into a messy ponytail, exaggerating the roundness of her face.  She wears denim pants that are a size too large and a dull green t-shirt.  Darsha stares at her plate, playing with uneaten food.

Anika rakes her fingers through her freshly straightened caramel-tinted hair that accentuates her heart-shaped face.  She tugs on the collar of her cropped Brandy Melville shirt.

“We can’t associate,” Meghan says, “or we'll be losers too.”

Anika considers protesting but does not.  She has ascended the school hierarchy to the level of blending in.  She can live with that.

Three years ago a girl from India entered a classroom.  She prepared for life in the States by watching every movie available to her in Surat, India.  She expected to be introduced to the class by her new teacher, such was the custom in her country.  Instead, the teacher directed her to an empty seat.

Within minutes, an American girl raised her nose and sniffed loudly.  Other students mimicked the action: a pack of hyenas catching the scent of a prey.  They soon triangulated the smell to the backpack under the newcomer’s desk.  Disapproving looks followed.  Her mother’s khichdi sat in a plastic container, the least spicy and malodorous dish she knew to pack for lunch.  After class, she rushed to the restroom and dumped the lentil dish.

Next period she made the mistake of answering a question about Alexander Hamilton.  She did not know that her thick accent sounded like her mouth was full of marbles,

“Hamilton was a veddy important patriot. He reeelly cared about a strong federal government.”

A boy jeered, “Did he reeelly?” Snickers followed. She never volunteered another answer.

The worst introduction happened in the cafeteria.  The room, the size of a football field, buzzed with a slow-moving current of American teens.  Each table was prefilled with students laughing and gossiping, their backs turned to her – a phalanx of shields.  She found a corner table and sat alone, staring relentlessly at her watch, willing the minute hand to move faster.

From her left, she noticed sunlight coming through a window and separating into a rainbow on the wall. She pretended the colors were a palette of paint. She imagined dipping her brush in the red and produced her grandmother’s beet pickle.  The cinnamon-anise smell touched her nostrils.  A smear of green brought her Auntie’s fried elephant leaf paatra.  Was that the scent of coriander?  With a dash of orange, her mouth watered with the sweet cardamom-flavored jalebi.

She suddenly felt better looking at the rainbow -- her color palette.  Colors were a part of her life. She used to toss the powdered dyes at her cousins during the Holi Festival every year, the colors transforming the children into living canvases.

“Earth to Anika,” Meghan says.

“What?” she mumbles, coming back to the present.

“I said, time for fifth period.”

Anika glances at Darsha's now-vacant seat.  She tries imagining the new girl leaving alone, but instead, Anika sees a girl from Surat who once filled the emptiness in her heart with colors dancing on a wall.  Anika has recognized the aching loneliness in another but has chosen silence.  She leaves with her friends.

The next day, Anika joins her two friends at their usual table.

“Did you hear about Darsha?” Cynthia asks.

Anika looks up from her phone.

“She dropped out,” Cynthia continues.

“So soon?” Meghan says.

Anika’s stomach knots and she stares at the seat Darsha was in yesterday.  Empty.  That deserted table used to be hers.  Her eyes drift to the window where it’s sunny outside, and a rainbow flickers through.  My color palette, Anika remembers.

“Does anyone know why she quit?” she asks.

“Probably hated being a loser,” Cynthia answers.

“Where did she go?”

“I guess where she came from. Where was that again?”

“Somewhere else,” Anika whispers.

'I wish you had stayed, Darsha. I should have shared my color palette. I could have.'

Anika looks again at the rainbow flickering merrily, unmoved by her thoughts, while a single cloud rolls in, its shadow obscuring the colors.

Sonia Mehta is 17 years old; she lives in Dublin, Ohio.  Sonia is an emerging writer and a junior at a high school in Central Ohio. She has been practicing Korean martial arts for ten years.

 

 

image: MacDestroir on Pexels



I'm Yours

By: Aviva Nathan

“Idiot,” she murmured when she saw the white Whirlpool refrigerator standing condemned on the curb with a sign scotch taped to the front: “I’m Yours.” Who would want to get rid of that? For a second, she let herself believe in divine intervention and even promised to say a prayer or write a thank you note or go to church or do whatever you are supposed to do when you get what you asked for. That was before she had to wrangle the hundred- and twenty-pound mass of the refrigerator with the help of a borrowed dolly down 163rd Street in the oppressive summer heat. She had to shimmy it down the six steps to her basement apartment and turn it on its side to get it through the door, and then she realized the freezer didn’t work, but she had a refrigerator, damn it, and she would never have to eat canned pineapple for dinner again.

It was her second piece of furniture, if a refrigerator can be considered furniture, and if a sheet on the floor can be considered a bed. When he came over and his gaze called her place shitty, she defended her four hundred square feet with a fierce solemnity. She wouldn’t trade it for his studio on 110th Street.

Eventually the freezer became her dresser. She invested in a two-dollar pack of magnets. This she deemed the best spent two dollars of her life because every day she woke to the magazine cut outs of a Bali sunrise and a bustling street in Sri Lanka and the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains of Peru.

By the end of her first summer in New York City, her refrigerator bore not only foreign places but also three polaroids, an eviction notice, two unpaid bills, a photobooth strip from the time he took her to Coney Island and the “I’m Yours” sign she had found tacked to the unwanted Whirlpool.

He too had added his contributions inside and outside the fridge. Two days before, she had found a size zero Bordelle lingerie set wedged beneath his bed. Not hers. As an attempt at reconciliation, he had arranged Crayola-colored alphabet magnets on the fridge to form the chorus of her favorite song, Cry by Cigarettes After Sex. And inside her fridge, he left a chocolate cake from Pierre Hermé, which she ate in fistfuls on the floor. She was relieved briefly of her insatiable hunger.

The eviction notice became a court order but she didn’t care. The apartment was a hell hole anyway. The walls could be cut with a butter knife. The window was so close to the ground that the only thing visible were people’s shoes. Plastic flip flops and sneakers with holes in the toes. There was no air conditioning, just the noise of neighbors fighting, laughing, drinking. She had saved enough tips to afford half the rent of a walk-up in East Harlem. She would be closer to him this way. And maybe, because of proximity, he would see her more. Eventually, she told herself, she’d be able to afford an apartment like his, in a building with a doorman. She prayed she’d be able to find a roommate on Craigslist who wasn’t a user.

Packing took fifteen minutes. He let her borrow his 1998 Saab. The last thing in the room was the Whirlpool. With the magnetic letters she arranged the words: I’m Yours. And with his help, they put the fridge next to the trash cans.

 

Aviva Nathan is fifteen and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She's a religious reader of the New Yorker and hopes to eventually live in Manhattan.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

 



The Doll

By: Jessica Wang

There once was a time when the top of my head could not yet reach father’s thigh and my pudgy hands were no bigger than those sour tangerines mother used to buy from the local market. Still, I didn’t let any of that stop me from falling in love.
 

She was beautiful, with pale delicate hands and rich red lips that highlighted the soft curve of her porcelain nose. Her hair was made of plain yellow glass, but she still upheld the posture of an elegant lady with high status. Even the sun itself hid jealously behind the clouds. Her brilliance was so magnificent that she had her own pedestal complete with a cherry silk umbrella to keep the pesky rain drops away. On the bottom shelf all the toys were sullen and dull knowing that they could never match up to her beauty.
 

Every day I passed her on the sidewalk to kindergarten, and would feel the familiar rush of awe and excitement cascading through my body like tiny jolts of lightning. I would always press my nose flat against the store’s window and rub off the dirt and dust just to catch a better glimpse of my beloved. Those who walked by gave me funny looks, but could not possibly understand the constant yearning in my chest. My poor heart was ill, and the only cure was to hold my beloved's hand in mine.
 

Once I even gathered the courage to win my doll over. I stood two feet shorter under the store counter and tried my best to woo my love with a few meager pennies. Copper pennies picked up from the sidewalk, however, could not buy the exorbitant price of love.
 

But I was willing to pay the heavy price with tedious chores and selling overpriced sugary lemonade. I used a glass jar to collect my meager earnings and stored the precious container behind mutilated Barbie limbs and a dollar store Yo-Yo. At night I dreamed of what she would add to my collection of Beanie Babies and how I would treat her like a coveted princess and offer her pretend tea over plastic frosted cookies. The magic we would create together would be more perfect than an ending of a fairy tale.
 

My father chipped in by paying me five dollars for every centimeter I grew and my mother gave me two silver quarters for every bag of tangerines I carried in.
Finally, the glass jar was full.
 

I walked up to the counter feeling like a handsome suitor from a faraway kingdom as I looked at the storekeeper, clutching my savings to my chest. With just the simple swap of lemonade earnings and a heaping stack of quarters, my heart no longer bled.
 

I ran home that day, carrying my new doll close to my chest, speeding past pedestrians wearing their simple red raincoats that paled compared to the gold sheen of her dress.
But as I set her down on my tea chair, nothing happened. I searched for the pulse of magic and the sweet happiness I had anticipated, but only came up with handfuls of disappointment and regret. She was so small on the chair. My beloved was no longer the stunning goddess I once knew but just a raggedy peasant. Her small, delicate fingers could not possibly fit in mine. I had simply gotten too big.

Jessica Wang is a 16-year-old girl from New York. She is the editor of the online literary magazine "Ice Lolly Review" and hopes to one day work on a blockbuster film

Image by Mabel Amber on Pixabay



Don't Mind Me

By: Yukta Thirumalai

She took a deep breath and vaulted herself inside the barrier which was there as usual, and this time she reckoned she’d have to boost her mind's energy to get through. She concentrated hard and, after a few seconds, she could see the barrier behind her. She was inside now. It wasn’t how she’d imagined it to be.

There were scattered memories with ragged edges—this was obviously not a well-organized mind. When she tried touching one of the edges, it scraped her, making her finger bleed. The memories were huge in comparison to her, although some were smaller than others. She found a crossroads not far from where she had landed and decided to turn left. It was a bad choice. It was a small space with a bunch of memories, stacked away in the corner. Obviously, he didn’t want to be reminded of these. They had a ghostly quality, as though he had tried very hard to forget them. She hoped that in a few years, they would disappear entirely. The one in front started auto-playing, but she didn’t watch it. That was invading his privacy a bit too much. Not that she wasn’t doing that already by being in his mind. But then again, it was part of her job.

She walked back to the crossroads and turned right this time. She reached the end of the trail, a cliff. Just a cliff with a sharp drop to the bottom and nowhere to go but back. Or maybe… she walked toward it until she was standing at the very precipice. She looked down and saw some kind of ground a few feet below… it was worth a try. She jumped and landed on her knees. But, this wasn’t ground, it was more like…fuzz. Soft, fuzzy white. It felt good, although it did tickle her toes a little. She moved forward and found a small space with several memories scattered. They were all around, and she found it hard to focus on just one, but she didn’t need to. They were all very pleasant memories; she supposed these were the memories he liked replaying in his head. Sharp in focus, with vibrant colors, they bore every sign of having been lovely replayed over the years.

She climbed back up and went back the way she had come. Soon, she found a large area and stepped inside. This space was especially overwhelming. There were questions—in bold or very faded depending on how much he was thinking about them—and illustrations of all sorts, and even reminders. She noticed, out of the corner of her eye, a question; but, even as she turned to look at it, it had started fading away.  It became lighter and lighter and soon it was gone. She wondered what it was. Maybe it was one of those times when you have a word or a name on the tip of your tongue but then you forget no matter how hard you try to remember. Almost every 30 seconds a new idea or question would pop in and almost every minute an idea or question would leave because he found an answer or didn’t want to think about it anymore. “So chaotic!” she exclaimed out loud.

The space next door was a reasonably large area, although it kind of seemed like a waste since there was only one drawer in it. The place felt surprisingly warmer than the rest and she felt very eager to learn something. She opened the first drawer and realized why. This was an answer room. Any answer he got or anything he learned would be put in here. This was one of the only places in his mind which was completely organized. In fact, it felt like a library. Files were neatly arranged in the drawers according to the alphabet. She sighed. If only every other place in this mind was so neat. She felt very tempted to stay and read the files, but she knew she should head back now. He would probably be waiting for her where she had left him, impatiently drumming his hands on the table.

She retraced her steps. She could see the barrier now and got ready for the burst of energy that she knew she would need. She hoped she had saved some. She gave her mind a push and was vaulted through the barrier into her now conscious self.

“Well?” her teenage son asked.
She glared at him. “You really need to clean up your mind!”

 

Yukta Thirumalai is almost 12 and lives near Washington D.C. She loves art, writing, eating, anything soft and cuddly (pandas among them). She dislikes waking up early, hiking, and being told what to do! She dreams of becoming an author one day. In the meantime, she blogs at https://yarningforwords.wordpress.com/
 

Image by Gerd Altmann/pixabay.com



Garden Mystery

By: Eliana Pereira

One summer morning, 8-year-old Annie went out into the yard. She hopped on her swing. When Annie swings, the swing goes, ‘see- saw,’ and she says, “What did I see that you saw?” She then went to sit on her rock. “Hmmmm, what did I see that the swing saw?” she asked herself. “Oh, the swing saw how beautiful our garden is. I also saw that” said Annie. The garden is a lush beautiful one, with one swing and a vegetable patch with cherry trees and beautiful flowers and lots of butterflies. Annie, her 5-year-old sister Lola, and her 6-and-a-half-year-old brother Mike, all helped to make this garden. And Annie loves to surf in the grass. Did you ask “What is surfing in the grass?” I was going to explain that. Surfing in the grass is putting a plank on the grass and standing on it and then pretending that you are surfing.

Suddenly, Lola and Mike were going crazy and could not calm down. They screamed “One of our tomatoes is gone!” “This calls for us to investigate - dun dun dun,” said Annie. “I will look around with my magnifying glass, but before I do, I’ll calm you down. Take deep breaths little ones, it’s okay” said Annie. “What could’ve taken the tomato …hmm, maybe a fairy?” she asked her siblings. “I like fairies” said Lola. “Maybe a nice monster? Maybe it is furry?” wondered Mike. “Let’s continue playing” said Lola. “Yeah, I’ll surf in the grass. Let’s come back tomorrow,” Annie agreed.

The next day, more tomatoes were missing. “Okay, we have to get serious!” Annie said. She took out her nature diary. “I’ll go play,” said Lola. “This is too creepy,” Mike agreed. Lola and Mike left to play, while Annie wrote down questions. She looked down. “Oh my, footprints. Those look familiar,” observed Annie. Lola and Mike came tumbling. “You did it, Mike! You don’t like tomatoes,” said Lola. But Mike said, “No, you did it!”

“Am I seeing things, or do I see a bent dandelion,” asked Mike. “You are a great ‘seer’ Mike!” said Lola. “What does that even mean?” she asked. “Why did you say that, if you don’t even know what it means?” asked Annie. “I don’t know,” admitted Lola. “Let’s move on, okay?” said Annie. “I have a great idea.” “Idea?” Lola asked “What?” Mike asked. “Let’s use our ‘Nature diary’ to write down clues and find answers,” said Annie. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s open the book,” said Mike. “I’ll write down the clues. Lola, Mike, you go and play” said Annie. “Okay” said Lola and Mike. “Wait! Do you know what I just saw?” said Annie. “No,” said Lola and Mike. “I saw a bushy tail!” exclaimed Annie. “Let’s write it down.” “Yeah,” said Lola and Mike. “What has a bushy tail?” asked Mike. “Maybe a Fox,” suggested Lola. Annie wrote it down.

Annie had another idea. She whispered it to Mike. “That’s a great idea” said Mike. “Let’s do it!” The three children asked their mother if they could camp outside for the night. Their mother said “Yes, but on one condition. No going outside without mosquito repellent.” “Okay,” said Annie, Mike and Lola. At night, when they were camping, they looked out of the little tent window but didn’t see anything. The next night they did the same thing, but didn’t spot anything outside the window again. Annie had a new idea. “Why don’t we try it in the morning? Maybe that’s why we don’t see anything.” “Great idea!” said Mike.

In the morning Annie said, “Let’s make puppets that look like us, while we sit on a branch of a tree.” Lola, Mike and Annie made the puppets inside the house. One puppet they placed sitting on a rock. The other two were placed sitting on the grass, picking flowers. They climbed up a tree, and sat on a branch when they saw something move toward the tomato patch. “Quick, give me binoculars,” whispered Annie. “Here,” said Mike, handing Annie the binoculars. “Oh! Look! It’s a squirrel with a tomato in its mouth,” whispered Annie. “I’m glad we found out who has been stealing the tomatoes.” “Yep!” said Mike. “But what are we going to do about it?” “Hmmm…,” said Annie. “Let’s put nets on the tomato plant,” she suggested. “We can ask mommy to do that.” “Yeah, let’s do that now,” said Mike. “Mommy, can you put nets on our tomato plants?” “Sure,” said their mother.

From that day on, no more tomatoes disappeared.

The end.

 

Eliana is 6 years old and lives in Nanuet, New York. Her favorite color is yellow. She loves to sing and dance, and has a big imagination. One of her most favorite things to do is to go outside in the "nature world" (as she calls it).

Photo by Dominique Knobben from Pexels



Eidolon of Memory

By: Arin Krausz

The barn’s skeleton is a hulking thing. Civilizations of termites have risen and fallen, epochs of rat kingdoms ended in starvation and even the molding straw finally dissolved into mush. You stand at the corner of its lurching frame and examine the cornerstone, trying to divine some sort of reason out of its crumbling cement. Close your eyes. Breathe in, breathe out. Remember your mother’s story of how she gave birth to you here, how your father washed you in the pig’s water trough and declared you beautiful. Imagine the reek, blood mingling with the sheeps’ wool wet from one of twenty leaks in the ceiling. You should remember something so important. But there’s nothing.

Apparently you came back often when you were old enough to walk. Spent hours staring at the expressionless animals, daring them to react. Your father would show you the scar on his knee from when the stairs collapsed on him as he dragged you from the rafters.

“See here, look what you’ve done.” And even as you both smiled, and laughed, you never could actually remember that fateful day, only knew its true nature from the bitterness in his tone and the subtle limp in his gait. How strange, to have a sin be so heavy without memory of it. To only know secondhand what a horrible person you truly are.

Your mother had given you directions, recited them slowly, in a way that’d be patronizing if you were anyone else. It took two hours of trampling uncertainty, stumbling over stones and bulging roots and all the detritus of nature, until you found the abandoned shell, practically ran into it without seeing it, because your eyes always seem to be experiencing the world ten seconds too slow, or eleven too fast.

A shadow begins to lap at your feet. You look up, and see a cloud, the only one in miles, drifting overhead. You leap out of its path with sudden urgency, tripping over the rusting frame, creating a vibration that ricochets up the rebar, making a deep sonorous ring. Fleeing one bad omen only to rush into another one. Grab your wrist and yank it five times. Compulsive repentance, curses only fixed through strange routines. There used to be a journal where you inscribed every proper counter-spell for bad luck-walk under a ladder, hop in a circle. Talk out of turn, bite your cheek until you can carve out a tiny piece. Think something cruel, pull out strands of curling hair until the pain returns propriety.

Your friends wait back at the motel, four bodies to a bed. Your lovers, too. They look to you for guidance when you barely know how to walk in the right direction. But somehow stories, far more permanent than memories, sprout where you tread, evolve as you travel.

Has any of your life really happened? You catch flashes—bright festival lights, water flowing over your head, someone’s calloused hands gripping yours. But nothing coherent, nothing solid, fragments of worlds that may be entirely fabricated. Maybe you were swapped with your true self, maybe you are a changeling made of mud and mugwort sent twenty years too late. A failure of crafting. An incidental inconvenience.

Blink, and you’ve spent hours ruminating with nothing to show for it. It’s like this every time-you try to find some clarity by going off on your own, reweaving the fraying threads of your memory, but walking the exact same path, both practically unconscious and altogether too aware of everything that you’ve told yourself shouldn’t matter. This stupid barn was supposed to fix things. Return to the beginning, complete the cycle, but all that’s left is rust and undergrowth because you are now certain your connection to this place, no, the place itself, is
dead. That’s it. Your eyes dart like silver minnows, searching the dusky air for a reply. That’s a conclusion, it’s something. And as the thought ferments, you can feel the omens of three decades crashing in on each other, the walls of the barn collapsing, one by one.

When you reach your friends in the early hours of the morning, your knees are lightly crusted with dirt and blood. You curl up next to your lovers and kiss them lightly. There is no need to rush the inevitable. It will come, soon, you feel it contracting in your chest. There’s no need to fear the omens anymore.

 

Arin Krausz is 17 years old and lives in Woodland Hills, CA. Arin identifies as transmasculine, loves to work with Twine and other modes of interactive fiction, and spends most of their time with their three cats.



The Girl Who Cried Wolf

By: Qianhui Ma

“And when on the third day, the boy cried wolf again, the villagers answered no more.
But this time, the wolf really came. The villagers never ever saw the boy again……”
“That silly boy,” you giggled as your nanny closed the book and put us to bed.
“Silly,” I nodded along, “he must have regretted it so bad.”

I remember we were in third grade when the teacher introduced us to the infinite repeating decimals. I didn’t really understand. You explained to me that it was like the merry-go-round we rode in the parks every Saturday, the same thing just repeating and repeating and repeating. And somehow that reminded me of us. Of how things always repeated between us. Of how every time we had a quarrel, you would run off, throwing a huge fit and shouting that it’s the end of our friendship. And of how I would always end up apologizing, until we eventually made up and went back to being best friends like nothing ever happened. Except it did, over and over again. And each time, I grew a little more tired.

And then came that day after school, at the gate, when you said those words again with such determination. But that day, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t run after you as I always did. I just watched your ponytail swinging as you sharply turned away. I watched as you gave the kickstand of your bike a decisive kick, one hand steering the handlebars, the other slinging your backpack over your shoulder. I watched as you leaped onto the bike with a motion of smoothness, like a wild bird gliding across the waters, without a trace of reluctance for leaving the northern land behind.

The sun was dazzling that day, obscuring your figure as you threaded in and out of the shadows and light patches on that little road running along the northern side of our school. Maybe it was the sun, burning the pavement too hot, as my feet grew restless as I stood on the concrete ground. Something inside me wished to run after you. But I bit my lips and forced the urge away.

For once, I wanted you to stop for me.

Just once.

My heart started to pound without my permission. I could see the wheels of your bike spinning round and round, which made me dizzy. There was never so much distance between us. I clenched my fists, and the cuffs of my shirt soaked with the sweat of my palms. But my feet wouldn’t budge as if they were locked in place. I could have run, at any moment, and I knew you would have stopped for me if only I chased you. But I didn’t. And you didn’t either. I just stood there and watched, slowly, as the sight of you mingled into the patch of greenness at the far end of the road, and then you disappeared.

Later, I told myself that I accomplished something that day. That I stood up for myself. But then, I couldn’t help but feel uncertain, as I walked home for the first time with no one by my side.

“That silly boy,” you said, as your nanny turned off our light.
“He must have regretted it so bad,” I said.
But it is only now, that I begin to wonder,
Did the villagers feel regretful too?

 

Qianhui Ma is a high school junior from Beijing, China and she is 17 years old. Besides reading and writing, she also loves spending time with children and engaging in strange dialogues with herself in the shower. As someone who has to take long subway rides to school, her favorite pastime is making up stories for strangers on the subway. In the future, she plans to work in the field of education and dreams of traveling around the world by train. A version of this story was first published in The WEIGHT Journal, June 12, 2020. https://www.theweightjournal.com/post/the-girl-who-cried-wolf-flash-fiction-by-qianhui-ma. 

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