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. 



Our Family

By: Lulu Pettit

What a shame. My nieta, of all people.
The words spun around Alicia’s head as she stared at the bug on the dirty cafe floor. Was it a fly? A spider? Too small to tell. At least it seemed content.
A brightly-shoed foot came crashing down.
Nothing good lasts long.
What a shame.
Again, that painful memory. The ugly, grating words Abuela used when she found the rainbow-flag-covered pamphlet under Alicia’s bed. Her stomach twisted, and she tried to think of better things. Pleasant memories.
She looked around the comfort spot she’d fled to, Our Family Cafe, trying to remember happy times here. She was in the corner booth. Her favorite seat, selected after trying every other chair.
What a shame.
Ten minutes ago, she stormed in and ordered the largest slice of red velvet cake in the display case.  How many times had she brought Abuela here, to try this very cake?
“You’ll love it, I swear,” she would say, laughing, dragging Abuela to move faster, faster.
Alicia was always laughing in her memories.
“You know I don’t eat sugar anymore, nieta.”
What a shame.
Her stomach churned and the slice in front of her now seemed much less appealing than before.
What a shame.
New memory.
Her best friend, Carolina, came here, too, before she left for college. She preferred the table in the middle.
“Our backs are to the windows,” Carolina argued. “Our Abuelas can’t tell if we’re here when we say we’re studying at the library.”
“Maybe if you didn’t lie to your Abuela, you’d understand the superiority of the corner booth,” Alicia responded, laughing.
“Maybe if you didn’t have such a perfect relationship with your Abuela, you’d understand my angle.”
What a shame.
Her world collapsing without her Abuela at her side, tears stung Alicia’s eyes. If only Carolina could see her now.
Nothing good lasts long.

 

Lulu Pettit lives in Philadelphia, PA; she is 15 years old.  Lulu spends her days planning her next NaNoWriMo, watching an absurd amount of rom-coms, and roller skating in her friendly neighborhood graveyard.

 

image: iwonder Vision in Pexels



The Crimson Baroness

By: Kaitlin Fisher

    I hear the woman’s scream before the thud of the body hitting the floor.  She jumps out of the subway seat and bolts towards the elderly man’s lifeless form, crumpled on the filthy ground of the train car.  She leaves her child, unforgotten, six feet away, tucked beneath a blanket inside of a stroller as she rolls the man onto his back. I catch a glimpse of his face and resist the urge to cry.  Oozing from his nose and the top of his head is bright red blood; it engulfs his facial features in a cherry colored, dripping mask that pools onto the floor as it reaches his ears.  When the train pulls into the station, one person bolts off in disgust while another person runs to alert the train conductor.

The lady sitting across from me takes out her phone to call 911 for an ambulance.  "Hello? Yes, we have a medical emergency! I’m on the subway. An elderly man fell off his seat and now he's bleeding on the floor," she says in a rushed, panicked tone. She peers outside the door and repeats the name of the train station off the sign on the wall.

My stomach lurches and I barely register getting up.  My feet have a mind of their own as they guide me out of the train doors to the nearest trash can. I stumble into the metal can just as the contents of this morning's breakfast come tumbling out of my mouth and into the garbage bag waiting below.  Wiping my mouth on my sleeve after I'm done, I feel a sharp prick on my back, and swivel around quickly.  It's a horrible decision that causes my head to spin and I stumble backwards, clinging to the trash can to steady myself.

It's only then that I notice the woman directly before me, observing me.  My eyes take in her folded arms, her hands ending in long, glittering nails, her pin-straight blonde hair disturbed only by the sunglasses atop her head, the black-vinyl trench coat enveloping her slender figure and the sharp point of her red stiletto heels.  She would be the center of attention in any room she entered or any painting in which she was the main subject.  But no one seems to glance in her direction.

She smiles up at me and asks, "Are you okay, sir? You still look quite green."

"I'm fine, thank you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find another way to get to work."

I release my hand from the garbage can and take a step forward only to feel another wave of nausea. Unable to grab onto the trash can this time, I find myself momentarily weightless, and suddenly lying on the platform floor.

"I don't think you'll make it to work today, Elias. Or tomorrow for that matter," the woman says.  She kneels down to my eye level and reaches her hand out, tilting my chin up.

"What are you talking about?" I ask as I try to scoot away from her. Suddenly, my face feels very hot, like the thermostat in my brain has been turned up to the highest setting.

The woman smiles sympathetically at me. "You should really wipe your nose, Elias," is her only reply.

Swatting away her outstretched hand and reaching up to touch my face, I feel something sticky just above my upper lip and dripping from my nostrils. Pulling my finger away, I freeze as I see the red stain. Panicking, both of my hands shoot up to my cheeks and are met with the same, sticky residue instead of my smooth skin.

The woman's smiling face remains unfazed. "I'm sorry, but I hope you understand that this is just business. And don't worry, you won't be alone."

Turning her head to the right, she points at a teenage boy completely absorbed by the phone in his hand. "See that kid? He's next." She straightens up from her crouched position and slinks towards her third victim of the day.

 

Kaitlin Fisher is 17 years old; she lives in New York, NY.  Kaitlin loves singing, spends her summers hiking and biking, and would love to have a pet dog.

 

image: Jarek Levandocki



Darkness

By: Isabel Ives

The darkness. The door. The crumbling brick; it all begged me to enter. I tucked a loose strand of flying black hair behind my ear and looked through the broken window. Darkness and the flickering light of a candle, slowly dying. After a few moments, the flame extinguished, leaving a trail of silver smoke. I pushed open the door, which groaned like a child in pain, leaving a fresh sound in the silence of midnight. I took out my lighter, which provided my only source of light, casting strange shadows over dusty concrete walls. The air was musty and ancient, like a memory or a forgotten dream, nothing like the cool night air outside. My quiet steps left muddy footprints on the dusty floor. A gust of wind blew through the house, inviting the shadows formed by my lighter to dance and beckon me forwards.

I walked cautiously away from the hallway, through a doorway that smelt of mildew and crumbled slightly under my touch, which opened to what must have been a living room with an old, slowly deteriorating moss colored sofa, another wide and broken window, three empty rusted bronze picture frames, a fireplace missing the warm embers it once held—embers I would be grateful for, I thought, breathing into my numb hands –a rotten wooden chest and a broken glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Of all these objects in the room, only one held my attention:  a clean, fresh cardboard box. It sat in the corner of the gloomy room, with the numbers “1604” printed in large black letters on the side. I opened the box to find a silver ring, rusted beyond repair, clearly missing a small diamond or gem.
I slipped the ring onto my finger, only to find my head filled with colors and numbers, echoing through the depths of my mind. With trembling fingers, I tried desperately to remove the ring, but found it sinking into my finger and merging with my pale skin. My lighter went out. The numbers “1604” flashed through my mind, and the empty room around me began to transform.

First, the wide window repaired itself, fragments of glass flying into it from around the room and fitting beside one another like perfect puzzle pieces. The moss colored sofa turned charcoal grey and became soft and velvety. The rotted wooden chest was polished, and a paler shade of grey. The picture frames were filled with beautiful black and white oil paintings of the night sky, white stars dissolving into a sea of blackness. The floor was covered with a soft Persian rug and a sturdy wooden fireplace stood beside the sofa, filled with silver flames. Wallpaper spread across the walls, patterned in black and white with elegant swirls and delicate curves. Plush black curtains hung from silver rods and an eerie grey sunlight shone through the window. A strange melody wafted through the house.

I attempted to look out the window, but all I could see was a milky blur. I pressed my hands against the glass, and when the ring touched it, it lit up with recognition and my finger throbbed with a hot, searing pain. I backed away from the window. Desperate, I tried for the front door. Somehow, my hand seemed to pass through it. A weak knock came from the other side of the door, and the floor creaked behind me. A tall, English gentleman with curly black hair, a ruffled white shirt peeking through a black tuxedo, three quarter length beige trousers and tall white socks stood over me. He reached through me and opened the door. I screamed, but it fell upon deaf ears. A once-beautiful woman stood in the doorway now, the picture of distress. Her eyes were swollen red from crying, and her cheeks were spotted with tears.

     “Ah, Marianne. How dost thou?” The man behind me said gently.
     “I am well. Where art thy wife, Catherine?” She asked, twirling a strand of light wavy
hair around a delicate finger, styled to perfection.
     “Cometh inside, presently the lady is upstairs, she should beest down soon.”
Marianne stepped inside gratefully. I made for the open door, but it slammed like a blow to the face. Not knowing what else to do, I followed them into the living room. Marianne sat in a very ladylike manner on the sofa, legs crossed and hands folded politely in her lap. After a few minutes of awkward conversation, Catherine finally entered the room. She was a lady of roughly thirty years, with long dark hair, a cascade of silken strands that reached her waist. On her face was an expression of pure rage, her brows knitted and her lips tight. Her blue eyes danced with fire.
     Catherine’s voice was soft but laced with menace, “‘Tis done, then? He is dead?"

 

Isabel Ives is 13 years old and lives in Irasburg, Vermont. She loves drawing, has a dog and has lived in four different countries. 



The Cassette Tape

By: Thee Sim Ling

“Mum! Lizzy took my homework again!” Ruth failed to understand what made Lizzy think it was fun to hide her schoolwork around the house. What was her deal? She could do all of Ruth’s homework if she wanted to; if so, Ruth could enjoy the next episode of her favorite TV show.
“Go find it then!” Lizzy’s head popped out of the attic as she stuck out her tongue. “Come on!” That pesky midget, Ruth thought. She ran to the attic, thinking that her
younger sister probably hid her homework here. She may think she’s smart, but I’ll get back at her, I swear.
“Ahhh! What is that thing?” Ruth screamed.
“Hmm?” Lizzy emerged with a confused look. “Hey, I didn’t set any booby traps here.
That, whatever it is, is not my fault. Now why are you screaming?”
“Be...because of that.” Ruth pointed a trembling finger at the strange object on the ground.
“Don’t worry, Ruth.” Lizzy waved dismissively. “It’s probably just an old box of Hi-Five CDs. You know, those five Aussie adults that sing...”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Ruth wouldn’t fall for Lizzy’s trap again. “Now, if you’re so brave, why don’t you go wrestle with the monster.”
“Pff! Watch me, scaredy-- Eeek!” Lizzy jumped back and shook her leg violently. “Get this thing off me!”
Ruth gasped when she saw a strange thick string wrapped around her sister’s leg. “What was that?”
“Anything wrong, girls?” Fortunately, her sharp-eared father raced up the steps to the attic and arrived in the nick of time.
“Something got entangled with my leg!” Lizzy wailed.
Surprised, Father took a closer look at the sinister serpent-like object. Then he let out a loud guffaw.
“What’s so funny?” Lizzy looked less than amused. “Hello, there’s an emergency situation here!”
“I see you don’t know what a cassette tape is.” Father wiped away his tears of laughter. “Don’t worry, it won’t bite. It’s not even alive.”
The two sisters shared a glance. “What’s a cassette tape?” Ruth asked, confused, as her father helped to untangle Lizzy. Father showed us the sealed plastic unit.
“A cassette contains something like a length of audio tape, videotape, or film wound on a pair of spools, for insertion into a recorder, playback device, or other machine.”
“Singlish?” Lizzy, a true Singaporean girl by heart, needed a translation in the local slang.
Father sighed. “Like, you know, black-black thing with black-black tape. Like correction tape for listening to music.”
“Ohhh…” Lizzy nodded her head. “Your generation’s version of the iPod.”
Father nodded. “At least all you Gen Z kids can understand it that way. Better than not getting to know about cassettes at all.”
“Was this yours?” Ruth noticed a piece of masking tape stuck at the back with Father’s name on it.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I still remember the day I got this. I was ecstatic. I could now have the freedom to listen to Cantonese songs. Also, we listened to Teresa Teng, Andy Lau, Jackie Cheung…”
“All old Chinese singers,” Ruth noted.
“Yep. We also liked to listen to the Beatles.” Father smiled as he started to hum Hey
Jude.
“Wow. That’s so cool. Your own portable MP3,” marveled Ruth.
“Yep. But with current technology being much more advanced, treasures like these get
sold in junk sales or left forgotten in attics. Of course,” he chuckled, “there is the occasional prank.”
“You didn’t need to remind us,” the two sisters muttered ominously.
Lizzy pointed to the cassette. “Hey, do you think it will still work after all these years?”
“Maybe,” Father said. “Let’s try to play it. Does anyone have a pencil?”
“Why do you need a pencil?” Ruth was bewildered.
“Hang on, I’ll show you. I’ll be right back.” Father went down the attic steps.
When he came up, he used the pencil to rewind the cassette tape. He also remembered to get some new batteries. (The old ones in it were so filthy with dust that everybody immediately started sneezing.) With bated breath, he pressed the ‘play’ button. Silence. Everyone sighed, resigned to the fact that some old things would never work again. But then they gasped and cheered. The familiar tune of ‘Hey Jude’ resounded in the attic.
Ruth swayed to the music. Staring at the now-prehistoric invention, she wondered what other fabulous treasures were lost in the relentless flow of time.

Thee Sim Ling is 12 years old and lives in Singapore. She enjoys doing HTML (HyperText markup Language) which can be used to create websites. When she grows up she wants to be a writer. 



The Heart of a Soldier

By: Sam Schmidt

There’s a saying we use for a time like this: “War turns the heart to stone.”

Let’s say you are just a young eighteen-year-old kid off the streets who claims he joined the war to get away from his old man.  Then you experience combat and just freeze; incapable of doing anything -- move, aim, shoot and even speak.  All you can manage to do is cover your ears to prevent the horrifying screams of your comrades getting plowed by Fritz’s MG-42 machine gun.  When that happens, you’re considered a coward - a bad soldier.

Or, you can be a good soldier.  You can aim down sight, despite the zipping sound of bullets flying through the air, and fire upon the enemy, take their life, and not feel a thing.  My best friend, whose name happened to be Jerry, told me a good soldier doesn’t see the enemy as another human being.  He sees himself as a good soldier.  I could sit here and tell you…I was a good soldier.  But I was somewhere in between. 

I knew what I had signed up for.  I knew that I was gonna take down Germans.  If they are willing to kill me, I must be prepared to kill them.  I knew it was my duty to fight, and not back down.  I knew my job was to kill the enemy; but I also knew my job was to see the enemy as human.  I’ve killed before.  Plenty of times. Too much, as a matter of fact, and I remember the faces of every single enemy soldier.  When the combat settles, I always remember where I dropped them. The least I could do is get an idea of who each of them were.

I’ve killed many Nazis, and unfortunately, a lot of them were just kids not even old enough to buy themselves a beer.  At the moment you have to pull the trigger, you will freeze, I don’t care what kind of soldier you are.  Instead of being at home, at school with friends, you are forced to fight the horrors of war - and die.  Just think about that - I have to live with that.  For the rest of my life, I have to cope with the fact that I have killed boys - kids! 

To a good soldier, “this is war,” is an excuse to get away with killing.  To me, it’s just a freaking phrase.  Before they send you off to your death, you’ll be telling yourself “this is war,” and you will have to kill.  When you finally take someone’s life, it feels as if the devil took a shot at you, and he’ll take another shot after every kill.

Things change once you serve for Uncle Sam.  You can be known as the local paperboy; friendly to everyone.  Then you come home, and you’re a new person - someone who has probably seen things that they regret seeing in the first place.  You can go from this kind-hearted person to a stone-cold war hero.  Everyone will see you differently when you return, everyone will know your new character.  But in the end, what I - we - can’t change, is that it is just the heart of a soldier.

 

Sam Schmidt is 18 years old; he lives in Bozeman, Montana. Sam is pursuing a career in piloting and he spends summers playing American Legion baseball.

 

image: SatikevaElenaS @ Pixabay



On the Edge

By: Colm Hull

I sigh as my little brother Troy tries his latest ploy to annoy me.

“Just because you don’t want to go doesn’t mean you need to make this car ride horrible for both of us,” I say.

“It’s your dumb fault we had to go here and not someplace cool,” Troy retaliated.

“How do you not find this cool?”

“It’s a bunch of old dusty ruins and rocks.”

“Well, do you think I appreciated going to Santa’s Village?” I ask angrily.

Why had my parents decided to bring Troy—a boy with more energy than an ill-trained puppy--on a tour that went on a narrow path next to a sheer cliff? I had been looking forward to this visit to Mesa Verde National Park since before Troy was born. So, I just sighed and turned up the volume of my headphones.  As I was just getting engrossed in an audiobook I yelped and yanked my brother’s arm back inside the car as a low hanging tree branch whizzed by where Troy’s arm had been just moments before.

After about three hours we arrived at our destination and got out of the car.  Immediately, Troy began wandering off and Mom had to pull him back from going over the edge of the cliff.  We were at the side of a massive cliff but that wasn’t even the main draw.

It was Mesa Verde!  I had been in awe of the place ever since reading about it years ago.  The half-ruined sandstone buildings perched on ledges on the sides of massive cliffs had always amazed me.  The houses varied from small one-room family homes to larger buildings used for storage or religious purposes.  And along the edge of the small city ran a low stone wall to stop small children from toppling over.  There were open spaces for trading, parties, or other events. I found the lifestyle, architecture, and history of the Pueblo fascinating.

We waited for a little while until a huge bus pulled up and people started piling off. The last person to come off was the tour guide.

“OK, everyone here for the tour please group up over here,” he said. “On this tour we will be walking through the ruins of the great lost city Mesa Verde. All right let’s get moving and remember not to touch anything!”

“Like what the rocks, rocks, and more rocks?” Troy muttered.

As I walked around, I saw my parents looking at an archway, and Troy was wandering off.  I went back to examining some carvings in the wall.  I suddenly glanced over at Troy and panic built up in my chest like a coiled spring about to explode.  I saw the world in slow motion as my thoughts raced trying to come up with a way to stop Troy from falling off the edge he had perched himself on.

I ran to the edge of the cliff where my pint-sized sibling was toppling off the edge.  As I looked down I saw that my brother’s hand was slipping off the small cranny in the rock he was clutching, and before I could think, my brain pushed my body into action.

I vaulted over the edge—my left hand grasping at the ledge above and my right closing on Troy’s shirt.  Then pain exploded between my shoulder blades and suddenly, I felt a strong force pulling me and my brother up and to the safety of the cliff.  My parents pulled us up and started patting us down, asking if we were OK.  Immediately the tour guide ran over and started thoroughly examining both of us for any physical injuries.  Other than a bloody scrape on Troy’s knee, and a large bruise on my chest, we were both fine.

“Well?” I said standing up and peering down at Troy.

“Well, what? “Troy replied sounding shaken.

“I just literally jumped off a cliff for you and you aren’t even going to thank me?” I asked.

“Well, thanks,” Troy muttered.

I rolled my eyes and started walking back up the path, thinking that being a big brother is the most irritating job ever.  After all, it’s not like I was going to let Troy die, even though he is the most annoying human on earth.  Troy is my brother and I love him.
 

Colm Hull is 13 years old;  he lives in Springvale, Maine.  Fun facts about Colm are that he plays the trombone and is a part of the Maine Youth Orchestra.

 

image by Kristy Lee, Pixabay



Intelligence

By: Spade Forest

Ms. Roger walked into her first period class.  It was a beautiful morning outside. The first day of school again, the day when she would have new seventh graders to teach, and watch them either succeed in her class, or fail. It didn’t matter, regardless.  Ms. Roger was the superior one her classroom.  She was teaching her students what she already knew; they could not compete with that.

Ms. Roger’s grading system was key to showing dominance over her students. Five percent of their grade was for completing the homework, regardless if they understood it or not. Twenty-five percent of the grade was based on quizzes. The other seventy percent of their grade was based on their tests scores. Her favorite strategy was to give her students lots of homework, to see who would be the most dedicated. Ms. Roger gave four quizzes every quarter to see if they understood or not. She gave two tests every quarter, including many topics on each one, leaving even the best students with a B.

Ms. Roger was the superior one. No one could succeed. No one could be perfect. Not against her.

As she graded tests, Ms. Roger would always smile. Never a perfect score. Never even close. She smirked when someone got one point away from an “A”.

One day there was one test at the bottom of her stack. Her smile sank. A perfect score.
She checked it twice, three times, but there was no mistake. Not even a missing name to deduct one point. Everything was there. The name read Brian. “Brian…” she thought.
He was sitting in the back of the class, waiting for the bell to ring.

“Brian,” She called. “Could you please stay a few minutes after school?”

“Sure, Ms. Roger,” Brian replied.

The bell rang a few minutes after, everyone filed out and the hall was filled with kids laughing and lockers opening and slamming shut.

“What did you need me for Ms. Roger?” Brian asked, looking eager to leave.

“I need to discuss something with you,” Ms. Roger replied. “It’s about your test.”

I will always be superior, always.

 

Spade Forest is 13 years old; he lives in Denver, Colorado. Fun facts about Spade -- he likes crafting and being a teacher's aide.

 

Image by Florian Doppler from Pexels

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