by Unknown, 8th
It has hidden in the shadows somewhere where it is dark
It has nested a home inside of us
We’re SCARED to watch the news AFRAID to watch as the next tragedy unfolds
When will the next gun be picked up
When will the next bullets be shot
When will the next bomb be set
The bomb is already ticking, it has been set
Within me, I’m ready to explode
One day my words will blow up
They will shake the world with all its power
And shock the country with all its courage
But the bomb isn’t only in me
It’s in all of the youth’s mind, ready to go off
When the time is right we will stand
We will use all of our ability to change the ways of the past
Because the only thing left to change the future
Is the future
by Grace K. 7th
My first year of middle school changed my life. I pushed away plates of food, “I am not hungry,” I’d say. At night my stomach rumbled, begging for food. My ribs showed, and my weight was dropping at an unhealthy rate. But at that time, my weight wasn’t just my weight. It was my self worth. My gate was stiff, and I felt unworthy as I walked through school.
The girl who I thought was always there for me, left me. Pretending I meant nothing to her, acting as if I wasn’t there. Joining the group of kids who picked on people, throwing juicy tomatoes in the direction of anyone they didn’t approve of at the cafeteria tables. All these emotions bubbled up inside of me anger, sadness the broken, sinking feeling in my stomach. I began gossiping about how much I hated this new “popular” group. When they found out, they got permission to take me out of class to have “a talk with me”. I knew what was happening when they pulled my limp emotionless body out of advisory one afternoon. Right as one girl was about to holler at me, I started crying. Fat, cold tears dripping down my chin and soaking the knee of my blue jeans.
I am not sure why, but I just explained everything. About rehab centers and therapy, dropping scales and panic attacks. How I had marks on my arm, how I tried to crawl out my window one Sunday night. How I felt when my best friend left me. Their faces relaxed, and they just stared for a moment. Kai spoke up saying, “Sometimes I feel bad about the way I look.” I looked up. Never had it occurred to me that another person would feel a similar way, let alone a boy. Hearing that lifted weight off of my shoulders. “Your not ugly, Grace. I just want to tell you that you’re beautiful, and you don’t deserve what you’re going through.” His eyes turned big, and I knew he was telling the truth.
I’ve held that conversation with me for years. We think that we know someone, but the truth is we only know the version of them they've chosen to show us. People can have such an impact on you. Even the people you never expected to.
by Marie Mendez, 11th
There’s a box, they tell me, a box
And I’m sitting here wishing that I had a box: I am
a product of Loving
Nine black dresses banged a gavel;
Decided colors could love each other, could kiss
their own pigment onto the canvas
Of one another.
My father’s favorite jacket is red, loud, angry,
a class clown with a suit and a mortgage: he is my mother’s
prince charming, he takes up the whole room when he talks.
My mom was my blue, the light of the microwave at night, I’d talk for hours
before she could finally get me to sleep.
She loves the ocean.
The salt of that love flows in my veins
mixing with my father’s red.
Their daughters: purple.
Me, my sister; her skin
Darker than mine,
the part of the equation you hadn’t accounted for,
do the math again,
My friends said
“I didn’t do the math homework.”
My friends said:
“What’s an Abulota?”
“Oh, I forgot there was a Mendez after Sparks”
“Lucy, you’re ---ing white”
“Mendez, like Shawn Mendes?”
“Scientifically, people can’t learn a language without an accent after turning 15”
“I’m giving you your brown card, it’s okay, don’t worry.”
“Why is your Spanish accent so much better than everyone else’s? It’s not fair”
And my white mother translating
cognates for me over papi’s
I thought I could build myself a box,
Out of the dancing trumpets I played
As I did the dishes
And rainbow I guess,
The colors I’d never show Abuelita
Out of the green stucco house in the good bad part of town.
We were ordering lunch at a chicken chain, my father
and I, Couldn’t explain it in Spanish
He switched to English, (or English to Spanish, one in the same) the girl
in the paper hat didn’t bat an eye,
Out of looney tunes shows
From my Abuelito’s bed,
the cigar boxes from Havana I have stacked in my room
And the stories they knit for me.
But, When the words of my father’s language dance out of my mouth, they trip, rr’s don't sound like they’re supposed to
And I had to explain to my sister that tacos aren’t our food
But neither are tortas, my dad told me:
“Dad, just tell me, what’d Abuelito say?”
“Nothing, it’s fine”
“He said… your Spanish got worse.”
So, well, I do have a box: I’m just not inside
It’s brown walls:
where they keep guayaba batidas, pastelito’s from porto’s,
lechon asado on noche buena, my dad
never taught me Spanish,
Said he couldn’t teach me
What I needed to know, in a language Mr. Samuel Smith didn’t let him write,
the strings hanging out of the pinata
my Abuelita made me: Cuban
She told me.
She never told me how to open
by O, 11th
She was broken and lost.
She made a lot of mistakes.
She made a lot of bad decisions.
But she was still standing up,
She was still fighting
She had never in her life, given up.
Even when it was all she needed.
She was so powerful,
She had so many ambitious,
She was so strong.
But people had always seen her as
the little one
the messy one
the stupid one with a messy life
If they only had just seen how valuable she was,
If people had just been aware
of her warrior spirit.
If they had just known how much she was.
Maybe and only maybe,
She would of seen her effort
and just for once,
She would of smiled.
by Heiress.ha10, 11th
[Note: before reading]
This fictional story has scenes of abuse and physical violence. If these issues bring up anything, reach out and talk to someone- a trusted adult or teacher.
I wish I could start this story off with “Once upon a time” but that’s too tranquil for the story I’m about to tell you. My name is De’Liza King and this is my story. EIGHT. EIGHT. I was eight years old when my father struck my mother for the first time. It was 10:49 pm and I had woken up from a nightmare. I went downstairs to look for my mom because I needed the comfort only she could provide and as I was on the last step I heard pleading. It sounded like my mom. When I turned the corner before me was my father pinning my mother against the wall. He slapped her and she tumbled to the ground.
That was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry. Instead of going to my momma I turned right back around and went back to bed because anything I dreamt of would be better than the nightmare I had just stumbled upon. The next morning both my parents were at the dining table and my mom was smiling at something my father had said. There was no bruise anywhere and it seemed like everything that I witnessed never happened. Honestly, sometimes I think it never did but the cries I hear at night remind me that it was not just another nightmare. But that's how it was for the next eight years and my ideology of a good relationship was morphed.
My junior year of high school is when my life took a turn for the worse, I meet a boy named Daxton. He shared a history class with me and one day we were paired to do a presentation together. As the weeks passed by Daxton and I hung out more and more and I became infatuated. We eventually started dating and everything was PERFECT, or so I thought. My senior year of high school Daxton became violent. He got jealous and mad at me for hanging with people other than him, he isolated me from my friends and I didn’t like it. One day I was paired up with another boy for a film project and Daxton got mad. That was the first time he had ever hit me. That day I went home and cried to my mother and she told me that if I really loved him than it was ok and that I should love him regardless of his flaws.
That should have been my wake up call, that if I didn’t want to end up like my mom I needed to end this. But I was foolish and naive and I listened to her. The next week Daxton took me to the movies and while we were there I was seated next to another guy and Daxton became quiet. I asked him what was wrong because he was never that quiet, but I didn’t mind I wanted to enjoy the movie anyway. While watching the movie I felt a tap on my shoulder and I looked over and the guy seated next to me asked if he could squeeze by to go to the bathroom so I moved my legs and watched him walk away until I made eye contact with Daxton. I turned back to the movie until he came back again and then apologized for disrupting me and we went back to watching the movie. On the ride back Daxton was still quiet. It was kind of alarming and I was worried about him.
When he pulled up to my house my parents weren’t home so I invited him in so we could talk but as soon as I closed the door my back was on the door and my feet no longer touched the ground. As I looked up I no longer saw my loving boyfriend, standing in front of me was a monster. His veins were throbbing out of his neck and his pupils were completely dilated. He dropped me and as I slumped to the ground trying to gather my breath he kicked me in my stomach and yelled, “You whore! How could you? I thought you loved me! But if you want to talk to other guys than I’ll give you a reason to talk to other guys. Just know they will never love you the way I love you. You’re worthless and nobody except me will ever love you.” Each word accompanied by a kick or a punch. No longer was I worried about him, but more fearing for my life.
All I could think about was how I was going to die in my parents house with no degree. But all of a sudden he stopped. He looked down and we made eye contact and tears started streaming down his face. He ended up taking me to the hospital chanting how much he loved me before I blacked out. That was probably one of the scariest days of my life. The next day I woke up in a hospital bed with him by my side and the events of last night fresh on my mind. The doctor ended up coming in and asking to talk to me, he asked me what happened and I stayed quiet. He dismissed Daxton and asked again and when I didn’t answer he gave me a card. On that card it said battered women helpline with a number. He gave me a knowing look and walked out.
I was stuck in the hospital for days, because I had two broken ribs, a fractured wrist and internal bleeding and they wanted to run test on me. Everyday the same doctor who I found out was Mr. Alighieri, kept checking in on me and trying to talk to me to get my account on what happened that night, but I never talked. After a while he just started talking to me to keep me company and for the first time I realized just how much I longed for a friend. The following week I was discharged. My mom drove me home and during the ride she looked at me and asked, “He did this didn’t he?” I looked away because I didn’t know how to respond. She let it go and continued driving. When we got home she gave me the same card the doctor had gave to me and told me that she had scheduled me to join a group session and that it should be good for me. That night I stayed up listening to my mother plead with my father and wondering if that was the life I wanted for myself.
The next morning I got dressed determined not to relive my mother’s nightmare and went into the building. As soon as I walked in I saw the same doctor that tended to me. We made eye contact and he smiled at me. I looked away and walked to the front desk. They showed me to the room and standing in the front was the same doctor. That day I found out he was also a psychologist and he told us how he got into working with battered women. After the session on my way out the door he asked me how old I was. I was perplexed but answered 18 and he walked away. The next day I saw Daxton and avoided him like the plague. The following week I went back to Mr. Alighieri’s battered woman class, and that was when he told me that when I graduated high school he could help me. I didn’t know what he meant so I left it at that. That night I told my mom about Mr. Alighieri and him saying he could help me and she told me about how she told him about her hunch on Daxton and him abusing me. She also told me how she actually saw Mr. Aligieri threaten Daxton to leave me alone or he would call the police on him. The following session I thanked Mr. Alighieri. He offered me the opportunity to escape after high school. He told me about a vacation home he had in Nevada that he would let me use until I could get back on my feet. I accepted. The weeks that followed were relatively the same, I would go to my weekly sessions go to school and come home. Except every now and then Daxton would attempt to try and talk to me. One day I let him and he told me how much he missed me and how he would never put his hands on me and like the fool I was, I believed him. I took him back.
The weeks flew by and Daxton and I were in bliss. We hadn’t argued, he hadn’t hit me and we even made some new friends. Not only that but graduation was in two days. I was ecstatic. Although we were back together, I still attended my weekly group sessions with Mr. Alighieri and when I told him about me and Daxton being back together he was highly disappointed in me and for some reason his disappointment didn’t sit well. I hated the feeling that it gave me. But deep down I knew he was right. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten back with Daxton but I missed the feeling of being with him I missed him, the good him.
The day before graduation I made an unexpected visit to Mr. Aligieri and I invited him to my graduation. He gladly accepted and promised to see me tomorrow. The next day I woke up early and well rested, elated to finally be done with high school. This was the day I had been yearning for. As they called my name and I walked across the stage, collected my diploma and realized that I couldn’t have been happier. As I went to go hug my parents Daxton came over angrier than I had ever seen him. “Who is he ?” I stayed quiet. “I said, who is he?” he yelled in my face. The vein in his neck started throbbing and I started getting flashbacks of that horrible night. As I started cowering away Mr. Aligieri came over and pushed Daxton away from me. That’s when Daxton swung on him. Next thing I know there were two men fighting in front of me and all I could do was stand there and watch. Finally they were pulled apart both of them huffing and puffing. Daxton had black eye and bloody nose whereas Mr. Alighieri had a busted lip. As I started towards Mr. Aligieri, Daxton grabbed my arm and started dragging me away, but that’s when I had enough. I realized I couldn’t do this to myself anymore.
That night I cried myself to sleep but for once it wasn’t tears of sadness but tears of relief. The following morning I packed my clothes up and went to Mr. Alighieri’s office to see if his offer for the vacation home was still available. He said it was so the following morning I said my goodbyes and fled to Nevada away from this madness I called life. When I arrived I applied to university and went searching for part time jobs I could get to bring in some extra cash.
It’s been five years. No longer am I that naive young child I used to be. I still have nightmares but Mr. Aligieri has been helping me to get over them. Speaking of Mr. Aligieri, I no longer live in his vacation home. I have my own place and even my own business. I own my own jewelry store in Carson City, and it’s quite successful if I do say so myself. I’m still single because I wanted to be able to know what love truly is before just jumping into another relationship.
The previous week I was in my store when I saw Daxton walk in. His eyes were bright and lively. He looked more muscular and his hair was shorter, but I would recognize him from anywhere. As he approached me I could see the shock in his eyes. Tears began swelling in his eyes as he grabbed my hand. I flinched and he released my hand immediately. “I’m sorry, I am so so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you and in my own twisted way I truly did love you.” I stayed quiet.“I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you, but I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in junior year and I didn’t want to tell you. I was afraid you would leave me. But then things got out of hand. The day I hit you for the first time was when I signed myself up for therapy and they gave me pills. For a while it was working so I stopped taking the pills. But I lost it, I lost my self control and I did it. I hit you again and put you in the hospital. That was when I vowed to never stop taking my pills. But it was too late. I had lost you, but then you forgave me and I had never felt happier. I did everything I could to make you happy but I knew deep down inside you would never fully recover and resented me for all I had done. Graduation was when I knew I had lost you for good. That look you gave me as I sent that first punch sent chills down my spine. The amount of venom and hate in your eyes were uncanny. I knew I had to let you go. I realized I wasn’t right for you, and our relationship was toxic and for that I’m sorry. You should never have been in those situations and I should have been honest from the start.”
The last thing I had ever told him was “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be living in Nevada, I wouldn’t have taken the path to find a better life for myself. I wouldn't have my own jewelry store and like they say PRESSURE CREATES DIAMONDS, so thank you for being the pressure I needed to succeed in life.
by Amelia F, 9th
Sorry is never enough. You said it all the time. Six years ago, when I was only five I didn’t quite get it because my ironbound mother always told me to apologize when I made messes and fell over all of the time. When I scraped my knee getting off the purple bike, my mother coddled me. Through my blurry tears as she put my colorful bandaid on, I could see your smirk of disapproval. Before, mother liked me the most but now, there was no one else to like.
I remember when mother was cooking chicken and I was sitting around our wood table which was shaky and one of its legs was about to fall. The door opened and I felt the cool wind brush against my shoulders as it closed behind you. You always made big entrances. It was barely two seconds before you started yelling at mother like the angry swans I always see at the park who squawk at me until I have to cover my ears and pray that they don’t get up out of their little tranquil green pond and follow me home squawking, squawking, squawking; all the way home. You angrily dropped your backpack on our rickety old floor and said; “Mom, I don’t understand why in the world I can’t I go to the movies tonight, all of my friends are going and this isn't fair, you never let me do anything, ANYTHING!!” Our mother stood as still as the footprints I make with my big snow shoes that remain traced in the powdery snow forever. She was good with anger, she had to be with my dad. “Honey,” she said with barely any tone, “Today’s a school night and well I’m not going to sugarcoat this, your grades aren't exactly the best.” She sugarcoated it. You were smart but things sometimes, well, always, got in your way.
I remember the time you yelled at me so loudly and the rain and dirt splattered on my yellow rain jacket. I was walking outside to jump in puddles and feel the raindrops drip down my long face until they filled up my sneakers with pools of muddy water. You hated rain and told me it was the sky crying. I always said they were happy tears. I was looking at the grey sky and wondering why it changed colors all the time. Most people just saw it as you did, a generic shade of blue, but I saw as black, grey, and so many unique shades of sapphire. During sunrises I would climb on the roof just to see the sky’s beautiful shades of deep purple and orange embracing around the wispy white clouds and hugging the golden sun. You looked at me the way you did whenever you're about to say something you don’t mean and I just started thinking about the puddles in my sneakers and the grey sky. You began yelling but I couldn’t hear what you were saying over the claps of thunder. I could see you grow tense when I didn’t respond so I ran back inside our house, the muddy water dripping all over our narrow hallway. I pretended to sob into my arms to give you satisfaction and run to my room. When you came inside, you didn’t look the least bit satisfied and I couldn’t tell if your face was covered in warm salty tears or rather the skies tears; raindrops rolling down your red face.
I woke up this morning just in time to see the phoenix of dawn sweeping the empty night sky, warming its dark colors in its fire and I stared intently through my boring old window. The great bird sometimes left white puffs of smoke in the morning sky. They looked like frightened animals that were running away from something, not nearly fast enough and all of us down here couldn’t see anything but ourselves. I crept down the musty hallway and peered into my mother’s dreary room. She was passed out and her snoring sounded like a broken vacuum cleaner. I sighed and made my way to the mudroom which barely fit all of my rain boots that were filled with oceans of the brown remainder of the puddles I had stepped in. I slipped the driest pair on, grabbed my seeds I bought from the market two days prior, and my watering can that was covered in green tangled vines. It must be nice to be a flower, pretty to look at no matter what— and to have a beautiful aroma that is so intoxicating it lures people in as days pass by.
I opened my door and felt the crisp moist air settle on my face. I bent down to touch the dewdrops that had formed on the lush green grass below my feet, clearly not perfectly trimmed. I looked behind me at the elaborate web some lovely spider had decided to weave at the front of our porch. Isn’t it weird to think a creature so small and different can make such a thing? The dewdrops on the spider’s web glistened as the sun gently became a wondrous shade of dandelion yellow. Satisfied I trotted down to the end of our street as I heard the world lazily wake up. But did it ever fall asleep in the first place?
I turned right and crossed the never ending street until I reached you. I didn’t expect anyone to be here other than me, you, the morning and the garden. I stood before your grave and instead of my systems flooding with emotions like before, the dam I strongly built prevented the crooked river full of poisoned fishy thoughts to flow. I knelt down to brush my rough hands against the silkiness of the orange marigolds I know you would have loved. You would say “Isabella, you should wear that color more often. It goes with your eyes.” I knew I would never sparkle like you do in any clothes so why bother trying like a fool.
I clutched my watering can until my fingers were red and throbbing with pain and let go. Sometimes we yearn for pain when we don’t want to actually feel it. Sometimes I wish I had never felt pain, but I heard it was needed to feel happiness. Why don’t I feel happy then? God, sometimes it’s just too much and I just close my eyes and count to ten and hope it will all start over again. I forget you are not here sometimes and every time I hear footsteps down the hallway I turn my head to gleefully insult you and ask you how failing school was. Why do people have to die? I mean I know it’s natural and all, but we need you and mom needs you and think of all the people you could have met who needed you.
Yesterday morning I saw an old man with a wrinkly face standing at the grave next to me, and I expected him to start crying, but instead he started smiling and laughing up at the sky. He placed a small toy train at the foot of the grave and left. My hands smell like lavender all the time now, because of the garden which I guess is a good thing. My mom says I need to be more practical and stop playing in the dirt, but I think she misunderstands what I am doing. She is sad enough as it is, so I don’t pursue my opinion.
Anyways, I miss you and I know sorry is never enough but I hope this garden is.
by PurpleCrow, 8th
The cracked, vinyl seats gave Bran a sense of displeasure as he fidgeted uncomfortably, trying his best to see out of the fly-splattered window. Bran figured there wasn’t much of a view anyways. He looked around the rundown, moldy old bus and gave a sigh of boredom. He wished he could have brought some books to read, but firemen aren’t allowed to entertain themselves, Bran sighed. Not on such a serious mission. The previously bored firemen immediately sobered at the thought of the now deceased continent waiting for the five firemen and their driver to investigate, trying to figure out what happened. The whole world is holding their breath, Bran realized. They’re all depending on us...on me. Isn’t that what you always wanted? Bran suddenly felt a nervous, buzzing feeling in his throat, and abruptly recognized that the bus had stopped, and the sick feeling that he had sensed while the bus scrambled up and over rocks was suddenly replaced with a queasy sense of foreboding, as he and the other sweaty, middle-aged men unsteadily walked along the aisle and tottered down the the three steps off the bus.
Maybe a break will clear my mind, Bran thought gratefully, as he stepped into the freezing air. Though considering the cold weather, he and the others preferred to stay outside, thankful for a chance to tear away from the smell of sweltering men, warmed by the dusty vent in the ceiling of their rickety bus. Despite that, after spending a few minutes wandering around the dull grounds, looking for a spot to chow down, they instead all ended up on a small bench huddled together with their sandwiches squashed between them. Bran took this moment to look around at their rest stop before they continued on their way. They were supposedly at an abandoned oil company, according to the flaking red letters printed on the side of the huge gray building. Bran let his mind wander as he munched on a piece of avocado that had fallen out of his turkey sandwich onto his lap. He wondered vaguely if this place would become a tourist spot after the mission had been accomplished. Perhaps they’ll have a sign that says ‘Bran sat here and ate a turkey sandwich.’ With an amused expression on his face, Bran looked down at his left and imagined a red bold arrow pointing to him, the color matching to the deteriorating oil company sign, probably gone by the time they were finished with the mission. The mission, Bran thought. Suddenly the feeling he had felt half an hour ago came back. Bran remembered when he had first heard about what had happened. It was two years ago…
⧫ ⧫ ⧫
Bran slammed the front door and took off his jacket welcoming the warmth of the fire, and was about to call out “I’m home!” When a small ball of pink and purple came whizzing down the hallway hit him in the stomach with a “Daddy!” and a huge hug. Bran smiled and lifted her up, swung her around, then kissed her on the nose. “Hello, sweetie!” The little girl waited patiently as her father undid his shoes, then took his finger determinedly into her tiny fist and led him into the living room, sat him down, and jumped onto his lap, bouncing up and down. “Daddy, Daddy!” The little girl yelled,“Iz time for yer sick o cock news!”
“Mm-hm,” Bran replied, sliding her off his knee. “But first I have to say hello to yer mummy!” Growling ferociously, he tickled her in the stomach, and she giggled uncontrollably until she managed to get out of his grasp.
“Hey sweetie!” He said as he entered the kitchen to the smell of pot roast, and the sight of his beautiful wife. “How are you?”
Delilah returned him a quick kiss on the cheek, and then ran over to the oven as a timer went off. “A bit tired, but I’m glad it’s a Friday” She smiled, leaning over the oven with a mitt, her reddish brown hair tumbling over her freckled face. “I don’t know if you noticed, but Marigold has got a slight cold, so I kept her home from kindergarten today... she sure seems fine now!” Delilah laughed her tinkly laugh, looking over at their daughter chasing the dog. Bran entered the living room as Marigold caught their dog’s tail, laughing hysterically as the dog tried to get away. “Stop torturing the dog!” Bran exclaimed, sinking into the huge armchair in front of the television. Groaning, Bran stretched his tired muscles, then reached over for the remote, directing it towards the T.V.
“We have very devastating news today, one of a kind, really.” The Australian woman on the T.V. attempted to form her plastic like face into a concerned expression. “According to Danny here, who carries cargo from Europe over to North America, on airplanes, he says, that when he got there, no one was at the landing spot to take the cargo! He thought that was a bit odd, so he investigated a bit. No-one was there!” a picture showed up on the screen, a picture taken from an airplane, that showed the golden gate bridge, with no cars. A pathology department at a hospital, with no workers. A theater with no line. The pictures continued, as the reporter’s voice became a dull sound in the background. Bran watched in a daze. A little voice in the back of his head told him it was fake news, but no matter how hard he tried to shake away the feeling, Bran’s instinct told him they were telling the truth. The feeling grew as he flipped through other channels, each showing the same photos. And here I thought global warming was dangerous, he thought, and with a resigned sigh, he reached over to his right and grabbed a book he had been reading for his college literature class.
One year later…
“So I hear you’re a detective fireman, eh?” The man blew a smoke ring in Bran’s direction. Bran fought the urge to cough. He succeeded on clearing his throat instead. “Yes sir.”
“No need to call me sir, young man. My name is Richard Price, but you can call me Rick.” Rick winked at Bran, then had a coughing fit over by the window. “Anyhow! Down to business, I suppose…”The man sighed ‘Or would you like some coffee first? It is a bit early.” Bran glanced over at the coffee machine, which emit a foul odor and had a spot of something green on the top. “I’m fine, thanks.”
“Of course, of course,” Mr.Price said, knocking over his mug on the way out the door. Bran looked around, unsure whether to follow him or not, then hurried after.
⧫ ⧫ ⧫
The bus went over a big bump in the road, almost knocking Bran from his perch on the edge of his seat. As they stopped, Bran looked around at the vast wasteland, unused after two whole years. Bran watched the others slowly file out before he got up and joined them. He knew the rules. Everyone is to keep their walkie-talkies with them at all times, and if they were to discover something out of place, to notify the others their location immediately. As they went over the rules one more time, Bran noted that the animals hadn’t disappeared, as a rat scurried by. They had all had many vaccines beforehand, as to not catch any plague the bugs and animals would be carrying around. Bran at the time was distasteful towards this decision, as his mother had raised him to be connected to nature, and not deal with with “all that fake crap those so called doctors stick in you to get money”. Bran was now very grateful he hadn’t heeded her advice for once, as he stepped carefully around a beat up rat about the size of a chihuahua coughing up blood. A second later it was dead.
Bran continued to wander, looking in different houses and peeking through the windows of hospitals. The last thing Bran would do is show his fear, but inside, he wanted to run screaming back home to Ireland, and have his memory erased. When he was little, he had a reoccurring dream. His father had just shown him The Twilight Zone, a series of episodes recording strange phenomenons and encounters that didn’t have any real meaning. Most kids his age were afraid of the dark, or ‘the monster under their bed’ and such, but not Bran. No, Bran wasn’t afraid of these things. The first episode in The Twilight Zone was a man who had gone delirious because he was the last person on earth. In the end, he found out that it was just a mental test. Bran, in his nightmare, would dream the same dream. Except he would never get to the end, where the guy finds out the whole thing is just fake. He would keep wandering, until he almost died from madness. Bran shook his head. Don’t be ridiculous, he thought to himself. There are still people back home, it’s just in North America, not the whole world.
He had just walked out of a hospital when he noticed a little shack that defined itself against the towering buildings surrounding it. He curiosity got the best of him, and he walked towards it. He approached the half torn off door and stepped inside. He was observing the rusty teapot on the blackened stove when he heard a rustling noise in the other room. Bran stiffened, then, softening his steps, he peeked around the cracked doorway. First, seeing a bed, but nothing suspicious, he started to relax. But as he started forward, his heart started pounding so loudly he thought that the girl standing there would hear it. A young, teenage girl stood there with her back to him, her matted hair sticking to her scalp. She was wearing a tattered, what might have once been a beautiful, white dress, grayed from dirt and grime. She was holding a piece of paper and looking down at it in a wistful way. Bran fingered his walkie-talkie nervously, then picked it up, preparing to press the little red button. He started moving slowly out of the doorway, unknown to the small marble that had made its way underneath his foot. He fell slowly, not even aware of the girl turning around, not aware of her looking down on him until she was there. He looked up at her, examining her face that was so young, but with eyes that were so old.
“I’m sorry,” she exclaimed, tears running down her cheeks. “I didn’t-I didn’t mean to do it-I didn’t want to, I swear!” She started advancing on him “ I knew it would be bad, I knew it wasn’t right, but I had to!”
At this point she was a foot away from Bran, and he wasn’t quite sure whether to be scared or concerned.
“What did you do?”
But Bran’s words were lost, and the young girl didn't seem to hear his question.
“And now I have to do it to you-and your friends.” As she got closer, she also became calmer.
“I’m sorry…. I’m sorry.”
by Daisy A., 11th
In World War I, veterans who fought bravely in the war came back to America only to discover that they couldn’t find employment nor could they afford to pursue their education. The social and economic aspects of their lives took a toll on them due to a lack of resources in combination with the effects of the Great Depression. World War I veterans received little to no compensation for their service, and “the return of millions of veterans from World War II gave Congress a chance at redemption” (US Department of Veterans Affairs). The G.I. bill otherwise known as the Service Readjustment Act is “a piece of sweeping legislation aimed at helping World War II veterans [ . . . ] prosper after the war” that was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 (Blakemore). This bill was proposed to address the unjust circumstances veterans faced after serving in the military and to “help veterans assimilate into civilian life.” Although its intentions were good, the G.I. Bill was ultimately more harmful than helpful once enacted because it perpetuated racist ideals and was overall ineffective.
The policy was helpful in that it helped millions of veterans assimilate to civilian life. According to the article Born of Controversy: The G.I. Bill of Rights which was published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the G.I. Bill “backed nearly 2.4 million home loans for World War II veterans. The bill helped White Americans prosper and accumulate wealth in the postwar years.” This shows the G.I. Bill allowed veterans to prosper financially, giving them the financial resources to assimilate to civilian life. The G.I. Bill also allowed veterans to successfully pursue an education as shown through the data collected which indicates, “in the peak year of 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. By the time the original G.I. Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program” (US Department of Veterans Affairs). This indicates the program was successful in helping veterans prosper educationally which benefited them since a higher education tends to yield a financially stable life. The G.I. Bill was able to provide millions of veterans with a financially stable life, compensating for the time they spent in the war, unlike the poorer circumstances returning veterans faced in World War I.
The G.I. Bill was harmful in that it provided no resources to Black men, and instead worsened their social and economic standing in society. Black veterans were disproportionately denied access to resources that the G.I. Bill provided White veterans. According to the article How the G.I. Bill's Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans written by Erin Blakemore, “Though the bill helped White Americans prosper and accumulate wealth in the postwar years, it didn’t deliver on that promise for veterans of color.” The bill “did not specifically exclude African-American veterans from its benefits, [however,] it was structured in a way that ultimately shut doors for the 1.2 million black veterans”(Blakemore). In order to access the benefits the G.I. Bill gave, honorable discharge was required, and since Black veterans weren’t awarded honorable discharge, they couldn’t access these benefits. “Veterans who did qualify could not find facilities that delivered on the bill’s promise [and] simple intimidation kept others from enjoying G.I. Bill benefits” (Blakemore). The inability of veterans of color to access the G.I. Bill benefits “help[ed] drive growing gaps in wealth, education and civil rights between white and black Americans” (Blakemore). The G.I. Bill, which was supposed to address the injustice that occurred in World War I, created another injustice, one that highlighted the racial inequalities in America and perpetuated those racist ideals; in other words, it legalized racism.
I think the G.I. Bill was ultimately more harmful than helpful because it exacerbated the existing racism in the US and didn’t prove to be as effective as some would like us to think. The G.I. Bill discriminated against Black veterans, so they couldn’t receive the benefits that were advertised. This government issued policy contributed to the racially polarized environment in the US whose effects can still be seen to this day. Although the dominant narrative is that the US has become more racially progressive, matters such as police brutality demonstrate this is not the full story. White police officers kill black males and are not punished. This is an example of how the government systems prioritize White needs over black needs, just as they did in the G.I. Bill. Not only did the G.I. Bill perpetuate racism, it was also ineffective to White veterans. According to the article Homeless Veterans Living with PTSD written by Amy Morin, “the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs estimates that nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless [because] many of these veterans with PTSD didn't receive adequate treatment to help them deal with the traumatic events they witnessed in the military.”
The lack of adequate treatment caused veterans to struggle to maintain jobs, rendering the G.I. Bill’s efforts to provide veterans with financial stability useless. While the G.I. Bill may have worked to provide White veterans with financial and educational resources, it failed to address the root problem to why they struggled readjusting to civilian life which was trauma. Veterans experience a lot of trauma and it doesn’t matter how much money or education they receive; if they are struggling to cope with their trauma, the education and money they received from the G.I. Bill will not help them at all. The G.I. Bill proved to be ineffective and rather than helping veterans, it divided them amongst race. It didn’t benefit either group since it didn’t address the root issue both groups had which was trauma; therefore, it was more harmful than helpful. Regardless of its failure, this policy can serve as an example of how drafting federal legislation requires policymakers to consider how the policy will impact everyone, whether everyone will have access to it, and if the policy is addressing the root problem.
by Random, 8th
The family was sitting at the dinner table quietly, Beverly was nervous to confront her father of his unjust rules. You see, Beverly’s father had a set of rules, he had the basics like do your chores, go to sleep at 10:00, eat all your food, etc. But her father also had a set of rules that were quite unusual, for instance, no going outside at all, don’t converse with strangers whatsoever, and no watching television or looking out of windows. Sadly because of these rules Beverly had never set a foot outside because her father said there were dangerous animals, the only friend Beverly had was her father because he was the only other person in the house, and she had never had a clue what the outside world was like because her windows were painted black, and she had no TV because her dad said knowing about the outside world would lead her to insanity. All of these rules were set because Beverly had lost her mother at a very young age, Beverly was the only family her father had left. He did not want to lose her, not unless she lost him first. Beverly knew how selfish this was and for that very reason, she was preparing to confront her father as he quietly ate his soup. As her father was about to take a spoonful of his soup Beverly slammed her hand on the table surface. Her hand stung a bit from the sudden interaction but she ignored it. As expected Beverly's father looked up at his daughter with shock.
“What is the meaning of this?” He asked with concern in his voice.
“I am tired of your nonsense!” Beverly answered
“Your rules! They are stupid and because of them I have never met another human in my life!” Beverly’s voice cracked and she had tears threatening to spill over her eyes.
Beverly’s father could see the rage in her face and the hurt in her voice. Although he felt bad for his daughter it did not matter to him, he thought it was best for her.
“I do not care about how you feel about my rules, I have rules for a reason.” He said calmly to his daughter. Beverly could not believe what she was hearing, all this time she thought she was her father’s friend but now she could see that she was his prisoner. Beverly ran to her room without saying another word to her father, she didn’t even want to look at him. He did not run after her, he didn’t care he just continued to eat his dinner.
In her room Beverly laid on the bed crying into her mattress’s sheets, staining them with her tears. She dragged her body off her bed and positioned herself to sit in front of her mirror, what she saw scared her. She saw a girl with short curly hair and red puffy eyes. Beverly knew what she was feeling, she was feeling sad, angry, and frustrated and yet her face did not replicate that. Her face showed no expression at all, she knew that that was dangerous. She knew that she could not continue to live the way she was living, she had to leave. So that was what she did. Beverly grabbed two backpacks from her closet and shoved as many clothes as she could in both bags. As she did this she kept a close watch on the door and listened to the noises around her, she didn’t want her dad to walk in and stop her from leaving. When she was done packing, she put the backpacks under her bed and waited until midnight to leave. Beverly slid into bed and turned her body away from the door. She watched as the minutes on her alarm clock changed until finally, she read twelve from the bright green numbers. Beverly quietly slipped out of her bed and grabbed the bags she had hid from under her bed.
Beverly had no windows in her room so she had to sneak into the living room. She tried her best to quietly tiptoe into the living room, but the old floorboards of her house creaked beneath her feet causing her to cringe. When she finally made her way to the window she carefully slid her hands on the windows handle. She had to use most of her strength to open the window that had never let her see the light of day not once in her life. As the window slowly opened, old black paint that had surfaced at the bottom of the window sill had fallen to Beverly’s feet. The more Beverly opened the window, the more fresh air had found its way to Beverly’s lungs. When the window was finally opened a quarter of the way Beverly tossed her backpack outside. But as she did this she heard a noise come from her father’s room, not long after, that the light of his room turned on.
Beverly tried her best to open the window a little more for her to go through as she panicked. Once the window was open enough for her to slide through she began to crawl through the window. She grabbed on to the other side of the window to help her, she could hear her father yawn from his room as he opened the door. Beverly had fallen onto the cold and moist dirt with scattered leaves as her father entered the hallway. When he felt the cold air on his arms he immediately looked to the direction in which it was coming from. His eyes widened to the size of tennis balls when he saw his daughter outside in the world he had been “protecting” her from. Beverly quickly grabbed her backpack and ran the opposite direction of the house as she saw her dad rush to the door. She ran and tried her best to process what she was doing, she tried to process the fact that she had run away from the home she had not been outside in years.
She tried to process the fact that she was outside, that she was running on dirt as twigs snapped beneath her feet. Beverly was so consumed by the many thoughts racing through her head that she didn’t notice she was running in the direction of a hill. She tripped on a root that had grown above ground and tumbled down the steep surface. When she came to a stop, she noticed the many cuts and forming bruises throughout her body. She even managed to rip her jeans above both her knee caps, there was blood that stained the surrounding area. Beverly looked up to see where she was, she saw a road in the middle of many, MANY trees. The road was straight and empty, it continued as far as Beverly’s eyes could see and beyond. She debated whether she should go left or right but she was overwhelmed with all the different emotions filling her body. She decided to sit down and let her sadness and anger consume her. Beverly cried for hours she was afraid, she knew she couldn’t go back home but she had not one clue what the outside world was like nor did she know where to go.
When Beverly found that she had no more tears left to pour from her eyes she got up from the tree she had been sitting on and once again looked out onto the road. Her gut told her to go right, but she went left instead. She must have been walking for hours because her eyes became heavy and her legs grew an ache. She was about to go to sleep by a nearby tree when suddenly she saw two bright lights. Beverly had read about things like these in the books she kept at home, she recognized it as a car. She moved to the side of the road as the car came to a stop in front of her. The window of the vehicle was rolled down and Beverly saw there was a woman in the driver's seat. The woman had a warm smile and kind eyes.
“Hi sweetie, what are you doing in the middle of the road all on your own?” She asked with the smile still on her face.
“I um - I,” Beverly stumbled over her words as she thought of what she was going to say. She knew she couldn’t tell a stranger the truth.
“It’s ok, do you need a ride into the city?” When the woman said these words Beverly figured that she could find someplace to stay in the city. It couldn’t be that hard, could it? She simply nodded at the as an answer.
“Well then hop in,” the woman said as she nudged at the passenger seat. Beverly walked around the car and opened the door to the passenger seat, she climbed into the chair and closed the door. The woman started to drive down the road as Beverly bounced in her seat, after all, she had never been in a car before.
“I’m Silvia by the way,” the woman said to Beverly.
“Nice to meet you Silvia, I’m Beverly,” she said.
“That’s a nice name.”
“Thank you,” Beverly said with a small voice, this was the most conversation she had ever had with anyone. She slowly drifted into sleep using the seatbelt to support her head. The two girls rode off into the city, but neither knew that the other had hopes to start their new life there. Neither knew that they were just two misfits who had been wronged by the people they loved, two people who would grow to care for each other and create an unbreakable bond.
by I'm Good, 8th
I have dimples
But I always forget to smile
I can read music
But can’t play it
I know a lot of words
But can’t put them in the right order
I love the stories in video games
But can’t get through them without giving up
I have full lips
But no one wants to kiss me
I wear lots of black
But eyeliner makes me uncomfortable
I can speak loudly
But I don’t know what people want me to say
I dream of stories
But can never make them come to life
I want friends
But people are bored by me
I have curls
But no patience to brush them
I get good grades
But give up sanity for them
I love history
But can never remember the dates things happened
I have a family
But I can’t always connect to them
I am half a person
A setup without the punchline
I know I’m lucky to have what I do
But why couldn’t I have
two halves of a soul?