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Emily, Teen Contributor

Lauren, Teen Contributor

      Crisp, fresh air pillowed itself in my lungs and drifted out back into the unpolluted atmosphere of the castle’s surrounding city. With a lazy breath, I scanned the horizons in an attempt to subside my inevitable boredom and prove myself a worthy citizen. Plucking small forms out of the evening sun miles away gave me a sense of importance without having to do anything involving human-oriented interaction. That, of course, was Ross’s job. Shifting from a family of giants off in the distance, my eyes swooped into the townspeople’s dwellings. With a quick scan, I found Ross tending to a small cluster of children. A girl wearing a makeshift knight costume was explaining the dilemma to him as a tiny boy clutched a fiddle to his chest behind her. With a slow nod, Ross straightened and began to gently scold the three boys standing sheepishly off to the side. Once he had cleared his rules over with the young boys, he sauntered off, but not before the tiny fiddler tugged on his shirt and handed Ross a slightly wilted yellow flower from the fields just outside the city’s west gate. I didn’t need any visual confirmation to feel the large smile that had formed on the huge teen’s mouth—the very smile had sent shockwaves through my spine—but was this a good vibration? Nevertheless, I had winced at the feeling. Deciding I had enough time to myself, my fancy robes fluttered around the tower’s corners and through the stone corridors. Just as I reached the large wooden doors to the outside world, my mother grabbed me by the collar. “Kai, be a dear and go run this to Mrs. Mayweather. It’s for my… medicine.” She pressed an envelope into my hands and twirled around to tend to kingdom affairs. My mother’s disease isn’t rare, but not common either. She suffers from a mental illness called lycanthropy, or in simpler terms, the belief that one’s self is a werewolf. Personally, I have never seen a werewolf before, but I know for sure that my mother is not one. She and my aunt were born into a family of wizards and mages. With a quick bound out the door, I scattered my thoughts and trotted down the main road. I branched off to the left and then to the left once more, into the more quieter and docile, Maior district. The peaceful district sent my feelings aflutter. My stress melted away more and more with every step I took. The tiny hum of life blew all around me—its soft whispers filling my head. An elderly woman stepped out of the cottage door and smiled at me. “Ah, Mrs. Mayweather. You were expecting me?” I asked, skepticism prickling along my tone. “Bah, don’t worry ‘bout it young man, come inside. Come. Come. I have what you need.” She made her way towards her medicine cabinet effortlessly, somehow avoiding all the clutter in the tiny home like it wasn’t even there. “Here, take this. Your mother’s probably pacing at the doorway already,” she then added with a wink, “Threw a little something extra in there for ‘ya.” I caught the package she tossed in my general direction and watched as Mrs. Mayweather walked further into her cramped living quarters. “Well, what more do ‘ya want from me? Get outta here, boy!” Hastily, I closed the door to the elderly woman’s house and hurried back to the castle. As I was twining through streets and alleyways, I slit the package open and examined the contents. Inside was my mother’s pill canister as well as an unknown bottle of more pills. The mysterious bottle wasn’t labeled at all its white cap read: “PUSH DOWN AND TURN LEFT.” In all caps. Fiddling with the somewhat sketchy drugs, I ran into the back of a large, middle-aged man. He spun around and gave me a look of disgust. The impact had enough force to push me back and make me drop the various medicine. “Oh, uh, I’m sorry sir. I’ll just be taking these now.” I reached for the mysterious bottle Mrs. Mayweather gave me, but he pulled his hand out of reach. “What are you doing with these?” He said with a snort. “Oh, do you know what they’re for?” He looked at me like I was crazy. I kind of was—carrying around drugs I didn’t even know what were used for. “These pills are for when situations get hairy. They can stop a beast of tremendous size dead in its tracks. An overdose can even be lethal, just one of these can kill a person in less than an half an hour. What would a boy like you be doing with pills like these, hmm?” I stuttered, but couldn’t work out my words. I knew I looked like an idiot to these commoners, but I jumped and whined at the man anyways. “Give them back, they’re mine!” I yelled to no use. The man held them higher above my head, my eyes glaring into the sun. “Give. Them. Back!” I said between jumps. “They were given to me by a local pharmacist. She prescribes my family’s medications.” My reasoning had no effect against the solid man. I growled in frustration and lunged into the air, swiping the drugs out of his hand and ducking as I hit the ground—his heavy fist swinging just above me. I twirled low to the ground, my leg kicked out and tripped the man. I hit him in the jaw as he went down and bolted out of there. Oh geez, there’s no way mom won’t find out about the tough, perfectly-good citizen getting beat up by a scrawny teenager over mysterious drugs. Taking the long way home was my largest regret; the silhouette of my mother blocking any entrance back into castle. “Kai, give me the pills.” I handed my mom her prescribed medications. “All of them.” She said sternly. I gingerly handed them over, looking shy and innocent. She snatched them up into her hands and stalked off. I was in for a big lecture later and there is no medicine that could heal whatever my mom was going to do.


       Later that day, I found myself leaning against the railing of the castle tower. I’ve been hanging around up here quite frequently lately--maybe a little too much. My eyes drifted ever-so-slowly downwards as they followed the setting sun. The smooth, evening sounds of the kingdom drifted through the air. The pounding cranium that sat upon my neck fell into my hands. I ran my fingers through my silky black hair. What am I doing?  I thought. If I can’t even interact with people, how am I to save lives, more-so my friends? Grunting in frustration, my fingers pressed harder into my skull. 

       “It’s not your fault, you know. You’re just overthinking everything.”

       “Shut up, you don’t know anything!” I screamed at the person behind me before realizing who they were. Ali was unfazed by my prickling hostility. She silently leaned against the balcony; scanning my averting eyes. 

       “Hey, I know the events in the recent past are unfavorable to your liking,” Why does everyone use such complicated methods of expressing their sympathy with me? “But you can’t give up, if anyone could save the day—it’s you. I’ve seen you do it before, why not now?” Her voice wiped away my tears as her hand glided across my tense shoulder blades in a comforting way. 

       “How? How do I save the day this time? This isn’t a matter of boss fights—it’s a mystery that needs somebody of high intellect and skill to solve. This is the kind of thing that takes a real hero, someone, whom of which is not me, that can protect others and is born from pure justice and righteousness. Someone who is physically incapable of laying harm to others!” I half-screeched-half-whined. The look on Ali’s face and the emotional support radiating from her only made me angrier. I don’t know why, but they did. “Stop, just stop it! Go away and take your filthy sympathy with you! I don’t need your assistance! Leave! Me! ALONE!” My voice boomed across the castle, rumbling through the walls and bursting out into the kingdom. I felt the flames spike up from their hiding place, licking across my insides and burning every manner, every sensibility, every humanity within, leaving only primitive instincts. I ran into the dark dwellings, stomping down the hall and leaving Ali outside on the tower in the darkening night. Oh Alisson, how I’ve lost you. If you weren’t mine, than you shall never be after tonight, was the only thought swirling inside the cesspool of painful and ruthless feelings. Eventually, night broke into dawn; the way most evil surrenders to good. But not my evil. 


Chase, Teen Contributor

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Parker, Teen Contributor

Ian Tomas

IQ: 204

Palmyra, NY

“Ian. Ian. IAN.”

I looked up from my book. The Physics of The Impossible by Michio Kaku. When Lily says my name, 3 basic thoughts run through my mind. 

1) I am in love with her.

2) My position as head nerd is important.

3) I am Ian Tomas, a 17 year old who is head nerd (more on the subject later).

“Yes Lily.”

“They got Ryan”

Dang. Ryan Chandler was a close, smart, promising young subject, who could easily be turned to new practices. We have the technology. Yet, I should’ve known. They have 20. We have 200. So many more people are interested in having a real life. Not creating cartoonish, young, weird characters, or theorizing about the universe. All that is useless. 

“What do you propose we do?”

“Get him. They will be enraged, we will have the numbers, and then we can kill them off. ALL OF THEM.”



“You know not to mess with the system. You know the goal. If you do this, they will kill you.”

“Then we’ll get him, let them come to us, and lose 20 kids. It will be worth it.”

“You are saying, let them possibly commit genocide, take multiple prisoners, tech, turn kids against us, torture high ranking nerds, do... “

“We will get them if they come.”

“But what if we can’t?”


“The first thing that you told me was that ‘Never underestimate the chances, enemies, possibilities that there may be.’ You weren’t head nerd then, but you are now. If you change your beliefs in this moment, to get a kid,”

“He’s not a kid, Lily, he’s a genius.”

“We all are. That doesn’t make any of us more special than the other. I’m leaving.”

I let her go. That was her decision. I went back to reading my book. The chapter was titled “Teleportation.” It got into things about entanglement and disassembly of the human body. Then it got me thinking, what if we could do that? Wait, no, thinking is wrong. Knowing is right. But what if… No, Ian, stop. But what if they did it. “Mickey, scan for signs of quantum entanglement.”

“Yes Ian.”

How little I think of Mickey Archer, one of the smaller finds in nerd history, but a find nonetheless. She became my assistant, capable of creating hardware able to retask a good portion of the the world's satellites to find anything from thermo signatures to signs of extrasensory perception. 

“Signs found, Ian. From Queens, NY to Evergreen, CO.”

Right where Ryan lived. And where the geeks are.”

“Anything else Mr. Tomas?”

“Yes. Task the A.R.M.A.D.A. satellites to observe and attack the coordinates of the receiving entanglement.”

“Sir, the coordinates, cannot be focused in far enough.”

“Then task to the whole area.”

“That could kill nearly a 10,000 innocent people.”

“Correction, Ms. Archer. The geeks are not innocent. And 10,000 for 1, it will all be worth it.” I could feel her gulp.

“As you wish Ian.”

I hope she doesn’t see me as a monster. 

Long View High School Students

Long View High School students shared what they are thankful for. What are YOU thankful for? Share it with us!


"I am thankful for this moment. To like, be here with all you people, like, and experience this coherent and like random moment with all of you."


"I am thankful or all the people in my life, who help me do stuff."


"Amazon’s fast shipping. It’s so great. It takes 2 days to ship, like a hughe package. It makes me so happy. I’m also thankful for the technology we have today."


"I’m thankful for my mom and my girlfriend. And just like, living another day I guess."


"I’m thankful for my dog and Bill Nye the science guy. But mostly my dog, he’s a black lab. His name is Midnight."


"I’m thankful that I’m graduating in the next month. Thankful for my family who have supported me through everything and my friends here who have supported me."


"I’m thankful for nature and backpacking trips. The last place I went to was the Pike National Forest. I’ll be going back out Thanksgiving weekend."


"I’m thankful to live in a generation where I can live to be pretty much anything I want to be. I mean, we aren’t perfect but looking back to other generations like the 20s and 30s, things are much better. I know some people think they are born in to the wrong generation but I think I was born into the right generation."


"I’m thankful for everything. The good and bad in my life and this world. And how much the world has changed and how much we have changed as a society."


"I’m thankful for all the people in my life who have been able to help me. Good people, bad people-- every way I’ve been influenced, it’s all for the better."


"I’m mostly thankful for my little sub in the back of my car. It makes me happy. I’m thankful for the shoes on my feet and the clothes on my back."


Image credit: Cindi Albright on Flickr

Lauren, Teen Contributor


       Slipping my uniform on, I nudged Ross until he fell out of his bed. “Do you want to be late to class?” I asked my friend, grabbing his leg and dragging him across the floor. He was still bundled up in his sheets. 

       “Geez, Kai. I’m up, I’m up!” Ross slowly got dressed, increasing my anxiety by the second. Knowing that we were already too late, I dropped the whole ‘get to class on time act’ and shuffled out the door. I slipped the key into the slot on the door handle, locking the dorm and turned around to face the courtyard. The entire school stood open-mouthed in a huge cluster that somewhat resembled a circle. I saw Ross standing next to Ali and jogged over to them, shoving my way through a sea of people and ending up between the two of them. At first, I didn’t understand what everybody was staring at, but I followed their eyes and what I saw would haunt me for life. Jessica Monet lay on the grass, eyes wide, chest still, and cold as ice. Her neck was ripped open viciously, all her cords severed. The other day she was sitting with her friends, laughing about their chances with me and now she lay in the courtyard, dead. There was something about the way her blood stained everything, even her ginger curls, which struck my mind with powerful aches. I looked into my friend’s eyes and there was only one emotion showing, fear. 

       “Hoy there Kai, crazy stuff, ay?” An old friend of mine hooked an arm around my shoulder, knocking the crazed thoughts out of my mind. He was an athletic young man with a crazy imagination full of big dreams and women. His name was Chase Grey and not far behind was Carter McEntti. Carter was new last year and still felt shame when you stared at him for too long, unless your name was Chase of course. Chase was his only friend because he never teased Carter about his deformity, unlike most other students who considered him a freak. Carter is an amputee. Where his right arm should be, a stub lingers in the air, severed right above the elbow. 

       “Ch-Ch-Chase. . .” Carter stuttered in his high, nervous voice. 

       “Yeah, yeah, I’m coming, I’m coming.” Chase responded and turned back towards me. “Geez Carter, hold your horses!” Carter had put a hand on Chase’s shoulder and was now tugging him urgently towards himself. Carter hated to part with Chase and had developed a mild case of separation anxiety. I watched the two boys walk off, arm in arm, with Carter silently tolerating Chase’s onslaught of complaints. 

       “Aw, they always bring a tear to my eye.” Ross had somehow managed to sneak up behind me undetected, despite being 6’1”. 

       “Mmm, yeah…” I shrugged Ross’s arm off my shoulder and stood there staring at nothing in particular. Somebody was murdered in my school courtyard. Ok, there was the situation. The victim was a fifteen year old female student. There is the scene. The murderer is unknown and on the loose, the problem. Now all I have to do is solve it. 


      Great, school is still open. Everyone’s abuzz with chatter and fear. Who’s next? All we have to do is wait. My friends were somewhere among the rest of the speculators, leaving me to my solitary work. What do the detectives do in movies? Suddenly, I realized what came next. Running through names and traits in my head, I narrowed down my suspects. With a quick scan of the crowds, I found Gehl nestled in the shade of the building against the wall. He clearly saw me coming, but gave no acknowledgement of my presence whatsoever. “Crazy day, huh?” I crouched down in front of the loner. 

       “Only if you never witnessed death with your own eyes.” Gehl’s response was cold and made me nervous. “Of course you have, witnessed death I mean, it’s practically normal for somebody like you.” Now I was really nervous. 

       “I just wanted to ask if you know anything about the case. Anything helps if it’s related, so don’t hold back any information. Especially if you did it.” I came back with my own harsh tone, but Gehl seemed as blank as ever. Can nothing phase this guy? 

       “Heh, I thought you’d have noticed by now, but this killing wasn’t natural, or at least from this world. No this was done by something else. A supernatural something else.” As he spoke, Gehl leaned in closer and closer until I could feel his shallow breathing on my cheek. His eyes never moved from mine. We stayed like that for a while, unmoving, until Gehl leaned back against the school wall. 

       “Quick question before I go.” I stood back up without losing his gaze. “Do vampires really burn in the sun?” 

       “I don’t know, can you be trusted with knowing one’s weakness? Perhaps you should look into the consequences of your actions for once.” Gehl had nothing else to say and I’m glad he didn’t, I was really getting uncomfortable back there. I was just about to hurry back to my friends when the lady who sits in the office all day came up to me.

        “Excuse me Mr. Ryuu, the principle would like to see you for a moment.” Great, just what I needed. I followed the lady into the big man’s office and when I say big, I mean BIG. I slumped down in the chair as the desk lady stepped out and closed the door. What caught my eye was an ominous looking woman about the same height as me. She stood next to the fat principle as if she was a maid. I immediately started to observe her features. Korean with straight black hair cut short and coal black eyes. She looked to be twenty one at the most, possibly eighteen. “Ahem, Mwhstr. Whuu, We’d wike to intruhdooce to you Myth. Tshstbasanuh. That ish all.” I hated that man’s voice and was glad when he got up and walked out of the room. Now it was just me and the strange woman. “As the walrus was saying, you can call me Ms. Tsubasan. I was assigned to you as your personal counselor, but please, think of me as an old friend.” Now I kind of wished the principle was back in the room. My ‘personal counselor’ was waiting to see a reaction from me when she said ‘old friend’. Nothing about her seems familiar, but she appears to know me somehow. Wary, I sat a little straighter in the chair. “You are aware of the sad passing of a student here, yes?” Ms. Tsubasan glared down her nose at me. “Yeah, of course I am. Who isn’t? Surprised we’re all still here and not mourning our little hearts out over it at home.” 

“Your sarcasm is amusing and yes, it would be nice to have the day off.” Ms. Tsubasan gave a small smile in order to hide her irritation. “You know, I feel like were already connecting here. From now on, call me Kohr. I insist.” There was something strange in Kohr’s voice, as if she wants something from me. I watched as Kohr took my hand in hers, “Oh my, how much you’ve grown”, she mumbled as she traced my fingers and rubbed my wrist. Creeped out, I aggressively pulled my hand back. “Who are you? What do you want with me? How do you know me?” I yelled from my stiff chair, my knuckles white from gripping the arm rests so tight. “Calm yourself first. I’ve told you, my name is Kohr Tsubasan. Your school has hired me as your personal counselor because some issues of yours has caused the school county’s board members some distress and I know you from your personal record. I have been given access to your files in order to understand you better.” The woman offered a small smile to break the tension, but her eyes called me a stubborn brat. “Whatever, I’m leaving.” I rose from my seat and cracked my neck. “Lizzy, Sylvester, Kiara, me, you, your father.” I paused in the doorway as Kohr listed names. “Don’t. Ever. Speak. Of my Father. Again.” It wasn’t worth glancing back around, my voice was deep enough and loud enough to carry into the room and back out. Without another word, I left. Shortly after, Ross came bounding up to me flailing his arms and screaming. “Kai! What happened? Are you OK? Where were you? I was so worried! Don’t ever do that to me again!” Ross had a firm grip on my shoulders and was shaking me violently, he tends to be a bit clingy at times. “Oh Kai, I don’t know what I would do if you had disappeared. . .” I watched as the larger male fought to hold his tears back, which was eventually proved futile as he enveloped me into his chest. “Please let go.” I knew my words meant nothing until Ross was done and realized that, as a living being, I need to breathe. Two students stared at us, taking in the sight of a tall, full-blooded Caucasian squeezing the life out of his smaller, but tall for his genes, Japanese friend. I hit them with the most intimidating glare I could muster and they hurried along. I get it, men don’t cry, but if you’ve lived through what Ross has lived through and can walk around smiling like an idiot all the time, you’d understand why he needs to shed a few tears here and there. When he was born, Ross had a twin who died just minutes later. Eight years after his twin brother’s death, his father died in the US Military across seas and finally, when Ross was twelve, he witnessed his innocent mother’s unconscious body fall from the arms of my crazed aunt into the churning, black waters of the river below the cemetery hill. His tears and snot now began to wet my shirt, just like they had done two years ago when he jumped off that same cliff his mother fell from with me still clinging for dear life. After a good ten to fifteen minutes, Ross’s heaving sobs began to subside and his grip loosened. “You done?” I asked, rubbing his back gently with my hand. “Y-yeah. . . I’m fine.” He replied between sniffles. I guided him back into the daylight of the courtyard and from there to math class. “Hey, come on. We have algebra to do.” I smiled at Ross and he gave me a quivering laugh. “Don’t you mean Ali and I have algebra to do? You and Chase just sit there pretending to listen, who knows where you two are!” 

“Ha, yeah! We ALL know what Chase is thinking about!” I laughed with my childhood friend, ignoring the pain inside me that aches for me to tell the truth. To pour my heart and soul out to Ross and tell him about the place where I go when I’m not listening. To tell him about my little paradise. To tell him about a world where nothing suddenly goes horribly wrong. To tell him about Heaven. 



      That night, I tossed and turned in my stiff school bed, but it wasn’t the hard, uncomfortable mattress, it was my dreams. Or more accurately, reoccurring nightmares. I was back in a pitch black room. There was nothing around me, but darkness. My body stayed still and relaxed, I’ve been here enough times to know that running is a pitiful attempt to get away. I took a deep breath and, as always, plunged into the solid, black ground against my will. After a few seconds, I opened my eyes. This part always seems to alternate between tortured, gory images of my friends, another, grimmer version of me and a field of fire, but there was none of those. I was in some sort of medical exam room that was dimly lit and almost entirely dull grey. I checked my body to see if I was OK, but it wasn’t its average fifteen year old male body. I was ten years old. A voice popped into my head, it was familiarly unfamiliar. “Welcome back, although I don’t suppose you remember being here before since you were just a baby at the time. Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just checking your vitals. What? Oh, this? Don’t worry about it! It’s a just an oversized syringe crammed full of this ‘medicine’. Hey now, be good or else I’m shoving this thing up a certain area that you’d would most definitely find uncomfortable! Hold still. . . OK! All done! See, that wasn’t so bad was it? This stuff was specially designed for you by our scientists, you know. Your old man played a pretty big part in the creation of this. That’s pretty sweet of him, huh? He just wants you to be a part of something, a big something that will change your life for the better. . . I hope. I mean, just look at me! I turned out fine . . . sort of.” At this point, the door to the room I was in creaked open. My huge ten-year-old eyes widened as a lamb stumbled through the door. It wasn’t the neon green Mohawk the little animal sported, but the sound coming from its mouth. “Hey there little guy, well, I guess you’re not so little now. It’s been a few years, huh?” It was the same voice that was in my head. “Look, there’s something you need to know and, just between you and me, you are not going to like it.” The lamb clambered onto the table I was sitting on and lay down beside me. A chill like a sudden gust of wind flowed through me and I realized I was back in my own teenage body, although that chill lingered around, for I was completely naked. “Hold on, before you continue, I have a few questions that I need answered.” I can’t believe I’m talking to a baby sheep, but if he can talk, then it’s most likely that he can hear. “I do suppose we have time before you turn conscious. Go ahead, be my guest.” The lamb’s ears twitched back and forth, causing the tag in one of them to shake around. “Ok, first of all, why am I butt-naked?” I waited patiently for an answer from the bundle of wool until finally, he spoke. “Everyone’s naked in their visions. Even in that little paradise of yours, you remember sitting beneath that tree watching the sunset, right? Well if you were naked then, you shouldn’t have any problems with this.” 

“OK, sure, but where am I?” The lamb suddenly jolted up onto all fours. “I cannot tell, for you would surely put yourself at even greater risks!” I guess I’ll have to find out myself. Any other questions I may have had suddenly flooded away as I was pulled back into reality. My eyes flashed open into the dark dorm, quickly scanning the room for any signs of danger. I flung my legs around and let them touch down onto the rough carpet. Silently, I stood up and tip-toed to Ross’s bed. As gently as I could, I pulled the covers back a little to find him sound asleep and safe as can be. That was when it me. I woke up because I heard a noise. I slipped on some pants and a t-shirt and slid out the door. My sharp eyes pierced the darkness immediately, searching for the cause of the sound. A sudden rustle of leaves was the sound of glass shattering in the dead silence. I slinked through the shadows towards the sound, which was gradually rising in volume. The dead silence was ripped from the atmosphere as a scream pierced the air. Without thinking, I broke into a wild sprint. As I rounded the corner of the main dorm hall, I was struck still in horror. The entire wall of the building was dripping with blood. Everywhere I looked, there was some sort of red splatter painting exhibit and in the middle of all it, a small figure crouched on the ground. “Hey, what happened here?” I risked calling out to the silhouette, only to be answered by a tiny, ragged whisper. The small figure slowly stood up and turned around. It was Lia Gemini, but without the giggles and snorts. “She’s dead. . .” Lia whispered. I took a few steps towards her and when she didn’t oblige to my presence, I closed the distance entirely. “Hey Lia, how did this happen?” I placed my hand on her shoulder and applied the appropriate amount of comforting pressure. “Kaley . . . she’s gone. It all happened so fast. At first, it was just like a movie. She laughed, but I felt it. I felt the gaze of Death on the back of my neck. I told Kaley that we should be go back to our dorm, but she insisted on a few more minutes outside and then . . . and then she . . .” Tears began streaming down Lia’s face. I glanced behind her to see the mangled corpse of Kaley Gemini, the source of all the blood and gore drenching the scene. “You know, your stare isn’t so different.” My focus flashed back to the girl shivering in front of me. “How do you mean?”

“Oh, your eyes. They feel similar to Death’s gaze. They both have that intimidating presence that strikes fear into your heart and wracks your brain with terror. That stare, the one that forces you into submission and can turn the bravest men into cowards. It’s truly terrifying.” Lia left me no opportunities to respond as she violently threw up blood onto my shirt. Her eyes froze at an alarming size, teaming with shock. I caught the girl as she collapsed into my arms, her body going limp. “Lia!” I yelled, but I knew she couldn’t hear me, the foul stench of the dead doubled and hung heavier in the air. The main injury was on her back, between the shoulder blades. The flesh was melted away and blood coated everything, the entirety of my arms were covered in the sticky human sap. “Kai, is that you?” A sleepy voice behind me asked. Quickly, I whirled around to face the witness. My whole body lost its color as I stared straight into the eyes of Ali. She stood there horrified and I realized that I was still holding the lifeless body of our classmate. I dropped Lia and took a few steps towards Ali. She flinched and turned her waist slightly, as if to run away at any given moment. “Wait, it’s not what looks like! I swear!” I pleaded to the girl, hoping for our trust we built up over the years to save me from my gruesome accusation. “Please, just hear me out!” I screeched, my emotions catching up with me. I wiped tears from my cheek, smearing blood all over face. Ali just shook her head slowly, not daring to blink at all. I took a few more steps and tried to reach for her, but she turned and ran at full speed. Great going Kai, now you’ll never get a girlfriend.



      A few hours later, in the dim morning of Wednesday, I decided to show my face to the world once more. I made sure not a single drop of blood remained on my fairly pale skin by taking a shower immediately. Luckily, Ross didn’t have to pee in the middle of the night, boy that would have been awkward for the two us. Ugh, again with the crowding? What is it with these people and bloody murders? Despite my own opinion, I decided to become a hypocrite and join them. Almost instantly, I found Ross and Ali. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Murmuring under my breath, I gazed upon the outdoor gymnasium wall. Scrawled in bloody letters, was my full name and a message that I could only assume was for me. “Well if a ‘hello’ is what you’re looking for, you’re not going to get it.” I swiftly shifted my focus to Ali, whom of which was standing stone-still with her arms folded across her chest. “Look I didn’t do it, OK? Just trust me on this one!” I felt lava bubbling up inside of me, but I know I shouldn’t get all riled up about this and besides, I really can’t be defensive with Ali right now, especially if I want her to like me. She sighed and spoke without even glancing at me. “I know it wasn’t you, but the Gemini twins were my friends and the sight of you covered in blood that could have been both of yours or one hundred percent Lia’s . . . it just . . . caught me.” Ali’s facial expression had softened and she looked at me with playful eyes. “I can tell you defiantly didn’t write this on the wall, your handwriting is horrible!” She teased. “Oh yeah? Is it as bad as Ross and his scribbles?” I joked back enjoying the lighthearted smile on her face with every inch of me, but it quickly faded away as if smiling at a somewhat questionable classmate that is one of the few dear friends you have is a sinful action. “Oi, attractive mean girl, mind if I borrow your boyfriend for a few?” 

“Hah! As if!” Ali smirked and trotted off somewhere that was out of sight. Was that an as if to “us”, or an as if to leaving me? Hang in there Kai, you still have a chance. A steel-fist grabbed me by the arm and dragged me further from wherever Ali may be. “So, anything new?” Chase gave me a Since-Your-Name-Is-Scrawled-On-A-Brick-Wall-In-Blood-I’m-Guessing-You-Know-Something look. “It wasn’t me, if anything, I’d be the next victim judging by the message.” I was about to ask him if he knew anything about the murders until it was too late. Chase scoffed at my reasoning and craned his neck to gaze out upon the whole scene. “Crazy, eh? All this happening so suddenly. Just crazy. . .” Chase trailed off, a dreamy look clouding his vibrant light blue eyes. He was speaking in a lowered voice meant for my ears only, but soon regained his volume. “Well, I best be taking my leave here. Left my poor little Carter all alone in this crowd. He’s probably freaking out right now!” I watched as the leopard-printed red-head spun around and waltzed into the swarming mass of people, dancing ever-so gracefully between bodies in search of his feeble rose plucked of its thorns. Eventually–after a minute or two–a “Chase, don’t ever leave me again!” Shrieked out into the overwhelming noise of teenage gossip, followed by a purring chuckle. Why can’t I solve this mystery? Who else could it be? Frustrated with myself, I stomped off, shoving people out of the way with my shoulders. As I was exiting the circle, I shoulder-checked another crowd member who grabbed me and ripped me around violently to face him. “Where you going punk?” Tommy spat into my face. Glancing around, I caught sight of Fredrick’s goons closing in. No escape. “So Ryuu, what’ve you been up to?” The boys around me sneered, itching to fight. I hadn’t realized I’d been growling this whole time; what an embarrassment. I forced my face to soften and stared at Tommy. “Let me go.” I commanded in a calm manner. Hysterical laughter broke out everywhere. A few of the crowd members joined us to see what the ruckus was about. “I said, let me go. Please” I repeated, never breaking eye contact. Suddenly, without warning, a large fist connected with the side of my face. My body fell limp to the ground, practically strangling itself to stay conscious. Tommy gave my ribs a kick and his goons closed in to do the same, but Tommy gave them a fierce look. This was between him and me. “Come on Ryuu, get up! Hey, get up! Surely a murderer can take a few hits?” There it was, murderer, the dreaded truth I wished to never hear. Of course they’d think me homicidal, I’ve acted aggressively in the past. But I’d never commit murder! Well, there are a few occasions that I possibly would kill a man. Right as Tommy was about to deliver another heavy kick to my ribs, a large mass blocked the sun. I gazed up at the hazy shape. “And how are we to know that you didn’t commit the murders?” A familiar voice, warm and soothing, yet heroic and powerful. Through the blurred images, I caught sight of brown hair gently blowing in the wind. Ross? I couldn’t believe it. He would never get involved in a fight. He’s the gentlest guy I know! “Aww, playing the good guy are we? How cute. Suppose we’ll just beat you up too.” As punches and kicks rained down upon Ross, he stood strong, taking all of the abuse with outstanding resistance. Eventually, the bullies got bored and sauntered off to pick on somebody else. “Hey Kai, are you alright?” I didn’t respond right away, but somehow managed to choke out, “Just a little dizzy. . .” A hand reached out to me, my eyes having a hard time focusing on it. I grasped it weakly and was pulled into Ross’s chest. “Woah, stand up. You can’t just lean on me all day.” 

“It hurts everywhere, I don’t want to move.” I mumbled into my friend’s solid build. Despite his own injuries, Ross hooked an arm around me, allowing me permission to lean on him anyway. We stumbled off, first heading to the nurse’s until I objected of being examined, in which case we headed back to our dorm. Once inside, Ross propped me up on my bed and took a seat next to me. We sat there in haunting silence, contemplating the recent events until I finally broke the silence. “Why’d you do that?” I indirectly stared into Ross’s eyes--deep pools of shining emeralds. “It was nothing really, I’m just tired of seeing you always bullied like that. I just felt that I should share your pain.” A smile formed on my friend’s bleeding lips, comforting me like a mother would. I couldn’t respond. My jaw hang gaping in the air, surprise tingling my face. Ross hummed, gently pulling up his shirt to show me the bruises he sustained for me. Here we sat, broken and bleeding mildly, sharing the pain like brothers. It was at that time that I realized Ross would always be by my side. Forever. Until death does us part.


Parker, Teen Contributor

Ryan Chandler

IQ: 165

Queens, NY

Let me get the record straight. I did not intentionally almost lead the human race into extinction. I did not sacrifice planet Earth. However they may bend the truth, I do not praise myself. I do not tell the future. I merely predict it. If these sentences intrigue you, then keep reading for all intent and purpose. If not, you will never learn the truth. I should probably introduce myself. My name is Ryan Chandler. One of the smartest humans on the planet. I’m also a teenager. 14 years, 9 months, 14 days, to be precise. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a “career dork”, or a “nerd”. But I am a geek. Officially. My state of mind is different than those of lower IQ’s, and fit in with nearly 20 others, who have the same state of mind. Our state of mind includes creativity, thinking outside the box, artistry, animation, programming, theoretical physics. And we have a social sense. The largest difference between geeks and nerds. Before I knew anything about this, Stanford, Oxford, Harvard, and Cambridge have all given me full scholarships. Yep. That’s the gift of having a large IQ. Then, in the passing period between AP Calc and British Literature, I was atomically deconstructed and reconstructed using the quantum theory. Or teleportation for all you regular high school students out there. Now where to? Good question. My best educated guess is in Evergreen, Colorado. Latitude 39.6428 N, Longtitude 105.8412 W.

Chase, Teen Contributor

By the Five Parks pool during sunset.

Lydia, Teen Contributor

They are fairly normal as it seems.


The black-haired girl wedges her pedometer on the edge of her belt.

The wide-eyed boy steps on his longboard and heads to school.

The girl with the nose piercing pulls a striped shirt over her body.

The almost-football-player boy pulls on his white hoodie.

The four-eyed girl pushes her glasses up her nose.

The curly-haired boy decides against straightening his hair. Again.

The girl with a half-shaved head draws her winged eyeliner on.


Perhaps a few less-than-normal hobbies.


She folds another heart from a gum wrapper on the floor.

He strums his bass guitar, thinking about the black-haired girl.

She sings her heart out, carefully matching the pitch for each lyric of the song.

He pets his dog with tender love and care.

She sketches another one of her characters, cursing at the tiny imperfections only she can see.

He changes the settings on his amp, wondering what to play.

She dances on the hood of a car, laughing and singing loudly.


And they say to each other.


I love you so much

I love you too

I love you guys

I love you fags

You all are so weird and nice

I care about you guys

I love everyone!


But they are asked, and told.


Do still force yourself to throw up?

Do you do drugs anymore?

Are you still carving into your skin?

Did your dad really leave?

Are you gonna go back to Spain?

How many times have you attempted suicide?

Do you still talk to your dead sister?


We don’t want you either.


I’m not a slut hounding after boys just because I have DDs.

He isn’t shooting up heroin despite having such a painful past.

She doesn’t throw up anymore even though she used to.

He isn’t a drug dealer just because he’s black.

She isn’t stupid just because of her accent.

No, he isn’t anything like his dad.

She isn’t pathetic for missing her ex.


We are who we are.


Chronic depression. Generalized anxiety disorder.

Bulimia. Anorexia. Body dysmorphic disorder.

Post traumatic stress disorder.

Self-inflicted anger. Overwhelmed anger.

Trichotillomania. Obsessive compulsive disorder.


But them, I love.


The boy who lost so many friends and is scared of losing more.

The girl who once felt so lost that she turned to sharp tools.

Him, who used to get so angry that he’d lose control and now overthinks everything.

Her, who argues with her parents frequently and used to be mocked for her accent.

The boy who pulls himself from drugs and relapses over and over again yet once had no hope.

The girl who lost her sister and then her love, but laughs everyday and cries.


To each their own and to they, the worst of all.




Them, I love.


Image Credit: Uditha Wickramanayaka on Flickr. 

Lauren, Teen Contributor


 “Ahem! Pay attention as I explain how genetic mutation occurs and affects the carrier.” It’s only been three weeks and already school is proving to be the worst part of my life next to the fact that I’m barely a normal human being. Mrs. Dumbleberg just goes on and on about genetics and other science stuff I already know, that she’s putting me to sleep. I wonder if she’d notice if I slipped off for a bit… “MR. RYUU, HOW MANY TIMES MUST I INFORM YOU THAT SLEEPING IS NOT LEARNING?!” Mrs. Dumbleberg slapped her hand on my desk so hard, the whole school could’ve heard it. Apparently she noticed.

       “Approximately six times ma’am, but I already know science and I feel that it’s insensible for me to endure this.” I never spared even a second to glance at others around me, but the burning gaze of being watched sizzled atop my skin. The new kid, with the sea foam hair stared blankly at me from the back corner of the classroom. 

       “Well if you think you’re so smart, then name three cases of genetic mutation or change, Okami.” The teacher spat out my nickname with legitimate hatred, something that never seemed to bother me. 

       “Ok, hereditary, somatic and polymorphisms.” I announced with pride. I remember reading an article on this before--the internet never lies. Mrs. Dumbleberg was about to explode into a million words, but class was over and she retired to her chair. I felt her snake eyes on the back of my neck as class filed out the door. It almost felt like stumbling across a sacred treasure just walking out of there, but I remembered that this is real life and, most likely, nobody cared. 

       “Come on Kai, we have lunch right after science!” Ross bolted towards the cafeteria chasing his stomach. “Hurry up!” He called from far ahead. 


    The lunchroom was huge, probably the largest room in the whole school. Everyone knew where to sit, who to sit with and what to eat. “Hey, have you seen the new kid?” Ross glanced around and smiled at me. We turned towards the Haunted Table. Nobody dared to even sit near it ever since little Gregory’s brother choked and almost died. Its surface hasn’t been eaten upon in years and now the new kid sits alone at the foreboding table. 

       “Something about him isn’t right.” I whispered with narrowed eyes. Ross looked like he was going to say something, but Ali quickly cut in. 

       “What are you guys talking about?” She searched our faces carefully. 

       “Nothing, just boring guy stuff.” I didn’t feel like talking about the sea foam-haired boy under the flickering light, but Ross decided to just blurt out our private conversation to the world. 

       “Oh, we were just talking about the new guy over there.” Ross even pointed at him and to my relief, he didn’t notice. 

       “Strange kid, eh?” Ali carefully examined him from a distance, something she picked up from living on the streets as a pickpocket. Somehow she managed to make slumping down next to Ross seem graceful in a way. I always wondered what she did before I fell out of the sky onto her little cobble backstreet. Did she get good grades at that Hogwarts place? Maybe she trained in magic? Does she prefer brains or brawn in a man? I got so caught up in my own thoughts, I didn’t realize I was staring into her sea blue eyes so dreamily. “Ahem, I would appreciate it if I could eat my lunch without any unnecessary attention.” Ali raised an eyebrow and tilted her head towards a shoulder. I hastily sat up in my seat and removed my hand from my cheek, turning bright red again. 

       “Oooooh, Kai’s love-struck!” Ross cracked up at his own words. 

       “Nrgh, no I’m not!” My voice sounded way too whiney for a fifteen-year-old and I glanced around in case anybody heard. I wanted to get up and push Ross over, but Ali beat me to it. Satisfied, she returned to poking around in some kind of soupy mush. 

      “You know, sometimes I feel like I’m the only one with any common sense around here. I mean, come on, does one really have to point out every flaw in their classmates?!” Ali flung her hands into the air for extra emphasis. “Oh Kai, my friends were checking you out today . . . again.” Ali seemed disappointed. 

       “Flattering.” I grumbled while turning my head to look over my shoulder. Jessica, McKenzie, Olivia and the Gemini sisters, Lia and Kaley, were already turned towards me and giggling like the little schoolgirls they were. All of them except McKenzie, but she’s a little quiet. I smiled at her, guessing that’s enough reward for not fantasizing over me. She gave me a shy smile back and I twisted around to face my friends again. “Remind me to lock the door at night.” Ross made a little note in his head, I could tell by his concentration face. Brr . . . The cafeteria was really cold today and I kept shivering, but, nonetheless, I still felt the flames that forever linger inside of me. 

       “I can’t wait to get back home, I love talking to the villagers!” Ali had been looking forward to this weekend forever. 

       “It’s kind of strange sleeping at school during the week, don’t you think?” Ross questioned Ali and me. “Well, maybe not for you two. You guys finally get a chance to sneak out at night. Mrs. Ryuu would be all over you guys if you did that back in the castle.” Ross pretended to kiss his hand. “That never happened!” Ali smacked him in the back of the head. I wish I could agree, but there was that one incident two years ago . . . it doesn’t count if I never agreed to it right? I shook the memory from my head, despite arguing with myself that I never declined her offer and didn’t fight back when she leaned in . . . The loud bellow of the lunch lady thundered threw the room and interrupted every conversation. 

       “Get outta here, worms!” She held her ladle in the air and wagged it at everyone like a machete. Students immediately ran out the doors, fearing that they might get turned into next week’s mystery meat. 

       “Suppose we should head out ourselves.” Ross got up from the table with a grunt and walked outside with Ali trailing behind him. I was busy washing the mess off the seating areas, when the sea foam-haired kid walked up to me. He was shorter than I expected, but he took each step with rising elegance. 

       “You, tall Asian one, are you ever intrigued by the fantastical dragons of myth?” I was shocked by his question, but what shocked me the most was that I was the only person he has at least attempted to communicate with ever since the morning bell rung. Before I could answer, he jerked his head to his left. “Your friends are waiting, I’m Gehl by the way. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I shook his hand and, rather quickly, walked out the door. 

       “Hey, what was that all about?” Ross instantly stuck to my side. I’m positive there’s a magnet in us somewhere. 

       “Nothing, just small talk.” I kept pondering Gehl’s question. He looked at me with narrowed eyes and slight hostility, but his voice was calm, sort of like deep velvet. Like a pool of blood.


      I didn’t sleep that night. My golden eyes stared into the ceiling as if I could see the stars above. I don’t know what’s worse, sleeping in a cold castle or in a room with Ross and his disgusting feet. The hard mat I slept on felt like the rock underneath. Sighing, probably, the deepest sigh in history, I got up and brushed pass the punching bag that hung from a steel stand. The darkness felt good on my bare skin, like a comforting hug from somebody you’ve known your whole life. I decided to relax a bit, just breathe and enjoy the still black corridors. A small gust blew through my black hair as I stepped onto the deck of the northernmost tower. The stars shone bright tonight, complementing the lunar lighting. I could see the whole town beneath me, the barren wastelands that surround our establishment and the windy peaks of mountains that I scaled with my bare hands a few years ago. Dark. Lonely. Quiet. Perfect. I’d love to just close my eyes and fall for eternity in these conditions, but I can’t cut myself off from the world yet. No, there’s a few things I have to do first. I turned and silently returned to the depths of the castle, stopping at both Ali and Ross’s rooms. You can never be so sure of your friend’s safety these days. I’d take a bullet for them, but then we’d all die because they’d take a bullet for me as well. With the night drawing to a close, I hauled myself back to my room. Nudging the decayed wooden door open with the sharp edges of my shoulder blades, I mindlessly wandered into my acrid dwelling.


      “Nrgh, uh.” I woke up stiff and aching, rubbing my head and back inefficiently. The pale dawn created the illusion of a glistening castle, but look closely and you can still see the blood stains on the floor, the wall, even the tapestries. 

       “Hey Kai, Ali and I were going to go down to the stables and help the serfs and farmhands. Want to come?” 

       “No, I-I have some . . . training to do, and stuff.” My friends seemed a little heartbroken, but they quickly recovered.

       “Hah, I’ll tell you all about how Ross cried like a babe over manual labor.” Ali shot Ross a smirk and he came back with:

       “Hey now, no need for rivalry. Competition isn’t the best motive for this situation.” Pained, I watched my friends walk off playfully shoving each other into the stone corridors. I sighed and positioned myself in front of a training dummy, raising my fists. The dummy wobbled violently to the left and the right. 

       “Hrrraah!” A swift kick to the rib area missed and hit a rack of weapons I primarily use as decoration. The whole thing came crashing down and it resonated throughout the castle. 

       “Kai, no smashing holes in the walls!” My mom yelled from her studies. Ever since we took the kingdom from my Aunt, my mom has been studying the books she left behind. I barely ever see anybody these days. My friends are busy helping the townsfolk, school doesn’t do anything but pay sad excuses for qualified human beings, my mom always has her face buried in some dusty old book and I still have no idea where my crazy aunt or my deadbeat dad is. The weight of these words were starting to tire me. I let them push me to the ground, holding me there in the fetal position. My eyelids closed and for a brisk moment, the world was beautiful. I listened to the wind, the trees, the grass, solitary company they were. The earth tickled my feet and the leaves playfully drifted into my hair. For once, I felt connected to life. For once, my sorrows had bled away, but I suddenly jolted awake and was hit with a bleak reminder as I stared into the dim room around me: This world is cruel.


      Small murmurs rose from the table every now and then, thus rendering the dinner hall fairly quiet. We all pretended to eat our more-or-less decent dinner on one end of the large banquet table. The candles from the chandelier flickered high above. I could smell the citrus juice from Ali’s fish, her gaze staring into the breaded white meat. Ross had the worst table manners out of all of us, slurping his ramen like a madman, before spitting it out again. My mom tapped her furry, wolf-like feet against the floor, occasionally brushing my toes with her soft fur. Of course, it was only overgrown hair, but I loved it anyways. I grew up in it to be honest. 

       “Milady, a formal invitation has been issued to Your Majesty.” A man ran into the room. He was one of our messengers, intended for our peaceful kingdom only and not scouting out enemy activity. I believe his name was Hermathius, after the god Hermes and he was somewhere in his forties. “Please, no more formalities Herman, hand it over.” I watched my mother pluck the letter from the kneeling man’s hands. 

       “Well, what’s it say?” Ross yelled through a mouthful of noodles. 

       “Ahem, the letter reads:

                  Dearest Kingdom of Atrapax, we humbly invite you to partake in signing a treaty between our kingdoms. Afterwards, you are welcome to join us in a feast, honoring the peace the treaty shall bring forth.

                         Thank you for your valuable time,

                                             The Royal Vampiric Family.” 


       “A treaty?” I asked, skepticism curling my tongue.

       “Free food! I’m in!” Ross sat back in his chair, almost falling over. He quickly regained the little bit of regality he held in his possession.

       “Vampires? Heck yeah!” Ali through her fists into the air. I growled quietly under my breath. 

       “Ross go take a shower and comb your hair, the rest of us will dress our finest and ready ourselves for King Bloodharow.” I got up, watching my mom jot down a response to the invitation and hand it to Hermathius.


       It was dusk by the time we arrived. The great spiked city gates slowly creaked open and the four of us rode through them silently. The city was quite busy during this odd hour. Vampires of all different shapes and sizes ran through the market. A local band played by the giant fountain in the middle of the circuit. Children played among the rims, a few daring to splash inside. The water glowed an eerie orange from the setting sun. Our small troop paused briefly for a quick chat with the castle gate guard. 

       “Ah, you must be Atrapax royalty. I can see it in your eyes. You’re here for the great feast aren’t you? Right this way, if you please.” The guard bowed and gestured towards the opening gate. As I rode by, he stopped me behind Ross, Ali and my mom. “This whole thing was the king’s son’s idea. He’s quite fond of you, you know.” The gate guard gave me a sly look, which made me usher my horse into a canter to catch up with my friends and mother. Approaching the castle doors, we dismounted and tied the equestrians up in the stables. Taking the steps two at a time, we reached the door in under a minute. The doors swung open and there standing in the entrance, in all his regal glory, was Prince Bloodharow. Gehl Bloodharow.

       “Good evening, friends.” He bowed, “Ross, you look well.” 

       “Hah, you too!” Ross smiled from ear to ear. Dropping to his knee, the vampire took Ali by the hand. “Allison.” Gehl gingerly kissed her wrist and shot me a glowing purple glance as he rose.

       “Sup, Gehl. Nice to meet finally meet ‘ya” Ali seemed bursting with excitement, in spite of her cool exterior. 

       “And of course, Mistress Faoiltiama.” My mother curtseyed, her false tail swaying slowly. I watched as the Vampiric prince led the way into his fancy, snooty rich-kid domain, with a glare right into me. I pushed back with my own intimidating glare and he turned sharply on his skinny heels. The whole castle was dimly lit, like ours, but the entire place was decorated completely. Statues, busts, chandeliers, candelabras, expensive fabrics--everywhere I look I was surrounded by décor just screaming ‘I’m better than you’. “Welcome to the throne room.” Halfheartedly explaining each room, Gehl finally stopped us in a long room with a huge throne in the back. King Bloodharow took a small bell from the folds of his regal cape and rang it. Gehl instantly popped up beside the giant bedazzled chair. 

       “Recite the thing, boy.” The disgusting, ragged voice of the Vampiric king whispered to his tiny son. 

       “Yes father, ahem, The Royal King of all that the Night Touches wishes to propose a treaty to the Kingdom of Atrapax, allying our nations for millennia. If you will be so kind to join the Vampiric Family for a late dinner to discuss the details, we shall welcome you with open arms.” Gehl finished by carefully rolling the scroll he was reading. 

       “I believe my forgetful, no-good son has yet to mention an engagement ceremony involving your female Syren.” The king looked down his nose at Gehl. 

      “Err, F-father, that wasn’t part of the treaty!”

      “Hush boy, it will unite our kingdoms even more.” The king barked at his son and rang the glistening silver bell. 

      “That won’t be necessary, Dark Lord of All.” I rolled my eyes. “Our ‘female Syren’ isn’t interested and surely can find a better match.” I growled out my Rs. Ali was surprised by my aggressive reaction. What’s gotten into him? She thought. No, it can’t possibly be that!

      “It’s quite late, and the kids have school tomorrow. I’ve decided to stay and discuss the treaty over dinner and send the children home.” My mother announced, already pushing us out of the room rather quickly. We began making our way back to the stables, but night had fallen and it was difficult to see. I groped around in the darkness, until I felt wood and heard horses bickering with each other. “Hey girl, how’ve you been?” I ran my hand down the pinto mare’s flank and rubbed her neck. She jolted back, almost rearing. Strange, did I spook her? Can’t she smell me? I steadied her, untied the rope that keeps the mare from running off, and mounted, gently prodding her sides to leave for Castle Atrapax. The entire ride I wondered what my pinto was afraid of. She never gets spooked, not by predators, not by fire, nothing. In fact, she responded to my touch, my presence, it was haunting. I shook the thoughts from my mind, but they’d soon return. Very soon. 



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