The Absent Touch

859011

by Jocelyn Cameron

I shift towards you, a sign for you to put your arm around me. Your left arm swings up and over my head as you look into my eyes, reassuring me that you are there. One of your best friends is sitting to your right, him with a girl as well. Although she is not his girlfriend, his arm has been around her all night, leading anyone unknowing to believe they are a couple as well. This is the first time I have met either of them, so I don’t know what to say in participation of the conversation. I don’t know why I always do this, I get too caught up in listening to start talking. Talking is not my strong point.

You retract your arm from around me, pulling out a smoke. After you light it, your arm returns to my back. I don’t know why I am okay with your smoking habits or the fact that you don’t mind knowing you are going to die early, the fact that you enjoy that thought.

The conversation carries, the cigarette shrinks, the much too familiar look in your eyes is clearly not sober. I get a flash of remembering when we were walking hand in hand. Passing by another one of your friends earlier, he yells out from across the street, “Dude, you are high as fuck right now!” You pulled out your wallet with a grin, checking to make sure no one on the street was watching you. Flipping to a hidden compartment, you pull out a small bag, making your friends eyes grow wide as he exhales, “Shit eh.” I don’t know why I am okay with your drug habits, or that you are okay wasting your money and life away on something that will take you to where we all know the story ends.

You stub the cigarette out on the cement beside you and flick it onto the grass. Your friend has to walk his girl home so her dad won’t be upset if she is out past midnight. You shake his hand as they stand up and tell her goodnight. They saunter across the grass and leave the rooftop as you turn back to me and hold me tight. I look into your eyes, and warmth floods my lips as they touch yours. That first moment of contact is always the anticipated, always warming, never disappointing. The warmth flows down my throat and into my chest, where I feel that wonderful pain. I don’t know why, along with expected disappointment, I feel a flood of relief when we part.

“Do you want to lay on the grass? It’s probably more comfortable than this block of concrete.” You suggest to me. We stand up, we walk to your right, and we lie down on the cold grass. You notice that I am shivering, so you turn to me and pull me close. “Here,” you take my hands and put them in the small pocket of warmth in the very limited space between us. “That should be warmer.” Once again, I get caught in the piercing blue of your eyes, and before I know it, the moment of first contact occurs again. The warmth floods back through my lips, to my throat, into my chest, and down to the pit of my stomach this time. I don’t know why I take every suggestion you make, do everything you tell me to do. It isn’t being forced upon me, but you say one thing and I am your bearer.

 

The silence between us isn’t unusual, and although it was uncomfortable at first, I am quite used to it now, neither of us making significant effort to fill the gaps. A sudden gust of cold wind brought both your familiar scent and the memory of that very first night we met. I saw you looking at me from across the room, before you were drawn to the unfamiliar face in your usual crowd of friends. The conversation between us sparked with the help of a little liquid courage, I was warmly welcomed in a scene of people quite unfamiliar to me. The farther that warm summer night proceeded, sharing laughs and drinks, the more I realized how I could be myself and how truly happy I could feel with you. How could things go so wrong? As I walked away from the last kiss on the doorstep, I didn’t know what would come of this night between us, however I was sure that wouldn’t be the last I would see of you.

We part again, and I move my face to the crook of your neck to gain warmth. All I can hear are my flooding thoughts and the sounds of downtown nightlife surrounding the vacant square. You caress my hair, and push it away from my face. Your lips move towards my ear, and with a relaxed exhale you whisper, “I love you.” I don’t know what to do.

I have never had this happen before. This is just a high school relationship, isn’t 17 too young to truly love in a relationship? I have only known you for a couple of months, isn’t this too early to tell me this?

I don’t know what I need to feel to constitute love for you.

I don’t know if love is supposed to happen like this.

I don’t know if you are right for me to love.

I don’t know how to respond.

I have paused in my confusion for too long and the blue of your eyes looks back into the blue of mine. The only thing I can think of to do is press my lips back to yours. Then I don’t have to say anything, right?

The moment passes and my eyes feel heavy with guilt for not loving you the way you claim to love me. We sit up when we hear a distant yell, resembling your name. Looking around the rooftop, we are alone, and turn back to each other.

“I love you,” You tell me again, throwing my mind back into the cyclone. I don’t know what to say, but feel an obligation. You assure me, “You don’t have to say anything, say it if you do love me.” Not knowing love, not knowing you, I manage to whisper those three soft words,

“I don’t know.”

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My Journey Through Sanity

Desperate

by Jonas Dunphy

“Tell me about your mother,” said the doctor, stroking the peach-fuzzed beard that outlined his mouth. The same mouth that had just uttered a broken phrase, with fragments that almost made me think it was a question.

“She was tall,” was my response; a lie. My mother was as short as a stump, I jest simply to gauge his reaction. Two things could come of my response, either, the doctor will know I’m lying and brand me a compulsive liar. This title would then make the rounds, forcing people to assume that when they ask me any question I am going to lie. Therefore to extract the truth they must merely assume the opposite. However, if they possess half a wit they would know that I myself am not a run of the mill liar, I am a compulsive liar. And also I myself possess somewhat of a brain, the part that is not slowed to a mere jog by my special medication, is running quite rapidly. So in an effort to throw them off I may break the rule of lying to tell the truth, which they would assume is a lie, therefore by telling the truth I would force them to lie for me. In short, the good doctor would be doing me a service. I would not have to suffer any more moral qualms, plus I could mislead if I wished.  Although, if I overestimate who the doctor has told then I would consequently be telling the truth, which, don’t get me wrong I have nothing against. But for the purpose of my stay, and my secret mission, I should try my best to throw conclusions in every which way except ones that would lead back to me, capeche?

Or, there is the other option. Where the not-so-good doctor will assume I am telling the truth. He would be delving further into my childhood histories pertaining to my mother; attempting to crack the mental vault that is my mind. Trying to unravel the method behind my facade of madness, or is it a façade? It is very classified information on a need to know basis, and the doctor does not need to know, or does he? All in good time, I think, I hope, or do I?

Cognifromazine is the name of the medication I am on. Sounds like an expensive cheese, but rest assured it tastes NOTHING like expensive cheese, although if you take a few, wait a while, then try one, you’ll probably think you’re eating something a rainbow gave birth to. Either way, it tastes nothing like cheese.

“Interesting, yes interesting” said the doctor, continually, as if searching for a thought that was in the back of his mind, a little snippet of text from his days in college that could apply to this situation.

“Um I don’t think we are making much progress today let’s call it a day, same time tomorrow Wesley.”

I’m guessing he didn’t find it.

“Sure doc, maybe prepare some notes tonight, so our sessions aren’t all 5 minutes, then we might make progress,” I replied, sarcastically, in my half-medically-stoned, semi-slurred speech.

He rose quickly in a fully erect perfect stance that showcased the anxiety he was feeling. My journey from the couch to my feet was much slower, as if my body was trying to catch up to my mind, I was in slow motion, a feeling that would be much more enjoyable, if you could turn it off.

Moving slow is quite tedious in fact, everything takes longer, you fall asleep during various tasks, and every question asked is like a calculus equation that takes much thought, checking and proofreading before you’re even able to throw out a half-assed answer that is most likely wrong. Sometimes I wish I had this shit when I was in high school, drop a few in my math teachers’ coffee, It would have messed their day right up.

He motioned me towards the door, “one foot after another”, I thought to myself.

I turned around to face the door that was situated behind the couch I had just been questioned on.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Left foot. Look up.

There was a clock above the door, analytically, analogy, shit, what’s that word. It had hands, there, it had hands, hands that would show the looker the time. Which was quite fortuitous, as I would enjoy knowing the time of day.

”The big hand is on a 5, that means 5, wait no you look at the little hand first,” I whispered to myself in a quiet tone unbeknownst to the doctor. “The little hand is pointing to a…” and then the clock was gone, disappeared from my view, I was now out of the office, uncured, and not knowing what time it is.

The door SLAMMED behind me quickly cutting me off from the clock. My only choice was to continue. The drugs were now in full swing.

Cloritawhatamafragine, I giggled. That’s a funny name for medication I thought to myself. Is that the name? Shit, memory loss, a side effect. I continued to stay still outside the door for a moment, pondering. Are there any desired effects associated with this damn drug, or is it really meant to just mess your shit up!?” I said, quite loudly with vigor, and even a few hand gestures, like I was making a speech, although no one was around, it was quite good.

At that moment I pictured a doctor, bearded, short black hair, pushed down from constantly wearing anti-hair-fallout devices. Roughly 5 10”, standing over a table with a few bottles , a funnel, a box with a hole in the top and a light bulb on the side, 100 watt, nothing special. The bottles were each labeled differently; drowsiness, fuzziness, acid, paralyses, were just a few of the choices available.

The doctor then placed the funnel gently into the hole of the, box, let’s call it the box.

Okay, so the doctor put the funnel into the box, and began to laugh. “Let’s really mess with those retards.”How unprofessional.  He then reached for a bottle labeled shit disturber, a few drops down the funnel. Paralyses, just a splash. Hallucinations, a nice swig. And then he called in the big guns. From underneath the table, the doctor hauled up a jug, 2 gallons by the looks of it. This bottle had a skull and crossbones, a label that read unknown, some sort of Asian writing, a few hieroglyphs, and lastly, a flammable symbol.  It was a mosaic of things that you would not like to see on something you would ingest. The doctor then continued to remove the lid, took a nice deep breath of the jug, and fell to the floor passed out.

I stood there, now becoming one with my daydream that was on its way to full-blown hallucination status, waiting.

A few minutes later the good doctor awoke, and continued to pour the entirety of the jug down the funnel. With a grin, the doctor removed the funnel from the top of “the box” or pimped out microwave and pushed a red button that until that moment I had not noticed was there. Which is quite a sad fact being that the button was large, red, and sitting right there on the table of my hallucination. I had started to come to terms with the fact that I was hallucinating. Considering there was a man creating pills out of a microwave in the middle of the hall outside my therapist’s office. That does not seem like the best place to be creating pills. In any case, my hallucination had concluded. The doctor disappeared and the pimped out, pill creating, microwave box had gone with him.

I began to walk again, remembering left foot then right foot, then right foot? Wrong, that is incorrect, thank you come again.

“Do I talk to myself too much? Yes.” Question followed by an answer, that is how I like my questions answered. It took me a good 33 seconds to notice, but I had begun speaking in two different voices. Both in my head and out, question, then reply. I had accomplished the merging of two personalities under one brain all in the short walk between the offices and the common room, which by some miracle I was now in. The doc and I are going to have a lot to talk about tomorrow, we can lay off mother for a while.

The common room was white. Well, white ish. Years of hiring shitty janitors had done its toll. They were now off-white mixed with a dirty yellow. They seemed to be leaking but there were no pipes, no vents, nothing. It was around 12:30 now, and the drugs began to level out.  This is both good and bad. Good, because I can be coherent again. But also bad, because I may need to take more soon, and like I said before, these pills ain’t no slice of cheese.

I was glad to see everyone here. Timmy, Tommy, Joey, Julie, Bobby, Tawny. Whose names all sound the same due to the well-known fact that the drugs they give us exasperate our “e’s or letters that sound like e’s”. Which is a random letter, but allows for some fun singing games.

There was a T.V, forever broken centered in front of a large window. In front of the T.V sat a vintage burgundy couch, vintage meaning torn up with springs protruding from each cushion. To the left of the couch was a large table with 6 seats. Each day the seven of us would come into this room and have a nice game of musical chairs to see who is the odd man out, today sadly, it was me. I stood there, having a jolly old time being half-medicated, watching the six of them playing cards. Even though I was not the smartest individual right now, it did not take me long to realize that they were each playing a different card game. Timmy seemed to be playing 5 card stud, Tommy was going fishing, Joey crazy eights, Julie Texas hold-em’, Bobby was attempting solitaire, and with the three cards left Tawny was making a rather unsuccessful tower. This was the usual, my rag-tag band of outliers that have been separated from society lived peacefully in this room for 6 hours a day. We were floor 12 of the Bellvue Psychological Institute.

Part 2: The Switch 

“What?” I awoke covered in sweat, darkness all around. A single bead dripped from the tip of my nose to the hand that was clenching my chest. “Where am I?” I said while looking around. To my dismay nothing seemed familiar. I rose from my bed, the bed that I had slept in every night for the past 17 years, or so I thought. This bed had white sheets, and a thin, white, cheap blanket that smelt of hospital. My breathing hastened, pulse rose. Spinning frantically I realized this was not my room. “Help, somebody, where am I?” I yelled repeatedly. The door on the other side of the room offered some hope of escape from the box I did not recognize. I ran to the door, a brisk 4 steps. “Help, is anyone out there?” I yelled, banging on the door, pulling the handle firm in its position.

“What do you want now Wesley?” a figure appeared on the other side of the door, visible through a small pane in the middle of the door. They were darker, curly black hair only a few inches taller than me, dressed in formal white attire.

“What?” I didn’t understand the question, who was this person talking to?

“My name is Riley.”

The person looked at me, startled, eyes wide, “Wait right there”.

“Wait, where are you going? Get me out of here!”

My heart was beating out of my chest, “I can’t, what is, I can’t handle”

My legs began to buckle, the room became smaller.

“Riley, Riley, we’re here, calm down.”

“Who’s there?” I gained my strength, standing back up. The face I saw was different this time. A thin short beard surrounded his mouth.

“I am Dr. Lanister, I am the head of this institute, who am I speaking to?”

“Riley, b-Baker,” I responded, anxiety causing me to stutter.

“Well then we are meeting for the first time, I need to ask you a few questions, and you have to think really hard about the answer. What is the last thing you remember?” he asked me intently.

“I was, I was at home. Sitting on the couch.”

“Good, who was with you?”

“There was a man, he wore a hat, it was circular, dark, some sort of emblem on it.”

“Excellent, what was he doing, did he say anything?”

“He was questioning me, he seemed concerned, he looked at me as if I should be sad. He was asking me what I saw, what did I see?”

“Well what did you see, think back, where were you before that?”

“I was sitting, sitting on the floor, There was a door in front of me but I could see through it, there were slits of light, something was happening on the other side.”

“Good Riley, good. This is going to be hard, but what, what was happening on the other side?”

“There were people, and, no I don’t want to talk about this anymore!”

“Riley, we’re making excellent progress, what was happening?”

“They were fighting, yelling, screaming. Somebody got hurt, they fell down, they, no. Don’t make me.”

“You can do it Riley, what happened next?”

“There was a loud bang, it smelled, it smelled like someone lit a match. Then, then someone sat down on the bed. I heard a squeak. My ears were still ringing from the bang.”

“Keep going Riley”

“Then, then there was another bang, and, and a thud, the ground shook.”

“What did you do next Riley, think.”

“I sat there, I sat there for a while, must have been the whole night. The next thing I remember, it was morning. I heard noise down stairs, there was yelling, police, police, banging on the front door. A loud crash. People were in the house, they were yelling for people, I yelled out. Then, then nothing.”

“Good Riley, good. This is excellent”

“What am I doing here? Where is here? Let me out of this room!”  My eyes began to tear.

“You experienced an event, so awful. Something no one should have to be put through. Your mind, it wasn’t able to comprehend, so it didn’t. You didn’t talk, didn’t eat for weeks. The aunt and uncle who had taken you in were worried, they brought you here a year ago. We have made some progress though, you created a personality who could talk. Who was able to be in this place but detached, who was not in here out of need but out of volition.”

“No, I’m not crazy, doctor. This is a dream. This is all a dream.”

“I’m sorry Riley, but it isn’t. Now this is the first time I have been able to talk to your true personality since you came here, and I want that to continue Riley, but that means you need to accept the truth.”

“What, what is the truth?”

“That your parents died, murder and suicide. Your mother was having an affair, your father found out. I’m sorry to be so blunt but we are short on time, you may revert to Wesley at any moment. ”

“No, no, that’s not possible. My parents were happy, they were the perfect couple.”

“Riley that is not the case. I’m sorry, but you need to accept the truth, only then can we make steps towards your recovery.”

“How do I accept that, I can’t it’s just not possible” my cheeks were drenched by this point, tears dripping down my face. “I just want to go home”.

“I’m sorry Riley, but you need to stay this way as long as possible. Your memories are there, in your mind, you just have to allow yourself to remember. I’m going to let you out of the room now and we’re going to take a walk.”

“Ok.” I said, sniffling, wiping the tears away.

The door to what I now realized was my cell, opened. I took a step out, the light radiated from the fluorescents, temporarily blinding me.

“Where is this place?”

“We’re at Bellvue Psychologial Institute, floor 12. This is the ward for special cases, those who need special attention”.

“And I am one of those cases doctor?”

“You are one of the most important cases, I have met with you every week for the past year. Each session unique in that for you it is the first time we are meeting, I have been waiting for this personality to emerge since you came here, each week hoping, and finally we can talk.”

“Doctor is there a washroom I can use?”

“Sure, straight ahead, first door on the left.” Motioning down the hall as he spoke.

“Thank you.”

I walked, down the hall, through the door. I felt a strange feeling of Déjà vu, I had been here before. The washroom matched the décor of the rest of this place, white, everywhere, the stall, the wall, the sink. Everything. I approached the mirror. There was a face looking back at me, it was older, unkempt. My hair was longer then when I last saw it. Something happened, the face, changed expression, it moved on its own, without me motioning.

“Riley, you there? We have a mission, the drugs, they’re messing with you, do not believe the doctor.”

The face spoke to me, in my own voice, but not. Its expressions were different, deluded, deranged.

“Who are you?”

“It’s me, Wesley. You can’t believe what they say, you have a mission here, you are not crazy, HA you think you’re supposed to be in a crazy house? No, FALSE incorrect, wrong.”

“Then why am I here, what is this mission?”

“Well, you need to overthrow the Doctor, he is maniacal. These people are not broken, HE NEEDS to be stopped. STOP HIM!”

“You make no sense, you talk like you are crazy, and I’m going to listen to the doctor.”

“No, the doctor he needs to be stopped, kill him, and escape.”

“You’re mad!”

“It’s all a delusion, kill the doctor, and we can live here, with everyone, forever.”

“You’re not real. This, this is real, I need to realize that, I am Riley. I am Riley. You don’t exist. I am Riley, Go. Leave me ALONE!”

There was no answer. My eyes were closed, there was only darkness, I opened them slowly, again the fluorescents, blinded me. The reflection greeted me, the face was still older, but I controlled it this time.

“I am Riley, and I am not crazy.”

I walked out of the washroom, the doctor stood there with hope in eyes.

“Ok doctor, I’m ready. Let’s talk”.

The First Day by Eric Thomas

dodge-ball

            It was a warm September morning. It was the first day of high school and the day that Claude had been dreading ever since eighth grade had finished. Claude had many fears of high school. He had heard stories about what happened to grade nine boys in the first few days. He did not want to get bullied and harassed and could not stop thinking about how it would ruin his life. He stopped to walk with his friend Danny. Claude thought that if there were two of them, maybe they would not be such an easy target. The two boys were walking towards the high school of their small town. Danny wouldn’t stop talking about how excited he was. Claude was thinking more of his fears then listening to Danny. Danny looked at Claude and asked “Aren’t you excited bud?” Claude looked up from the ground.
“Oh yeah sure. Real excited.”
“Are you sure? You don’t look too excited or happy.” Danny said as he observed Claude’s tone.

Claude looked up at Danny “Can we just get there and get it over with?” Danny nodded and kept walking but staying much quieter than before.

 

The school would be in sight just after they crossed this street. Claude reached forward and pushed the crosswalk button. They waited and watched as all of the colours of different cars raced by. Claude could see the top of the school over the hill that the football field was on.  The suns light shone brightly off the blue roof while the Canadian flag flew boldly in the sky. Claude got caught up staring at the intimidating sight of the school, not noticing that the light had changed. Danny started walking and looked back. “Claude? Are you coming?”

Claude snapped back into reality and started walking “Sorry yeah.” He walked across the street with Danny and they made their way around the corner that was hiding the school. As they turned the corner Claude looked up and saw what he really did not want to. The intimidating building stood in its place. It was three times the size of his elementary school and looked like it had no life to it. The sun went under a cloud just as the school came into view, revealing the real dull blue that the roof really was. The brick colour that covered the whole school was even dull and depressing. Claude’s eyes wandered down to the doors where all the kids were going in. He saw other boys that were twice his size. Danny seemed to take notice of how intimidating the school was too. The smirk that he had on his face all morning had disappeared very quickly. The boys looked at each other but did not even need to say a word. Claude and Danny had known each other for so long that they knew exactly what the other one was thinking. They continued to walk up the pathway and opened the door into a whole new world.

         As they entered into the school, there was a table next to the door with seniors handing out schedules. Claude and Danny walked over to the table and got their schedules from the seniors. Claude thought to himself that if all the seniors were this nice then high school would be great. Danny looked at Claude and tried to see his schedule and said “Hey, lemme see your schedule.” Claude handed it to him and started looking around. He noticed how high the roof was and how much larger the lockers were compared to the tiny ones you get at elementary school. As he was caught up looking at everything, he bumped straight into a much larger guy. He looked up, convinced that he was going to get punched in the face. The sights of him lying on the ground with blood gushing out of his nose were constantly running through his head. The bigger kid looked down at him. His face was started to turn an angry red and he said in a deep voice. “Watch it niner.”

 

“I’m s..sorry..” Claude said in total fear and started walking quickly

 

“Hey wait up.” Danny said running up beside Claude. Danny seemed completely oblivious to what had just happened and seemed really focused on Claude’s schedule. Claude slowed down and started to calm down by taking deep breaths and not looking back. Danny handed him his schedule and said “Our lockers are beside each other and we have a few classes together. How great is that?”

“That’s awesome. So where are our lockers then?”

 

Danny looked at Claude and then at some of the lockers to get an idea of where they were. He saw the numbers; 131, 132, 133, etc. He knew that his locker was 214. “Maybe they’re upstairs. All these numbers seem to be in the one hundreds.” They walked up the stairs and down a long hallway that seemed like it would never end. They turned a corner and started to see more people they knew. They saw their lockers and figured that this must be the hallway for all the grade nine’s lockers. They put their stuff in their lockers and Claude let out a sigh of relief knowing that all of the kids around him were probably feeling the same way he was.

 

Claude and Danny put their bags away in their lockers. The lockers were gigantic in comparison to the tiny lockers they used in elementary school. These lockers had two shelves which was more room than any students needs but Claude was glad because he never had enough room in his old locker. He put his empty binders into the locker, which still looked empty but he knew he’d be getting a lot of textbooks. The workload of high school didn’t scare Claude. He was used to a lot of work and handled it very well. Claude was more scared of the bullies and that was all that was on his mind. He couldn’t stop thinking about the incident earlier when he bumped into the bigger kid. Danny surprised him when he said “Should we just hang out here for a bit then?” Claude looked at Danny and said,

“Oh yea let’s do that. I don’t really want to go back into any other hallways. I think this one is nice.”

“Alright man. So we have Gym first or what?” Danny fumbled with his schedule to see what his first class was then nodded, “Yea we have Gym. What sport do you think we’ll do?”

 

“I’m not sure. Probably not anything too much since no one will have anything to change into.” Claude thought about what sports they could play and then it hit him. Dodge ball. In every high school movie he’d ever watched, the small grade nine kids always got picked on in Dodge ball by the giants from twelfth grade. The thoughts of getting pelted in the face by the senior he ran into earlier were terrifying and it was a good thing Danny was not paying attention because Claude was shaking a little bit. Claude tried to stop himself and finally did. Danny looked up at Claude then down the hallway. He smiled,

 

“Hey look it’s all the rest of the guys.” Danny walked towards them and Claude smiled for the first time since being in this building and walked towards them. Danny did most of the talking as usual but Claude looked at his other friends, observing their faces. They all seemed fairly calm but maybe that was just because they were in the safe hallway. He found out that a few of them were also in his Gym class. One kid, named Scott knew where the gym was since his brother had attended this high school and told him where it was so they all followed Scott towards the gym. As Danny and Scott opened the door to the gym and Claude stepped in, he saw the big senior with a few of his friends standing in there talking to the gym teacher. He stared in the direction of those seniors and he felt chills go down his spine.

 

Claude and Danny went and sat down on the bleachers next to a bunch of other guys that were in their class. Claude knew some of them but never really talked to them so he stayed quiet and started to look around. The smell of the freshly polished floor was very noticeable since he had walked in the door. It was so shiny and made him wonder why the school would want it so shiny if it was just going to get all marked up. He saw how big the bleachers really were and figured how many people must come to all the basketball and volleyball games. He looked a little more left and saw a giant hawk on the wall with eyes that looked right at you no matter where you were in the gym. He knew that the mascot of his new school was a hawk. The walls were littered with lines of red and black so Claude figured that those were his new school colours. His eyes kept moving to the left and they came across the scoreboard that was on. It made a surprisingly loud buzzer sound that made him jump but it was quickly turned off by one of the seniors. Claude wondered why the scoreboard was on and it gave him hope that maybe they were playing something else that wasn’t dodge ball. The gym teacher turned and started to talk about what he expected of everyone. The gym teacher had a booming voice that you could hear from across the gym. He saw one of the equipment room doors open behind the teacher and started to look in there. He saw hockey nets piled in the corner, basketballs piled up in a basket and then he saw what he didn’t want to see. Beside the open door were 5 volleyballs. They had red and black stripes just like the wall and they looked very firm, like they were freshly filled with air. Fear had filled his mind again. He looked back at the gym teacher who was surprisingly still talking and started to listen.

 

The big senior was standing next to the teacher and he had noticed Claude. He started to stare at him. Claude tried not to look back but he couldn’t help it. The senior had an intimidating smile on his face and Claude knew that he was going to be a target for this kid. The other kids started to move off the bleachers and move towards the outer walls of the gym. Claude followed Danny and whispered,

“Hey what are we doing?” Danny looked at Claude. He could see the fear in Danny’s eyes for the first time today and that made Claude even more scared.

“Dodge ball. Us against the seniors.” When Claude heard this, he looked over at the seniors lining up on the wall. All of them were huge. Not even one of the ninth graders came anywhere close to their size. The teacher lined the volleyballs up along the center of the gym, which had an enormous hawk in the middle. The floor was a dull brown colour with a few lines going through it for the various sports that were played. He looked back up at the seniors and the whistle blew to begin the game.

Claude started to run towards the balls in the middle and then stopped because he realized he was the only one. The seniors had grabbed all the balls and looked at Claude and his team. They all backed up right against the wall as the balls were pelted at them. Claude managed to dodge them all but some of his friends weren’t so lucky and were hit. He looked up to see the big senior from before. He had a ball and he was winding up right at Claude. This was his worst fear and Claude dove out of the way and onto the floor. He looked down at the floor trying to decide if he wanted to just stay there but that wasn’t Claude. He pushed himself back up and looked around at this team. It was just he and Danny left. He grabbed the ball that was thrown at him and used it for a shield. He threw one to Danny as well and Danny followed suit. There were only two seniors left which wasn’t surprising since there was only five in the class. He saw Danny race up to the line and throw the ball and it hit one of them. Danny turned and ran back towards Claude to celebrate. The big senior grabbed a ball and hit Danny right in the back of the head. Danny dropped to the shiny floor but just as he did, Claude realized how vulnerable the senior would be and threw his ball on pure instinct. He nailed the senior and raised his arms in victory. All of the ninth graders started to cheer and Danny gave Claude a huge pat on the back. The senior looked at Claude with anger in his eyes and Claude started to regret what he had just done but he was so proud of what he had just done at the same time.

 

The gym teacher came out onto the court and got the seniors to put all the balls away. The big senior was walking around the outside of the gym and he did not look happy. The gym teacher yelled out to him,

 

“Hey Marc, Help out would you?” He looked up and walked into the equipment room to help out. Claude was just standing around with the other ninth graders and he had just learned the seniors’ name. He intended to stay away from him the rest of the day and maybe even the rest of the year if possible. He saw all the seniors come out of the equipment room and decided to go in. All the other ninth graders were distracted by something the seniors were doing so he decided to slip away. He wanted to see how much better the equipment was then what he was used to back at elementary school. He turned the corner into the room and started to look around. He heard the quiet clicking noise of the door shutting. Claude turned around to see Marc standing over him. He towered over Claude and Claude looked up at him.

“Oh hey.. G..good game out there.” Claude said as his voice trembled.

 

“No. It wasn’t a good game! You made me look like an idiot! Who do you think you are?”

 

“I.. I’m sorry. I was just trying to win like everyone else..”

 

“I hope you know what you’ve done.” Marc looked at Claude with wide eyes.

 

“N..No.. I don’t..” Claude’s eyes did not leave Marc’s the whole time.

“Then come behind the school after the bell and you’ll find out..” Marc opened the door behind him and walked out, leaving looked standing in the equipment room. Claude’s fear had returned and as he looked down, he found his hands shaking uncontrollably. Claude leaned against the door and closed his eyes. He didn’t let himself cry and made himself stop shaking the best he could. He took a few deep breaths and gathered himself. He opened his eyes and turned around. He left the equipment room and went back over to Danny and his friends. Claude didn’t mention it at all to Danny because he didn’t want to drag Danny into this too. This was Claude’s’ problem and he did not have a good feeling about it.

Claude walked out of the gym with Danny to go back to their lockers. It seemed as if the fear that Danny had before the dodge ball game had disappeared and he was back to his talkative and excited state. Claude gave a nod and said ‘yea’ every now and then to make Danny think he was listening. However, Claude was much more concerned about Marc. He wondered why Marc wanted to meet him after school. What did he want? Is he just going to beat me up for winning? Why did it have to be Claude? Why not someone else? Claude had no answers for these questions and he wouldn’t until he went to go meet Marc. Danny and Claude had made it to their lockers. They opened them and grabbed the books they needed for their next class. Claude had Science and Danny had Math so Danny put his books under his arm and looked at Claude who was still looking for the right binder.

 

“I’ll see you later man. I’m gonna go see if I can find the Math rooms.” Claude nodded to Danny and pulled a binder down into his arms.

 

“Alright. See you later then.” Claude gave a little wave and shut his locker. He knew his next class was in room 210.Luckily for Claude, it was directly across the hallway from his locker. He walked straight ahead and into the room. He picked a seat near the back so that he could keep an eye on everyone. Claude was so on edge that he couldn’t stand having anyone behind him. He sat down and put his head down on his desk as everyone started to come into the room. He stared at the markings and writing on the desks. One of them read: “Niners suck! Better watch out cause we’ll make you pay!”

 

Claude looked at it and wished that he’d saw that before he went to gym class because he would have purposely lost to Marc so that he wouldn’t be in this situation. Through his whole Science class while the teacher talked. All that went through Claude’s head was images of what could happen after school. Maybe he would shake Claude’s hand and tell him that he was really brave and courageous but Claude laughed a bit in his head and thought that was so doubtful. He mostly thought to himself that he was going to have a broken bone or two and Danny would end up having to help him get home. The rest of Claude’s classes went the exact same way as his Science class. He spent them constantly thinking of what he feared most. Marc. He went to his locker after the final bell of the day and put his binders into it. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His heart started pounding and it wouldn’t stop. He pulled his backpack onto his shoulders and Danny showed up beside him.

 

“Hey you ready to go?” He quickly put his books away and grabbed his bag. Claude looked down at Danny with more fear in his eyes then he had felt all day.

“Are you alright man? You look scared as hell.” Danny said as he noticed.

“I am… M..Marc told me to meet him behind the school after class.” Danny’s mouth dropped open and he started to feel Claude’s fear.

“Wow.. Well I guess we have to go then. He’ll find us if we don’t.” Claude nodded at Danny and felt a bit better that Danny would be with him. Of course that wouldn’t do much but it meant a lot to Claude that Danny would be there. They walked out the back doors of the school to see Marc standing off in a patch of pavement that looked like it used to be a basketball court. A few of the seniors that were in the gym earlier were also with Marc. Claude’s legs felt like they had fifty pound weights on them but Danny and him slowly made their way towards Marc and the others.

 

         Marc had noticed them and stared both of the boys down with cold eyes as Claude and Danny slowly walked towards him. The boys stayed close to each other to make themselves feel bigger. They reached the edge of the pavement and both stopped. There was a silence. There was a distant noise of talking and laughter from the other side of the school but the building blocked most of it. Marc just stared at the two boys. Even the few seniors behind him were quiet. Claude looked up at Marc and decided to speak first.

 

“Why are we here?” He said, trying to sound as confident as possible. Marc looked back at his friends and made a face that neither of the boys saw. He turned back around with the same look he had on before. He looked down at Claude.

 

“Because you think you’re a big shot when all you really are is a niner that is gonna get his ass kicked. You don’t come in here the first day and beat the seniors in dodge ball.” Marc looked at Claude angrily and you could see the pure rage in his eyes. Claude was frozen in his place. He couldn’t move. All he could do was at least try to defend himself and make it so that his best friend and him didn’t get beat up.

 

“I was just trying my best.. I couldn’t just let you win. Come on let this go I promise I won’t do it again.. Don’t beat us up.” Claude said as Danny stood next to him, starting to get scared. He had never seen Claude scared enough to beg before but he was now. Marc didn’t respond right away and instead turned around again to his friends. They were obviously saying something to each other but Claude couldn’t understand and neither could Danny. He turned around again but this time he was laughing. Claude looked at Danny with a confused look. Marc pointed at Claude.

“Are you actually begging me right now? You’re that scared that we’re gonna kick your asses and leave you behind the school?” The two boys looked at each other then back at Marc and nodded slowly. As they nodded, it just made Marc laugh even more.

“God.. I love being a senior. I can’t believe this actually worked on you two.” Claude realized that all of Marc’s friends were laughing too. He felt all of the tension that had been around all day, suddenly float off into the air. Claude had no idea what was going on and he nudged Danny but Danny had no idea either.

 

Marc laughed and came over to the two boys. He smiled down at Claude. Claude hadn’t seen his smile all day but Claude was still scared because he was clueless right now. Marc’s friends had stopped laughing and had begun walking away. Marc stayed in front of Claude and Danny.

 

“You guys don’t have older brothers or anything that went to this school?” Claude and Danny shook their heads. Claude was an only child and Danny had a younger sister. This made Marc smile more. “Wow this was perfect then. I picked the perfect two guys to play this prank on.” Marc was seemed very proud of himself. Claude was angry that this whole thing was a prank and he’d just wasted his whole day being terrified but he was also happy because he wouldn’t be getting beat up today.

“So this was all just a prank? Does this happen every year or did you just do it to us?” Claude asked, wanting to figure out more about what was going on.

“Yea it was a prank. I don’t know if it happens every year. Just something the boys and I came up with. We didn’t really think it would work but you guys were scared out of your minds!” He laughed and continued to boast about his prank. “They banned the real initiation when I was a niner so we’ve started to pull pranks on the niners instead of actual initiation. Now you can do it when you’re a senior.” He said. Claude thought to himself that he would never do anything like this to anyone. Marc offered Claude a handshake. Claude took it and then Marc offered the same thing to Danny.

 

“I am really sorry guys. We thought it’d be funny and you guys took it really well but hey if you guys ever need something, don’t be afraid to ask me. I honestly won’t beat you up.”

 

“Thanks we guess?” Claude said not knowing what to really say.

 

“See you around!” Marc said and turned, running after his friends. Claude looked at Danny. They didn’t say anything to each other and started walking home. They both felt like total idiots but once they turned onto Danny’s street where Claude had met Danny that morning, Danny turned to Claude and said,

“It was kinda funny I guess.” Claude laughed and gave Danny a light punch on the shoulder.

“Yea but we’re not gonna talk about this again. We’ll just leave it like this.” Danny nodded in agreement and walked up to his house “See you tomorrow Claude!” Claude waived and continued home.

 

Claude always remembered his first day of high school. It was turning out to be one of the worst days of his life but actually turned out to be a bit funny. Claude even started to love his school even though he thought that he never would when he was sitting in that gym. Claude and Danny never said a word about what had happened. Marc surprisingly didn’t either and for the rest of Claude’s freshman year, Marc was one of his good friends. When they played dodge ball in gym class, Marc and Claude were almost unstoppable together. Sometimes things can’t get worse but they can always get better and Claude never forgot that.

 

 

 

 

The Man at the Window by Rinor Berisha

abstract-art-explainedThe rain gently fell into the dirty railed windows of Jaime’s classroom. The sound of slight scribbles echoed in the quiet room as all the students were viciously writing on their test papers. Mrs.Northrich, a middle aged elementary teacher, was silently browsing a news site while waiting for the first student to finish their test. A pencil hit the ground, and the sound of footsteps followed. Daniel eagerly raced towards Mrs.Northrich’s desk and placed his finished test onto the test basket.

“Did you double-check your answers?” asked Mrs. Northrich with a slight sigh.

“Y-yes miss!” stuttered Daniel.

“Alright then, go back to your seat,” replied Mrs.Northrich, not giving even a glance.

And he wonders why his lunch money is missing everyday, thought Jaime. She continued slowly writing down her test answers, questions she’d seen before, questions she hadn’t. Two times five, she thought. Two fives, five twos, who cares? She writes down the answer, and looks at the next question. Minutes pass, and she finally writes down her last answer. Fifty-five, no more, no less. She perked her head up, and she looked around the classroom. Most of the students had already finished, creating a quiet droning sound of chatter. She gets up and goes to Mrs.Northrich’s desk to hand in her paper. The teacher makes no movements, almost like she didn’t notice the little girl slide her test onto the pile. Jaime walked back to her seat and sat down, and looked behind her. Alvin, her friend, was still writing his test. He also didn’t look like he was almost done, either.

“Hurry up!” whispered Jaime. “You’re going to run out of time!”

Alvin started writing faster. Suddenly, he paused. He looked at Jaime with wide eyes, pleading for help.

“Four times seven!” whispered Alvin eagerly.

“It’s just four sevens! Count it out.” Jaime replied hastily. Suddenly, she looked to her left and noticed Daniel looking at her while walking towards Mrs.Northrich. Daniel grabbed Mrs.Northrichs attention and pointed towards Jaime. Oh, what an idiot, she thought. Mrs.Northrich nodded at Daniel and sent him back to his seat. He sat down with a smug look on his face, and slight anticipation for something to come. Five minutes remained, and Jaime just sat and waited for the bell to ring.

“Jaime, Alvin, please stay after the bell rings,” echoed Mrs.Northrich in a monotone voice.

The sound of scurrying feet and dragging chair legs drowned the bell as the students hurried their way out of the classroom. All but Jaime and Alvin left. Mrs.Northrich remained silent, staring at her computer screen. Her big nose twitched as she adjusted her glasses. Her skeletal hands moved the mouse slightly to the right, clicked once, and let out a nasally sigh.

“Someone told me you two were talking during the test.” she said. “You know you aren’t allowed to talk during a test.”

Alvin and Jaime made no sound. They stared at Mrs.Northrich, like a deer caught in headlights. Mrs.Northrich’s bland but fearful glare persisted, trying to make one of them move in discomfort. But Jaime remained strong, staring right back. The tick of the clock was heard as the room took on an eerie silence.

“I wasn’t talking to Alvin,” blurted out Jaime, breaking the tense quietness.

“Then who were you talking to?” quickly replied Mrs.Northrich.

Jaime stopped for a second to think.

“To myself,” she replied.

Mrs.Northrich took a deep breath, usually a sign that she isn’t too happy. Jaime remained quiet, still looking at Mrs.Northrich.

“And now you lie to a teacher?” asked Mrs.Northrich. She started irritably tapping her pen on her desk.

“No, no, no, this won’t do. You missy are going to report to the principals office NOW!” she exclaimed.

“You have no proof!” rebutted Jaime.

Mrs.Norchrich gave Jaime the most menacing, heinous glare she had ever given anyone in her whole years of teaching.

“I don’t need proof,” said Mrs.Northrich with clenched teeth, slowly bending her pen.

Her pen started to crack, but she didn’t notice. It then exploded, sending ink all over her desk, papers and clothes. Her nose wrinkled in anger, her eyes had widened to two times their size. She slammed her fist against her desk.

“NOW!!!” she yelled at the top of her voice. “NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!”

Alvin and Jaime leaped off their seats and sprinted out of the classroom, and made their way to Mr.Ward’s office.

Both children sat quietly on their chairs as they waited for Mr.Ward to settle all his papers. After the final stack was placed where it needed to be, Mr.Ward quietly put his hands together and looked at the two children. His face was dull, boring, and bald. He had quite large shoulders, but also a slightly large belly. He always wore a full suit, and carried around a suitcase. He reminded Jaime of a businessman.

“I heard from Mrs.Northrich you two were not behaving today,” he blandly stated.

The two remained quiet. Mr.Ward looked at both of them before he spoke.

“Cheating on a test is one thing, but you also had the idea that you can talk back to a teacher,” said Mr.Ward. “Inconceivable!”

“But I jus-”

“Here we go again!” interrupted Mr.Ward. “What did I just say!”

He began to angrily scribble down something on his notes.

“Detention for the both of you!” he said. “I think you know when and where.”

“Yes, sir,” both children replied in unison.

“You may leave now,” he said.

Both Jaime and Alvin stood up and pushed their chairs in, and left for their next class.

***

            Jaime opened her front door slowly, afraid of what was to come. She looked inside. Both her parents were standing there, waiting. They both had their arms crossed, and they didn’t look happy.

“We received a call from the school today,” said her father, initiating the imminent conversation.

“We are not very happy,” said her mother.

“All I did was help Alvi-” replied Jaime before she was interrupted.

“But that was against the rules!” exclaimed her father. “You also were acting VERY rude to all your teachers!”

“We have to take this to counseling!” exclaimed her mother. “Maybe we should start with that medication the doctor recommended!”

“NO!” shouted Jaime. She ran up to her room, with tears forming in her eyes. She slammed the door, and jumped on her bed. Minutes past, and Jaime just took her book and read for the rest of the night.

The final bell rang, and all the children sped out of their classrooms and on their way home. Everyone but Jaime and Alvin, that is. They instead made their way to the detention room. Room 308. They entered the room, and sat down at a desk. A teacher they didn’t know sat in the front of the room, reading the newspaper. The teacher said nothing, not even acknowledging the fact that they were there.

Minutes past on the clock, and Jaime was becoming restless. Still thirty more minutes until 4:45. The teacher still remained at his desk, hardly moving since the detention started. Suddenly, he put his newspaper away, and looked at the kids over his rimmed glasses.

“I’m going to go make a pot of coffee,” he said. “Do not move.”

He stared at them for a few seconds before he got up and left the room. The door snapped shut, and the footsteps became quieter. Suddenly, Alvin stood up.

“Let’s have a look around!” he said.

“No!” exclaimed Jaime. “We’ll get into much more trouble!”

“Only if we get caught,” he replied.

Alvin started looking through the desks for any valuables, but Jaime remained at her seat. She started getting restless again. Oh, It won’t hurt to just have a little stretch, she thought. She stood up and wandered around the room. What a boring room it was. Old wooden desks, fogged tinted windows. The lights were sometimes flickering, creating a sort of creepy effect. This room seemed much older than the others, she thought. There were a lot of old wooden shelves and closets near the back.

“How curious,” quietly muttered Jaime as she noticed an oddly placed floor tile. She stepped closer to it. She bent down, and moved it a little. It budged, but it was heavy.

“What’s that you’re looking at?” asked Alvin.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

Alvin took a closer look at it.

“Let’s lift it, I think its a trap door!”

They both took each side, and lifted the big tile. It made a small opening, but big enough for them to fit. They both looked down, but it was all black.

“I wonder what’s down there,” said Jaime.

“Let’s find out!” exclaimed Alvin.

He quickly put his feet in first, and slid down the hole. Suddenly, he was gone.

“ALVIN!” shouted Jaime. No answer. Suddenly, she heard footsteps again, the teacher    was coming back!

She hurried back to her seat, forgetting about the open hole. The teacher walked in, and looked around.

“Wheres the other one,” he said.

“I…I don’t know he left,” Jaime said quickly. She looked back, and the hole was covered. I guess he covered the hole himself, she thought. The teacher let out a big sigh, and wrote something on a slip of paper. He then sat down, and Jaime waited the rest of the detention.

***

It was the next afternoon, almost time to go home again. Jaime was very worried, Alvin wasn’t seen all day. She wondered if he was trapped down that hole, how horrible that would be. But she thought, if he could close it, he could open it. The bell rang, and Jaime left the classroom, and made her way to the old detention room. She looked inside, no one was there. She opened the unlocked door, and entered. Quick as a rabbit she ran to the tile, and used all her strength to lift it.

“ALVIN!” she cried.

No reply.

“Are you down there!?” she shouted again.

Still no reply. She looked at the hole for a few seconds, and then decided to just go inside. She put her feet in first, and suddenly, she felt light headed. The world started to go dark, and she passed out.

A strange looking face was peering down at Jaime. Oval eyes, pointed ears. Her hair was wavy and white, all over the place but neat.

“Hello,” it said.

Jaime looked around. She was in a beautiful white room, filled with elegant furniture and a bed. A tall pale looking woman was standing next to her. There were children at the end of her bed, looking curiously at her.

“Where am I?” she asked anxiously.

“A room,” replied the woman.

“Who are you!?” asked Jaime frantically, now getting frustrated.

“We are the children,” one of the kids replied.

“Who?” she asked again.

“The children!” another one said.

Jaime quickly threw off the bed covers and ran to the door. She opened it, and outside she say a small village; little houses with gravel pathways, a fountain in the middle. There was a small park with swings and a slide, and trees surrounding the entire village. She started panicking, and then teared up. All the children from the house ran outside.

“What’s wrong?” one of them asked.

Jaime looked up.

“I have no idea what’s going on!” she replied, still sobbing. “I just passed out, and now I’m here!”

The children remained quiet. Suddenly, the woman with the pointy ears walked out of the house.

“You are in another world,” she said. “City.”

Jaime looked at her.

“City?” she said, through her sobs.

“Yes. You came here just like the rest of the children.”

Jaime looked around. She looked at all the faces of the children, they looked about her age. She then remembered Alvin.

“Where’s Alvin?” she asked.

“Ah,” replied the strange woman. “He did come here but…”

“But what?” quickly asked Jaime.

“He was taken.”

“Taken by what!?”

“The Parents,” said the strange woman.

Jaime remained silent, looking at the woman.

“The Parents live in the City,” she said. And then she pointed in a direction. Jaime looked over, and saw an enormous building. She wondered how she did not see it before, it looked like it touched the sky. The building seemed to bend a little bit, curving towards her. The more she looked at it, the more it started to curve.

“Stop!” exclaimed the woman. “Do not look there for too long.”

“What are Parents?” asked Jaime.

“They’re the minions of the Man,” replied the woman. “The Man at the Window.”

Jaime stood there, thinking about all that has been said. She then remembered Alvin.

“Where did Alvin go?” she asked.

“He was taken,” she replied. “Into the City.”

“Well get him back!” she cried out.

“I cannot go near the City, and neither can the kids,” she replied. “The only person is you.”

Jaime thought about it for a moment.

“Ok I’ll go!” she said.

“Then we will rest for tonight, and prepare tomorrow morning.”

All the children went back to their houses as the sun was setting. Jaime thought about what would happen. She was very confused, and still in shock. It was a hard sleepless night, with a little sobbing throughout, but she finally fell asleep.

It was the morning. Jaime, the children, and the strange woman were walking towards the City. They walked for what seemed like a long time, but the sun was still in the far east. They finally arrived. There was a big, grey wall with a giant gate. The wall went on forever, going around the city limits. The big building was even more visible than before, with other buildings there too.

“You must go alone now,” said the woman. “Take this with you.”

She handed Jaime a red balloon.

“What’s this going to do?” asked Jaime, slightly annoyed.

“Pop it when you find Alvin,” she said. “Now go! The door will close soon!”

Jaime looked at the wall. The gates started slowly closing, creating a loud creaking sound.

“Go!” cried out the strange woman.

Jaime sprinted all the way down the path to the gate, reaching it before it was even halfway closed. Suddenly, everything was grey. The road, the sidewalk, the buildings. she looked behind her, she couldn’t see the woman or the kids, it was like a fog was on the boundaries of the City. She looked around again. No one was here. There was an eerie silence about.

“Hello?” cried out Jaime.

No response. She started slowly walking forward, tightly gripping the balloon in her hand. She kept walking and walking, going through street after street. The streets had no names, and the constant greyness made Jaime become lost. It was like going through an impossible maze. Hours past, and Jaime became very, very tired. She sat on the nearest bench, and started weeping. She then heard a siren.

“Oh..” whimpered Jaime.

She started to get scared, and ran to a nearby stone monument and hit behind it. Suddenly, the doors from the buildings across the street burst open. A grotesque figure stepped out. A Parent, she thought. The monster had pointed hands and feet, and an ugly disfigured face. Two rows of evenly sharp teeth formed a menacing grin. Its eyes were black and triangular. Jaime let out a whimper. The thing start moving in an unnatural way, walking down the street. It made no sound at all, not even its footsteps on the ground. Suddenly more and more of these things piled out of the buildings. Jaime looked to her right, and saw a Parent looking right at her.

The Parent opened its mouth, and let out a high pitched screech. Jaime screamed, covered her ears and ran as fast as she could. All the surrounding Parents turned at the same time and sprinted after her, like a group of crazed spiders. They were gaining on her, when a hand shot out of the ground and grabbed her leg, tripping her. She looked over, and a sewer lid was open. The Parents were seconds away from catching up, so she had no choice but to jump into the dark hole.

She climbed down the ladder, hoping that whoever took her down here was a friend. They finally reached the bottom, and a light started to shine. She looked at the face, and it was

Alvin!

“Alvin!” she cried.

“Jaime!” he replied back. The two hugged, then quickly stopped, feeling a bit embarrassed.

“What is going on!?” asked Jaime frantically. “What are those things!?”

“Parents!” replied Alvin. “I…I don’t really know what they are.”

The two stood quiet for some time, still both in shock.

“Who… Who is the Man at the Window?” asked Jaime slowly.

“I don’t really know either, just… I think he controls those things, the Parents,” replied Alvin.

“Oh… the balloon!” cried out Jaime. She still had the balloon in a death grip, even from jumping down the sewer hole. She then remembered what the strange woman said.

“Hold on to me!” she told Alvin.

“What?” he asked.

“Just do it!”

She grabbed his arm, and then when and bit the balloon with her teeth. It popped, and suddenly she felt very light. She then began to pick up speed, going up into the air. She and Alvin went up the ladder, and smashed through the pothole lid (hurting their heads a bit) and all the way up into the sky. As they were going up, Jaime looked at the giant building. It curved faster than before, and eventually It was like Jaime was right next to it. She could see the Man. He had a balding head, wore a suit, and had glasses. But she noticed something else too; he had no face. She closed her eyes, and they drifted all the way back to the village.

They made it on the ground, and the children with the strange women all ran up to greet them.

“You did it!” cried out the strange woman. “You brought him back!”

All the children started cheering.

Suddenly, the strange woman’s face turned into a large frown.

“But all is not well here. The Parents are going to attack,” she said. “They are going to kill everyone.”

Jaime and Alvin stood there saying nothing.

“We need your help, we need all the help we can get!” she said. “But there is the portal back to your world. You can stay or you can go.”

The woman pointed to a glowing hole in the dirt. Jaime and Alvin both looked at it, then looked at the strange woman.

“We need to defeat the Man, or he will take us all and turn us all into Parents,” said the woman.

“Sorry,” said Jaime.

The woman started to cry. Jaime grabbed Alvin and jumped into the portal, and they both blacked out.

Jaime ended up in her room. A knock was heard on the door. She flinched, still scared from the experience. The door opened, and her parents came in.

“Here are the medications, Jaime,” said her mother.

“We have to start taking them now,” said her father.

They placed the glass of water and medication bottle on her desk, and left the room. Jaime took the bottle, opened it, and swallowed a pill.

A Model Mother by Haley Price

chic_bridal_makeup

            A burgundy sun dances slowly across the horizon to the constant humming of street lights springing to life.  All the while the sun is maneuvering among an entourage of stalwart purple guardians vigorously protecting the last few moments of daylight.  A time of day for most that means the relaxing end to a stressful day, often involving dinner with ones closest family and friends.  However for Diana the dinner orchestra of pot lids embracing their stainless steel companions and the constant drum of knife blades on the cutting board is a source of great anxiety and tension.  Like most fourteen year old girls Diana has to endure a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to the feminine ideal of beauty.  A task in itself that any woman can say is a struggle at best, but for Diana it is a nightmare as she has the added pressure of being the daughter of a former fashion model.  This pressure combined with Diana’s innate teenage desire to spar with her parents has resulted in the past with some rather spirited battles between herself and her mother over how she looks, and the types of clothes she prefers to wear.

The primary source of the tension between Diana and her mother Jessica comes from her mother’s constant droning over how pretty Diana is and how she should wear more flashy clothing to show off her figure.  However it is hard for Diana to accept these comments as genuine, firstly because as a teenager is there any compliment a parent can give their child that isn’t a backhanded comment in order to get them to behave in a more idealized manner, and secondly because the woman trying tell her how beautiful she is just happens to be a blonde five foot and eleven inch natural beauty for whom time seems to have forgotten.  Unbeknown to Diana on this late August evening is that her mother knows exactly the types of pressure she is facing from her friends at school, and it is in fact the woman who Diana believes couldn’t understand her in the least that will turn out to understand her the most.

As the sun finally sets in the backdrop of their Victorian style townhouse located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Diana and her mother sit down for a late Sunday dinner of roast beef with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  The weekly family tradition of over cooked beef and generic conversation is broken today.  Not because Diana’s mothers cooking classes were suddenly paying dividends, but because the last weekend of August marked her Father Chris’s annual tech conference in Denver, Colorado; which means that the conversation tonight would Jessica’s chance to have real women’s talk with her daughter.  Tonight, because her father is not there Diana is given the privilege of sitting at the head of the glass and metallic family dining table.  Although to Diana it feel less like a privilege and more of a punishment as it forces her to participate more actively in the uncomfortable dinner conversion for fear of being will out of existed by her mother’s judgemental stare.  As uncomfortable as the daily dinner conversation made Diana feel tonight’s would be infinitely worse as tonight her mother would be confronting her with the fact that she knows Diana has an eating disorder.  It would be after this evening’s routine of food shuffling and unwanted conversation that Diana’s future health would be determined.

Quarter after nine in the evening on a cool and dry August Sunday Diana and her mother Jessica finally sit down enjoy the roast beef dinner that had been in preparation for the last 2 hours.  After taking several moments to delicately choose the smallest piece of meat with least amount of fat and getting a perfectly adequate spoonful of mixed vegetables Diana slowly wandered her way over to her father’s throne.  As she sat down and felt the cool metallic chair through her light summer clothing Diana couldn’t help but hope that her mother wasn’t in a chatty mood as she had a tendency to drone on about meaningless meetings with obnoxious clients, which is was a seemingly redundant description as Diana assumed the clientele of a Ferrari dealership would all be obnoxious corporate elites.  Tonight however Jessica’s focus of conversation would be on some of the disturbing habits of her daughter’s that she had noticed.  Behaviours that she recognised as warning signs to bulimia, an issue with which she herself was well acquainted with having made a name for herself in the modelling industry.  After having been seated for several minutes and failing to find an easy way to bring up the warning signs she had noticed Jessica finally came out and just said, “I have been really worried about you lately Diana. I’ve noticed you haven’t been sharing as much lately with me or your father, and you have been spending a lot more time alone in your room.”  Diana replied quickly in a snarky tone, “Why would that worry you? It’s the end of summer what exactly should I be doing with time?”   Jessica quickly realised that it would be more difficult than simply getting Diana to openly admit to what was bothering her lately and how it was affecting her, so she instead remembered back to when she was working through many of these issues for herself early in her modelling career at the age of sixteen and how she recorded it in her Diary.  A Diary that she kept till this day tucked away subtly into the bottom drawer of her Oak three drawer nightstand underneath a copy of the first fashion magazine she ever appeared in.  Not that anyone else would know that she appeared in this magazine as it was merely a two by two inch picture of a pair of well-groomed feet wearing a pair of out dated Velcro sandals, and sporting some out dated neon green nail polish.

Instead of trying to win a verbal game of chess all the while preserving the fragile self-esteem of her young teenage daughter Jessica instead decided to that it would be better to let the teenage version of herself share her experience with bulimia with her daughter.  Jessica looked up and locked eyes with her hazel eyed daughter and said “I know that you think I can’t possibly understand what it means to be a teenager because it was so long ago that I was one, but I want to share with you my diary from when I was a teenager.  You can skip over the parts of it where I talk about wanting to marry Jason Priestly and focus on the last half of it.  I want you to do this as a favor to me, and if after you read it you want to talk to me about it then we can, or if you don’t want to talk about it we don’t have to do that either.”  With a confused look on her faced, as if her mother had just spoken to her in a foreign language Diana replied, “Okay I guess”.

After finishing putting away the leftovers from dinner into the fridge portion of the fridge freezer combo appliance; Jessica looked over at Diana who was putting the dishes from dinner into the dishwasher and told her where the diary could be found.  With her back still facing her mother, and in a grumpy mumble Diana replied, “Okay in your nightstand under some stuff, got it”.  Diana’s post dinner routine remained unchanged despite the conversation with her mother, as she quickly returned to her room after helping clean up the mess in the older kitchen.  Within what seemed like seconds Diana was back within the protective violet walls of her castle that were heavily decorated in movie posters, and posters of her past and present favourite musicians.  On the far corner of her dimly lit room was located her wooden desk covered and resting on top amid of a bundle of assorted old school projects and used make up was her MacBook Air.  This computer is her connection to the salvations of the outside world as well as the unrelenting criticism of her female classmates that would dare to identify themselves as friends.  The worst of these so called friends is a five foot tall chubby little blond hair and blue eyed girl named Christine who would make George Carlin look like Weird Al Yanchovich.  Christine was the epitome of class bitch and she made sure that she lived up to this reputation even during the summer break by constantly harassing Diana over the internet through Facebook and Twitter.  She would post links to online diets and exercise videos on Youtube in private messages to Diana’s all the while telling Diana that she looked good in the comments section underneath her summer photos.  Diana paused for a minute after entering her room and she looked around for something to do.  There was the t.v. in the corner, but she knew that there was nothing good on t.v. at nine forty five on a Sunday night during the summer.  Diana then looked across the room to the bookshelf beside her bed.  The bookshelf had all three of its shelves filled to the brim with books but most of them were either from her childhood, or they were her grandmother’s used crime novels and romance stories that her grandmother mistakenly thought she would want to read.  Deciding that not a single book of her more than one hundred was worth the effort of prying from the firm grasp of the book shelf she looked back to her desk in the corner and thought about going online just to see what her friends were up to.  Diana sat down on her ergonomically correct black wheelie chair and began to go through her online routine of browsing gossip magazines and checking for notifications on Facebook and Twitter.  There was no earth shattered news on the celebrity front, and it appeared that none of her friends (at least the ones she was actually interested in) had any interesting updates either.  After ten minutes of browsing through spam notifications about Facebook games and great deals on airfare Diana stumbled across a message from Christine and it read “hey ya fat bitch you want to hang out with us next weekend? we can make sure we get some candy for you”.

It was a one in a million comment that people would probably say was just a joke from Christine but to Diana it was a lot more than joke.  It was a comment that hurt her deeply and told her exactly how not only Christine, but how the other girls in Christine’s gang felt about Diana and how she looked.  Diana could feel her eyes swell up and she knew as she repeated the comment over in her head that that bitch was right she was fat, and she deserved to be made fun of she thought as she starred at herself in her full body mirror with her tear filled eyes.  It was in that moment out of the corner of her eye that she caught a glimpse of herself and her mother when she was ten years old at the county fair after her father had just won her favourite green teddy bear from a game of ring toss.  It was in this moment when her eyes locked on the face of her ten year old self that she thought back to what her mother had said at dinner, and about the diary that she assumed her mother thought contained all the secrets of the universe.

Diana took two minutes to calm down as she repeated over and over in her head “who cares what she says I hate her anyways” and wiped her teary eyes with her blue and red One Direction shirt that she had worn the day before.  Finally when she decided there was no way that her mother could possibly tell she had been upset Diana finally walked down the seemingly endless hallway, past the bathroom with its lights on and just beyond the guest room (which at this point had become a storage room for her dad’s growing collection of used broken electronics) to finally arrive at her parents room at the end of the hallway.

Jessica was sitting up waiting for her daughter to arrive as she had heard her daughter’s door click open just a moment ago.  Before Diana could even knock on the door Jessica quickly blurted out “just come in”, but Diana was already halfway in before she finished her sentence.  Diana stood shyly on one leg quickly rubbing her other foot on the back of her leg as if trying to start a fire, and quietly said “I just came to say goodnight… you know since dads not here”.  Jessica smiled in that sideways kind of smile people do when they are more glad then happy, and said “good night sweety” and handed Diana the diary before she could even ask for it.  Diana quickly replied “Oh I was just coming to say goodnight, but I guess I could take this now… anyways I’m gonna head to bed goodnight mom” and she quickly turned around and made her way back to her room.

After arriving back in her room Diana flopped onto her bed and laid there on the covers just looking at the cover of the Diary trying to decide if getting to know her teenage mother was really worth the risk.  After about thirty minutes mulling over that decision and starring at the blue light emanating from her phone charger she decided it couldn’t possibly be worse than just lying there doing nothing.  Diana opened the diary and skimmed through the pages at a pace that most people reserve for the magazines in a doctor’s office.  That is until she came across an entry titled the worst day ever, and it was dated October twenty first nineteen eighty eight.  At this point Diana stopped just aimlessly flipping through the old yellow pages of the fabric bound diary and she actually began to read.  The diary read:

“Today was horrible, me and Tessa were about to go on our typical lunch when Jeff came in and told us that Jeanie had died of complications from an eating disorder.  It doesn’t make any sense Jeanie seemed completely fine she ate like the rest of us and she looked amazing.  She was always the most popular of the girls that worked for the magazine and she had been there the longest.  She taught us all what we knew about modelling and she was just booked to do a national commercial on tv and now shes just dead.  It just doesn’t make sense she must have had some rare disease or illness.”

Diana was surprised by what she was reading.  She wondered how her mother could be so naïve and not understand what an eating disorder was.  Diana knew that everyone nowadays knows what an eating disorder is.  This entry had been enough to peak her interest though and he flipped a couple of more pages past some entries about boys and amazing movies and came across an entry titled sick of it all.  Diana continued to read this entry cautiously, she followed along each line as if reading to fast would make the words disappear.  As she read the entry she saw how her mother began to grow tired of the modelling industry.  She read as her mother talked about just wanting to be able to enjoy eating food again, and about not having to watch her friends get sick or addicted to drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the pressures of the industry.  Most of all her mother was sick of watching her friends die well before there time.

Diana stopped reading before finishing all of the gruesome details for the entry on January third nineteen ninety.  At this point she thought she had better just stop for tonight and take a break or there is no way that she would be able to get any sleep without having nightmares of skinny zombie models.  However it was this exact fear of not being able to sleep that caused Diana to toss and turn under her satin sheets.  No matter what angle she faced, or no matter how hard she closed her eyes sleep would continue to elude her.  Laying there with eyes too tired to keep open but sore from being forced closed for the past two hours Diana wondered why her mother would want her to read that horror story that was her diary.

Lying in bed unable to sleep and tired of trying to force it Diana decided that there was only one way to solve the problem and be able to sleep again and that was to finish reading the diary and not be haunted by thoughts of what could be waiting to be read in further pages.  Diana rolled over in bed flicked on the light on her nightstand and picked up the book that she had tossed on the carpet beside her bed.  She decided to skip ahead to the last entry and see what her mother’s life was like during the last time she wrote in the diary.  The last entry was surprisingly short and simply read:

“Today was amazing it was my third date Jeff and he took me to this amazing bistro, I know its crazy to think this already but I think he might be the one, and he says he says he would totally be the first customer when I open my own business.”

Diana laid there in bed completely stunned at how much of a one eighty her mother had pulled between the last two entries that she had read.  She thought to herself what the hell her mother’s point could have been in making her read the diary.  Completely confused and dumbfounded Diana laid there in bed with a new found solace that her mother’s diary had ended on happier terms then it began, but she still struggled to understand the point of it.  The next morning, after a short and not at all restful night’s sleep Diana came into the kitchen to see her mother sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a coffee.  Before even saying good morning, or thinking about getting something to eat Diana glared at her mother and in a loud voice said, “What the hell was the point of your diary! It was so f’ed up, and then it just ends!”  In a completely calm manner Jessica set down her spoon and looked lovingly up and Diana and said “The point is that I noticed how you weren’t really eating lately and you were spending a lot of time looking at yourself in the mirror like it was a different person looking back.  I know how it feels to be a teenage girl and I know how it feels to have people tell you that you aren’t pretty or that you aren’t thin enough, but I wanted you to know that even if you go down the wrong path like I did that you can get help and there will always be people that will love you and support you.  It might not seem like it now, but the mountains it feels like you’re climbing right now will be mole hills in just a few short years and there will be someone at the end who will love you for who you are.”  Diana didn’t know it at the time as she felt like her mother had just been watching too many made for t.v. movies on the Hallmark channel, but in her final year of high school she met a new student named Todd who transferred from Spain and would turn out to be her soul mate.