Categories
Creative Writing

I Was Told in a Dream

I was told in a dream that “the best ideas

Come to us when we need them most.” 

If that’s the case then why is my mind, once a hub

Of inspiration and imagination, dulled down to

Nothing?

I have to force the words out of my finger tips,

Find a meaning in the fruitless venture of

Scribbling every thought that comes to mind before

It clogs up the gears. Sticky notes of all shapes,

Colors, and sizes cover the blue cinder block

Wall in front of me as a desperate cry for 

Something to make sense. Anything.

“Read more – that’s what you need to do.”

Books cover every empty shelf and space in 

My bedroom. One day, I will read them all, but

For now I lie on the once white carpet and stare 

At the towering shelves to see what I could’ve become

Had I worked as hard as I told myself I would.

Every day is a fight with my mind, over the same grueling

Topics that I should be able to defend.

“You were so confident before.”

It’s hard to feel the same way now as each click of the keys

Is a reminder to the times that it wasn’t painful

To brainstorm what to write.

“What happened to you?”

I don’t know. Next question.

“You are a quitter.”

That’s when it’s suddenly four hours later and my stomach

Cries for the candy locked away in the cabinet. It happens more

Often than I’d like to admit – skipping time as a way to separate 

Myself from Her

She braids my hair as I sleep at night. With each pull, I feel

Desperate for relief. When I wake up, She is not there to give

Me the pain killers that would fix it all. They are hidden from me,

And I have to go to sleep with the headache I never asked 

For.

Part of me thinks that She took my creativity when coming into 

My life. Picking at it slowly like the leftovers in the fridge that

Dad wanted to eat but I couldn’t stop myself from trying. She likes

My mom more than me  – They locked the candy in the cabinet, 

with the key just out of reach next to the book I told myself

I would publish before 25.

I’ve been told that I’m blaming Her for my problems – that I 

Need to face them head on and get out of my own head

But that’s where I need to be. Sometimes, it’s the safest place

That I can find. It holds memories, secrets, and the surrealist

Reality I want to call my own. She likes it that way.

Maybe one day the vault will open and I will walk out

To the unknown. But I don’t know when that will happen,

Or if it ever will.

I continue to take the pills morning and night. One day, She will

Be gone, and I will be back. 

Free from the chains.

Free to be creative again.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Elmo Tree

The endless sea of tall green pine trees had engulfed every aspect of the horizon. With each I passed, ten replaced it. Nothing seemed to change as the forest walls became a monotonous eyesore. I shouldn’t have been so focused on the pines, but rather the destination at hand. Which itself was nothing special, but returning to the parked bright red Saturn and turning on the AC was reward enough to encourage me to continue my hike.

The trails are the only place where I feel truly alone. The occasional bird chirping and rustle in the surroundings were a comfort in the desired loneliness. I can watch as the sparrows fly just above the canopy and see their small brown bodies through the thin canopy of needles and green leaves above the path. Finally away from the speeding cars on the paved road but accompanied by the songs of the branches and forest floor.

I have been on this path numerous times. Either joined by my father or brother who always made hiking more of a chore than a passtime. Dad wouldn’t talk much, but he always liked to be ahead and spoil the surprises of what nature had to offer on our adventure. Once, he had claimed to have seen an eight point buck before us. It had disappeared into the surrounding wild before I could see – the wonder was ripped away when he was here. Going with Nick was what I could only imagine handling a toddler was like. Though older than me, he would demand to come and then complain the entire time. He wanted to drive, wanted to go down the green trail, his legs were hurting, his shoe was untied, he wanted to turn around – he wanted to do the opposite of everything I do when set out onto the trail. 

Today, however, both had been reluctant to join me. Not that I had asked, but they had seen my preparations – filling up the water bottle, tying my shoes, putting a few small snacks into my backpack along with an extra water bottle and bandaids. Nick would’ve asked to join me then, but he walked past me with nothing more than a glance before he turned his attention back to his phone. Dad barely said goodbye since his focus was on the television in front of him, watching yet another rerun of Seinfeld. 

Hiking was an activity best done alone. I could walk at my own pace, take breaks, and choose which way to go every time. It was not nearly as fun when I came with my family. If I wanted to go down the red path, Dad would say it was too long of a trail and that we needed to get back home for dinner. Nick would outright refuse until I gave in and did what he wanted. Though it wasn’t often I loved hiking alone. Especially down the red path.

It was longer than the green one, and it was a trail that led back into the other after about four miles. I had never finished the red path in full. Dad was hesitant to cross over the three-mile mark, believing that it was out of range from any cell towers. His voice echoed in my mind anytime I saw the name of the trail: What if something happens? How will someone help us?

Nick never wanted to come down this way.

I was focused on finishing this trail, the goal being to make it around the complete circuit, rather than turning around and crawling back the way I came as if I was a scared child. The mileage wasn’t a problem for me, but rather the motivation to continue walking through a path that became repetitive.

The spot that Dad always had us turn around at came up ahead. There was a large spruce tree where he would lean his arm on and say the fatal phrase: Lets head back. I did not stop this time. Before me was an environment I have never seen before. The monotony was ending, and refilling my mind with the adventurous spirit that had been lost. My heart rate was quick while passing by the turn-back-tree and stepping onto the untouched trail. My eyes flicker back and forth across the land in front of me. The trees on the surface look the same as the ones now far behind me, but these ones were special. My eyes had never settled on each of their leaves, branches, or roots before as if they had just been placed there just now. My eyes were new as I explored further, eyes tracking over each divet in the bark.

The path curved ahead and left my field of vision surrounded by the towering natural wonders. These were new trees, their leaves seemed lighter than the ones before it. There were less pines and tall spruce trees encompassed more of the space. I stopped just before the turn, and I looked in front of me between the trunks and brambles and listened.

The classic chirps of the forest were familiar. I could whistle along to the calls, clicking my tongue when the birds would finish their songs. The leaves rustled in the cool breeze which fended off the blistering sun. The sound of brambles and bushes spread throughout the forest was like a choir – the tenors following the lead of the sopranos flowing along with the soft whistle as the wind conducted. 

There was nothing as relaxing and centering as standing surrounded by the giants of nature. I took a step off of the path, facing out at the forest, and sat down against the rough exterior. Everything before me had been here long before I had. As new as it all felt I wonder how long they truly were here – tens of hundreds of years, maybe. They have been untouched by the human inspiration and were left to be the bystanders as to what happened outside of the borders of the state park. 

Far before me was nothing but the same hills and valleys of the trees. It was quiet besides the soundtrack of the forest and I realized that I couldn’t hear the sounds of the cars passing by on the road, such as the honk of an impatient driver or the screech of a break being tapped just in time. There were no other hikers, no voices lingering behind nor echoing miles ahead. The empty air was replaced with what had been here before man. The earth was untouched and left to thrive alongside the animals that called the canopies and dirt home. How was it that something could be so fresh? Somehow, this space had been spared by humanity. Nothing was man made nor resembled something that had been left behind by a lone hiker than may have passed before me. I didn’t care if my phone was disabled, nor did I desire to check, as I wasn’t alone in these moments. 

The one difference between the trees was one in the distance ahead of me. It was as if there were red leaves fallen around the base of the tree, or that the bark was dyed to mimic a fire truck. The more my eyes focused on it, the more it stuck out amongst the greenery. I glanced behind me at the safety of the path and hesitated at the idea of investigating this possible miracle of nature. I had never seen a tree like that, and for a moment the thought that it may be a mirage.

Looking at the path behind me one more time, I set forth towards the oddity. How was it that there could be something so strange in the middle of this serene isolation? I had never seen anything like it, let alone anything such as a red tree. It was an image out of a preschool crayon drawing.

The closer I got, the more I noticed. There were white speckles, and it seemed that only the bottom of the tree was red. The rest of the pine branches above looked just as the others did – evergreen. There seemed to be fuzz, perhaps it was red moss – growing along the tree or even taking it over. This other form took over the base and was suffocating the natural beauty out of it.

It took until I was near the perimeter of the tree to realize that what I was staring at was not a phenomenon of nature, but rather a grotesque invasion of mankind. Surrounding the base of the tree and the majority of the exposed trunk were plush red creatures, with giant white eyes and strange dark smiles. These Elmo dolls weren’t just sitting against the tree, but they were nailed into the bark, rusting over the faded black metal that sat driven through the chests of the stuffed animals. Some were stapled there or hung from the lowest branches. Their pupils were long gone, worn away by the rain most likely, and the fuzzy red bodies sagged towards the earth.

The scene from a horror movie seemed surreal and took my mind a moment to catch up with my heart that was about to jump out of my chest. Who thought that this, of all places, was where they should have their occult shrine? Had this been the action of a cult, why did they choose Elmo? Why this tree? During the night when the moon is at its fullest and highest point, did they dress in thick black robes and dance around the base of the tree, torches in hand and chating ‘Elmo’s World’? Or, perhaps this is where they brought their sacrifices to suffer the wrath of their worshipped God in the middle of the woods where no one else could hear their screams?

A cult that worshipped Elmo would be too much for fiction purposes, let alone in reality. But I couldn’t begin to think of a logical reason as to why this tree, so far off the beaten path, was chosen for this shrine. Whoever decided that this was going to be their first public art piece hadn’t thought their actions through hard enough. This took stage fright to a whole new level.

Someone coming out here and deciding this was appropriate to do in this protected space bothered me the most about this. Not the horrific monstrosity in front of my eyes, but the individual who sat stapling and nailing the childrens toys to the tree. This was the one place I felt connected to my roots – the roots of the natural world and the beauty it could produce. This is where man was not supposed to be and therefore not interfere with the natural cycle. They would one day fall off of the tree, whether it be natural causes or my own hand, and they would be left to degrade in the dirt. Animals would take the stuffing and build their nests with the extra insulation or even attempt to snack on the innards. Elmo would never leave this place, plaguing the earth for generations since his body wouldn’t blend back into the earth. Maybe one day, someone would find them fossilized – and wonder what other odd creatures sat beneath the dirt. These weren’t supposed to be here. They tainted the wonder and freedom of the area which was few and far between.

The use of the Elmo dolls was the most concerning to me because it wasn’t something that an adult would lean towards when creating a distasteful art piece. Usually that fell along the lines of spray paint. Perhaps it was meant to be a disturbing popup in the middle of the premade tranquility. Someone believed that this was the perfect spot to show their creation. It was off the trail and only in view if you were looking for a difference in the sea of trees. This wasn’t supposed to be located easily. Had my curiosity not gotten the best of me, I wouldn’t have seen it myself. This was meant to be hidden from public view. The artist wasn’t afraid of showing their work, but wanted to have someone stumble across it and have the same reaction I was having.

That left more questions than answers. If this was an art piece it should’ve been seen – that’s what art was for. In the case of this piece, it was no different – something that should’ve been seen if it was what my mind believed that it was, not that I even wanted to believe that it was sitting there in front of me. If it wasn’t an art piece, then what was it?

I walked around the tree slowly, taking the time to scan over all sides and what kinds of dolls were on it. There weren’t just plush bodies, but plastic action figures that hung from the branches as well as Elmo’s dressed up in crowns or t-shirts. Though they were all similar, some had more damage than others. Perhaps someone’s child had outgrown their Elmo phase and they didn’t want any of the toys anymore, and the parent thought that this was a dump zone for the long forgotten child obsessions. 

This was too put together to be a dump. Someone took the time to nail the dolls to the tree, and arrange them around the tree. No one who just wanted to dump the toys would have put this much effort into the act of trashing the unused clutter. 

I had loved Sesame Street when I was a child, and Elmo was the staple of the show. He had been my favorite as well – my toy of choice to cuddle with late at night. I was attached for years until second grade when my friends had stopped watching the show. He was shoved to the bottom of my toy box and forgotten about until I stumbled upon the mystery in front of me. Maybe it was a graveyard for long lost Elmo’s of children like me. Ones that outgrew their childhood favorites and tossed them off to the next set of the obsessed.

Cousins of mine were still young enough to appreciate and love the singing red puppet. Seeing the show pop up on the television reminded me of preschool where I carried around my Elmo backpack every day. It was my most prized possession – Santa had given it to me for the holidays the year before. It was special – everyone loved Elmo, but no one else in my daycare class had a backpack like mine. I could remember how cute my aunts and uncles thought it was, his smiling red face on the back of the bag for the world to see as I skipped off to preschool. I would play with the bag and hold the face in my hands, singing “Elmo’s World” as I played with the ‘real’ Elmo that I could carry around everyday.

Now the only times I saw him or thought of him were when I got stuck babysitting while the parents of the family went out for drinks and dinner. One of my youngest cousins, Thea, slept under an Elmo blanket every night. She had had it as long as I had been babysitting for her. The brightly colored blanket painted with reds, greens, and yellows had his face smiling in the middle of it. She brought that blanket around with her everywhere that she went. Even when she was sick and stuck in the hospital for a week, the blanket followed her there. Laid out over top the off white excuse for a blanket was the colors and character that brought light into Thea’s eyes. 

She was no different than any other child, but she walked out of the hospital afterwards and continued as if nothing had happened. Maybe this was a tribute to someone, a child much like Thea, but not as lucky.  A family longing for their lost child could have come out here and hung the dolls in a way of remembrance of the death of their loved one. A life taken far too soon from the world memorialized in the forest where they would be left from the hand of man, forever thriving amongst the grasses and growth surrounding. 

It was a good thing that Elmo would not decay out here. The stuffing, whether it was packed into a new nest or left on the ground – Elmo would live on. His red body would stay on the tree as long as the staples would hold it there – and it would not be touched. This place was protected, and protected this memory. Even if I didn’t understand it myself, I knew that this was important to someone out there, someone who had walked the Red path many times before. Maybe it was the family’s favorite tree. Either way, Elmo would remain out here as long as nature would let it.

I looked over the tree for a few more moments. It was a melancholy realization that was I thought originally was a horrific cult symbol was possibly the memorial for a passed on child. Childhood was never considered grotesque, and in this untouched space it is the first thought that my mind towards. This was the perfect place for this memorial to be located – away from the trail where someone could come along and destroy it, but at the turn in the path, where one who was looking for it could locate it by walking straight through the small openings between the trees. This was just as natural as what grew around it – the earth didn’t know the difference.

I stood for a moment longer and watched the fur blow in the wind before I turned and began my trek away from the unknown. Getting back on the trail felt odd, looking down the section that I had yet to walk down yet. Maybe there were more Elmo’s further down, or one decked out in Barney merch. With the tree in my mind, I continued on.

Categories
Creative Writing

4:30 AM

It’s early enough to know that I shouldn’t be awake. There is no light aside from the grocery store night light plugged in by the doorway – casting a comforting orange hue onto the dark purple-painted walls. If I turn my head, the charging light of my lap top will shine in my eyes – the same orange color – and distract the mind from falling back asleep.

There is no particular reason that I should be asleep much like the house surrounding. Quiet wooden floors and plush white carpeting do not creak nor muffle the sound of steps – everything is as quiet as it should be at 4:30AM.

I sit up in bed, using the bottom of my palms to rub stars into the closed eyes they rested upon. The black faded once again as I rose from bed and moved into the hallway. A similar light is cast over the banister of the stairs that leads down into the dark abyss of the first floor just across from the canary red bathroom that I share with my older brother.

The door is half shut and remains that way. Turning the faucet on, I turn it to cold water and splash it on my face, leaned over the white Coca-Cola stained basin. It drips from my face back down the drain as I pick up the wool green towel crumpled up on the opposite side of the counter. I look at the person in the mirror before me as I pull the cloth away from my eyes.

It is hard imagining being the same person that has experienced their own fair share of trauma and life experiences as the girl who stands in front of a half-lit mirror wearing llama pajama pants and her fathers oversized t-shirt.

This was the same girl that had stood here numerous times before, face flush from the cold water resting on the surface, thinking the same exact thoughts over and over again. I had stood here nearly every day for 10 years – 11 in July – and each time my eyes locked with the light blue ones reflected back at me, I knew that this girl and this moment would just be repeated again. Not knowing what would be coming next, what life would be like exactly one year from now.

I don’t live there anymore. I am there visiting for the holidays and staying the night. I can hear my fathers voice down in the living room laughing at the Minions movie on TV, my mother’s fingers typing on the mechanical keyboard in front of her work laptop. My brother, still, is screaming at Call of Duty on the PS5 he plays in the room across the hall from mine. I wash my face and then sit at the top of the black carpeted stairs, listening to the sounds of the life I grew up with crawling over the walls of the house.

I still live at home, taking classes virtually from my desk beside the bed I sleep in every night. This is just another event that started the year before – waking up at 4:30AM every other day for no reason other than to get out of bed – and continues to haunt my nights. I haven’t slept through the night in weeks, waking up at least 5 or 6 times between the fall and the rise. I return to bed after closing the bathroom door, dreading my Spanish class that will test all of my knowledge at 9:30.

I haven’t fallen asleep yet – rather stayed up working on a project that I knew I should’ve started sooner but left until the last minute as always. I am at page 6 of 10 and if I take this one break I’ll be able to finish by 6AM and submit it. Whether it’s good or not – it will be submitted and I will rest, ignoring the rest of my assignments for a later date as I catch up on the much needed sleep.

Or maybe this is the last time that I look into the mirror. This is the last time that I can think back on all of the experiences of the girl staring back at me – the last time I can daydream about what could be coming next. The house could be sold in two months – the family could move and I would not be looking at the same mirror I did at 10 years old when the first gaze into it occurred, never thinking that she’d make it this far.

I drop my gaze and continue to pat myself dry. Leaving the towel in the same balled up position, I step out of the bathroom and close the door behind me. I decide that I don’t want to look into the mirror anymore tonight and I return to my imprint in bed. With the blankets lying over my frame, I shut my eyes and hug the extra pillow to the right. These thoughts will be left for another night – another 4:30AM.

Categories
Writing Updates

Writing Update (8/13)

Hello everyone! It’s been awhile since I wrote personally to update on writing. The past few weeks have been pretty busy for me – I was working nearly 40 hours a week and on top of that also trying to get out of my reading slump (more on that to come soon). But, as of yesterday I have been filled to the brim with inspiration.

I have almost been exclusively working on The Astrologist for the past week. Especially yesterday, where I spent two hours researching Irish mythology and most likely four hours just trying to plot things out. I also have been working on characters and their motivations, and as of yesterday I have a handful of characters that I am thrilled with. I can’t wait for everyone to read about them soon.

I would also like to take a moment to thank two of my best friends, Miki and Mikaela, for dealing with my craziness that happened yesterday (8/12). When I’m trying to brainstorm ideas, I need to talk through them with someone. Both of these wonderful people allowed me to talk at them for upwards of an hour (on separate occasions) about the story: from the tiniest detail to the biggest plot points. Thanks to them, I can safely say I have a basic plot outline for The Astrologist.

Something interesting that I’ve learned about myself this week is that I actually prefer to do my plotting/outlining in a sketch book. I have always written everything down on google docs or even just in the notes app of my phone, but as I was creating a map I realized I loved the feeling of being able to control the formatting of outlining on paper. Does anyone else feel the same way? Preferring to outline on paper than online? I am able to see my progress better on paper because I can’t just delete it, it’s still there and I have to think about all these old ideas.

Besides The Astrologist, I have been trying to catch up on reading. I am currently reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, who is one of my favorite authors, and I am loving the book. I usually fly through books in one sitting, but this time I am taking my time. The Starless Sea is set up with smaller books inside of it, so I have been reading one book (or section) at a time. I adore Morgenstern’s writing and her storytelling, and this is helping me savor every moment of the book.

That’s all I have for an update as of today. You will be seeing more of these as I work through a first draft of The Astrologist. I also want to thank you guys for 45 followers! Thank you for making my writing dreams a reality.

All the best,

C.E. Egan

Categories
Creative Writing

TA: The Dream

This piece is a continuation of The Astrologist. You can read that piece at the link!

I couldn’t help but arrive early.

I sat on the bench across the street from the town home that the address has sent me too. It was nicer than I had expected it to be – and I expected a lot from the red brick home. The windows were bigger than any of the one’s at The Two Lantern Inn. The time read 2:40 PM on my watch and regret filled my mind. What if he isn’t helpful at all? What if he thinks these dreams are crazy? I mean, to me he seems pretty crazy, so he better not think some silly nightmare is even more crazy. 

Why was I so worried? So what if he thought I was crazy? I hadn’t cared what he thought of me before that moment – I shouldn’t be so concerned with how he feels about me after I tell him about the dream. So what if he couldn’t help me?

Well, I would be out of options if that were the case. Who else could I tell?

Would Evon even be ready if I walked up and knocked on the door? 

I found my feet leading me to the crosswalk and I felt my stomach drop. 

The front door was solid wood. I didn’t know what kind, but it was the kind that screamed ‘if you try and kick me in you’re going to break your ankle’. At least, that’s how I would describe it. Not to mention in the corner of the thin strips of glass was a ADT sticker. So, if you did attempt to break in, you’d break not only your ankle but you would get cuffed. Not a fun combo.

With a chime of the doorbell I felt the need to sprint down the road and forget that this ever actually happened. I could avoid Evon – never go to Newbury Street again and just buy myself ice cream at CVS like all of the other broke college students. I could still get Ben & Jerry’s there at least.

The door opened just as I was about to turn around. But it wasn’t Evon at the door. It was a girl – with beautiful black hair braided back. I wish that I went to sleep away camp with her. We had different hairtypes, but damn. I noticed her bright blue eyes second and how it contrasted her black skin.

“Yeah? Can I help you?” she asked, blowing a bubble of pink gum.

Star struck, it took me a moment to respond. “Is Evon home?”

The bubble popped. “Oh, you’re the girl meeting up with him?” She stepped aside and opened the door wider. “I’m his sister. I’m Emilia.”

The inside of the house was more impressive than the outside – I barely listened as I stepped inside. “Hayden.”

“He’s upstairs. You’ll know which room is his – trust me.” Emilia popped another bubble, and with that she was gone. I wish I had dreams that looked like her.

I followed the slim black carpet up the iron railed stairs, feeling incredibly out of place. But, Emilia was right. I could only guess that Evon’s room was the door covered with a map of constellations. It looked hand-painted and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. 

I knocked on the door. There were footsteps and the sound of papers sliding across the floor. I blinked, but waited. Evon opened the door a few moments after and said “Oh, hey. Emilia let you in? Sorry, I was distracted.”

“It’s fine. I didn’t know you had a sister, anyways.” I replied, glancing around his room over his shoulder.

“Yeah, I do. She’s like 5 years younger though. Come on in.”

Every ounce of attraction I had for her fled my body as I stepped into the room. 5 years? No way. 

I knew Evon was eccentric – yet his room still shocked me. There were posters on the wall of artists I had never heard of, large prints from photographers with names that sounded like I was talking with food in my mouth. The walls were navy and white with gray curtains hung along the windows in the back of the room. The rug was black and gray and spanned across a majority of the sleek wooden floors. He had hand painted bookshelves lining the wall across from his bed filled head to toe with books of different sizes. The smallest shelf was empty, books littered across the floor in front of it. He had a hanging chair across the room that was shaped like a bamboo egg. 

Evon must’ve noticed my staring, because over my shoulder he said “You can sit in it if you want. It’s super comfy.”

I pulled off my sweatshirt and walked over to the chair, plopping down in it and feeling the chair sway with my weight. There were shoes scattered across the floor next to his bed and I couldn’t tell if they had pairs or if he just wore whatever two shoes he wanted. 

Evon kicked the shoes under the bed and sat down. “So, I’ve been doing a little research on dream interpretation. I have a bunch of books.” He pointed towards a broken bookshelf, where books laid scattered on the floor.

“I take it a ‘bunch of books’ broke that shelf.” I smirked.

“Yeah… Mom wants me to donate some of my collection. She says I ‘have too many books.’ I don’t agree.”

“I’ve never seen someone with a personal collection that big.” I gestured to the wall filled with books as if he couldn’t see it himself.

“You’re not hanging out with the right people then,” Evon laughed. He stood up from the bed and picked up the books from the floor. He dropped them onto the bed and spread them out in front of him. “I have some books about common dreams and their meanings, and books about symbols in dreams.” Looking at me, he asked “I think it would be helpful if you shared with me the dream, and then I’ll be able to tell you more. Maybe one of these books will be more helpful than the others.”

It only then occured to me that I would have to tell him about the dream. I would have to tell him about my mother. I felt a lump in my throat that I had tried to swallow down. “Right. The dream…”

Evon sat down criss cross on his bed in front of the books. “You don’t have to tell me the whole thing, just the parts you’re comfortable with.” He hesitated, “But, I think telling me the whole thing will be more helpful. The margin of error is much smaller.”

“Okay,” I sighed. “I have one request.”

Evon nodded.

“You can’t tell anyone what I tell you.”

He raised an eyebrow, but said after a moment “I won’t tell anyone, Hayden.”

It felt strange hearing him say my name. It shouldn’t of been surprising, but I couldn’t remember a time where he had actually said it before this moment. 

“Alright.” I took a breath, shut my eyes, and let my branded memories do the talking.

***

How did it feel?

The garden is dead. All around my feet lie the wilted pumpkin vines, and their decaying bodies not far behind. The squash planter is over grown with weeds and the only way I know it’s squash is that the label is torn just above the name. 

I step over the vines and walk towards the gray gate across from me. I don’t know how I got here but I don’t want to be there. I feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. I don’t belong in the garden. I’m trespassing. 

The gate is cold as my hand rests on the top – the metal is rusting but I don’t mind. When the gate swings open, before me I see a path curving through an oak forest. It is worn down to dirt, but the lines are sharp. There are no weeds at the edge of the path. As I begin to walk through the path, I hear the gate creak closed behind me. There is no wind.

The path feels endless. I feel trapped in the forest – there is no way to know where I’m headed, and I don’t know where I came from. I am wandering blindly. The fear of trespassing still lingers in my mind.

I hear a rustling beside me. When I turn, sitting before me is a brown rat. As my eyes set on its – it turns and runs back into the bushes. It’s tail is nearly three times the length of it’s body and I cannot help but watch as it slithers into the bush behind it. 

Back on the path, I hear the sound of children laughing. I can’t tell how many there are, but I know I do not want to disturb them. Maybe it isn’t actually children, but perhaps a predator calling for its prey. 

Perhaps that is me.

The laughter gets closer. Without a second thought, I continue towards the sound. The trees break, and before me is a city. The feeling of oak trees towering around me is replaced with steel skyscrapers. This is more familiar, yet I still don’t know where I am. 

I walk underneath the street lamps in search of the laughing children. I hope that’s what it is, anyways. 

It doesn’t take long to come across a small fenced in park. There is a small jungle gym and a swing set. Sitting on the ground between are 4 children – a girl and three boys. They don’t have faces. I don’t know where the laughter is coming from – but it’s coming from them.

As I watch them, the children play a game. Their hands are intertwined with one another. The girl, stationed at the end of the chain, takes a step and skips towards the boy, who turns behind the other two and follows a similar action. The children do this until they’re all skipping and sliding in a whirlpool. The last boy chases the girl. To catch the other, a hand must be placed in between their shoulder blades. I watch as the girl catches the boy in front of her and the boy before him. The last boy is the only prey left. He moves swiftly in a circle, trying to get behind the girl. She laughs, an echo that stays in my mind long after the dream is over. The girl places her hand on his back – she has won. 

That’s when they turn to look at me. They see me watching their game. The girl walks over to me and holds out her hand as an invitation. I make the same mistake each time I dream – I take her hand. 

They invite me to join their game. Now, I stand at the other end of the line. The game starts over, and I find myself skipping and sliding at the center. Almost like clockwork, the girl and I are the last two. She seems to set the rules, and always wins. I don’t want to lose. 

I try to keep her in the corner of my eye, but she’s sneaky. I feel her presence behind me. I turn to face her, and her hand lands at the center of my chest.

That’s when a blood curdling scream fills the streets. It comes from my lungs, as I feel a coolness spread across my body. The girl does not move, and she does not take her hand off of my chest.  She watches me with her eyeless gaze. 

I feel my fingers lock in place as the bitter chill reaches my extremities. I do not break my gaze from her as the cold trails up my spine and covers my eyes. I wasn’t told one of the rules of the game.

Never turn around.

In the darkness, I hear a voice. “You don’t belong,” she says, and I feel a finger run through my hair at my neck, “You don’t belong here. Come home.”

“I don’t know where home is,” I tell her. “Home is gone.”

“Why?” Her voice is familiar. 

“Home left me.” I feel my throat tighten – a hand gripping the back of my neck.

“Come home,” the voice repeats to me.

“Where is home?” I ask as the grip gets tighter.

“Find the pathway home,” she says, and I feel her hand release my neck. 

I gasp for air.

She grips my shoulder and snaps my neck.

I wake up.

***

I opened my eyes and sat up a bit, hugging my knees up to my chest. Leaving out the detail of the woman’s voice being my mothers didn’t seem important. I figured telling him that it was familiar was enough.

“How often have you had this dream, Hayden?” Evon asked after a few moments of silence.

“This one specifically happens… probably three times a week.” I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling a lingering pain at the base. 

“Do you dream every night?”

“Yes. But I have a few other dreams… sometimes they are random. You know, like a normal person,” I laughed at my attempt to joke. 

Evon looked at me for a few moments, “We have a lot to unpack in that dream…”

“You think?” I leaned back against the cushion and gave myself enough momentum to swing slightly. 

He stood up and turned to his books, picking and choosing out of the pile. He put some back on the floor and was left eventually with two books on his bed. 

“These are going to be the most helpful,” Evon said, “I hope at least.”

I peaked out of my chair and saw one of the titles: 12,000 Dreams Interpreted. 

Evon sat down on the floor and leaned against his bed, opening up that book and said “This may take awhile. I may need you to repeat some parts.”

I nodded and fiddled with the string on my hoodie. I tried to get comfortable, knowing I would be there longer than I ever intended to be.

Categories
Writing Updates

Writing Update (7/26)

I feel like I haven’t posted on here in a long time, but I know it’s probably been about a week. It’s been difficult for me to find the time to sit down and post due to my work schedule and other circumstances out of my control. I thought this would be a good time to give you all an update as to where my writing is at!

First and foremost, my unnamed novel. Jaelyn’s story is something that I have been thinking about a lot. I haven’t sat down and worked on it, though. Since I forced so much energy into it for so long, I have found it more difficult to work on. Has anyone else experienced this? I don’t have writer’s block, as I know how the story is supposed to go – but I just do not have any motivation to sit down and work on editing as well as perfecting the final scenes.

I’ve also stumbled into the problem of wanting to rewrite the story. When I first started writing about Jaelyn, I wanted it to be about how stepping into the spotlight so suddenly can change a lot about how a person acts. Now, I want to keep that ideal – but I want to include the idea that in her society, people assume a lot about where you come from – Jaelyn is one of the first people to step up and start to change that (whether she wants too or not). If that’s the case, though, I need to rewrite major sections of the story. I knew I would have to rewrite a new draft eventually, but it seems like a huge time commitment. There are characters that need to be developed.

One thing I think I would benefit from with this is being able to bounce ideas off of someone. I have a handful of people in my life that are also writers, but other than that I feel as though I’m stuck only bouncing ideas off of myself. My goal with Jaelyn’s story is to start working on character wants/desires. This way I can think about the plot of the story and also make the characters more concrete.

Second is The Astrologist. I loved writing the piece that I did. However, I realized that I need to do a ton of research in order to represent what I want to correctly within the story. So, I have this story on hold while I read up on the following topics: dream interpretation, astrology, zodiacs, crystals, and psychic readings. All of these topics are incredibly important and major playing roles throughout the story. I don’t want to fake my way through it.

This has given me time to think about my characters though. At first, I only knew that Hayden and Evon were going to be the main players of the story. I had a few minor characters – including Miss Tabitha Hall and Emilia DuPont – but I wanted to have some more to work with. Since Hayden’s life after her mother is such a blur, I have been able to put characters in that area and have them become involved later in the story. One of these characters is now Marigold Honeywell – who I cannot wait to write more about and share her character with you all.

Lastly, my small writing pieces. I include this as my character studies, poetry, small writing pieces, and anything else that I’m forgetting to mention regarding my writing. This part I think has been the easiest for me to work. Every night before I go to bed, I journal some of the feelings I had throughout the day into poetry. I write about a page or so (roughly 3 stanzas 4 lines each) of poetry and have a small booklet. I haven’t decided if I want to share that on here yet, but I have been writing poetry and working on my craft.

I want to post more short creative pieces, but I have a difficult time writing about anything small because I want to make it bigger. One thing I was thinking about doing was writing short stories about other characters within the worlds I have created. One example of this is Jaelyn’s story. I am thinking about writing a piece highlighting Dr. Evelyn Snow’s journey into becoming the world-renowned scientist that she is in their world today. Or even just writing a piece about the Pickers and what they’re lives are like, as you don’t see much of it through Jaelyn’s perspective. I think not only will this provide content and help my writing skills, but also help develop their world even more.

I am trying to get back into my posting schedule, so for right now expect roughly 2 posts a week. I know before I was providing 3 – and I’m working towards continuing that number, but with everything going on in my life and in the world – it’s difficult to set aside the time.

Thank you all for your unconditional support and I cannot wait to share more of my work with you all. I appreciate every one of you.

Categories
Creative Writing

Amaris

I am finally back from my small hiatus from my blog. All will be explained in another post, however I thought I would share this old piece with you all. Amaris, though I haven’t written her in some time, is one of my favorite characters I have ever created. I think this piece, the first introduction to her character, shows something important about her: where her priorities lie. Enjoy!

In the late hours of the night, the first riot began. 

At first, it was quiet. The wind blew sand through the dark alleyways and shook the shutters outside of the homes of the people. The Julenne castle stood ominously over the entire city, the bright lights inside casting faint ones onto the grounds all around the village, which had ignited the passion of the rioters.

When the first light when on in the tallest building, everyone else woke up with it. People were exiting their homes during the dark hours, unallowed by King Alexander, and began to shout. 

Amaris woke up a few minutes into the beginning of the riot. Her vision was hazy as she stood from her bed to the cold floor. Her head throbbed from the shouting – which she hadn’t realized was shouting yet, for waking from a deep sleep left her in a blinded state.

Her hands reached for the shutters, which kept the bitter air outside, but she felt she needed to have the air hit her face to wake her.

When the shutters opened, she was hit with the air, but also, the swarm of hundreds below her home, all gathered in the city center with torchlights, their cries echoing through the foreboding night.

The man at the center, standing on the statue platform, was screaming out curses to the King.

“Are we going to let this man control when we can and cannot be outside of our homes? Are we going to let him walk all over us as if we’re nothing? He continues to raise taxes, taking our hard-earned money from us and our children, so his child can be a spoiled brat! Are we going to let this keep happening?”

He was screaming, the sweat beading from his forehead was trickling down his face. His words were fueled by rage, the steam from his screams exiting his lungs at an alarming rate. His voice was fading fast, but he kept going. 

“He makes us work harder, while he’s sitting on his ass with no intention of doing any work himself! Our fishermen are dying from exhaustion! If we keep working, emptying our waters, we won’t have any fish left to sell! He keeps us indoors during the ‘dark hours’! What the hell is he keeping from us?”

Amaris quickly pulled the shutters closed, but it didn’t drown out the man’s yells, and the cheering that came from the crowd.

In bare feet, she pulled her cloak over her thin, freezing body, and ran out the door. The crowd stood right outside, pressed up against the wooden frame. She shoved her way through the men and women, all cheering for the man at the center.

The walls of the mob were closing in around her as she pushed between the people blocking her. She dug her nails into their sides to press past them, ever so slowly sliding closer to the center. Amaris could still hear the man shouting, getting louder with every word he spoke. 

His voice was heavy, scratching in his passionate words to the people around him. The spit produced from him was beginning to freeze to his white beard, but he didn’t notice. He kept screaming, kept the rage burning in the people’s hearts, and made sure that they would be heard by the monarchy that never heard a voice but their own. 

Amaris approached him cautiously, knowing that in his passion he wouldn’t cool well.

She reached up to him and took hold of the end of his cloak, looking up towards him with golden eyes. Her voice was calm, but loud amongst the protesters screaming around them.

“You need to come back inside, Father.”

He looked down towards her, his words faded to silence when he saw her. The protesters were loud, but none noticed when he stopped. They continued their cries, hoping that they’d be heard.

“Amaris, what are you doing out here,” His voice had calmed. She ignited a sense of duty to him, to make sure that she was safe. He reached down towards her, taking hold of her wrists, “It’s late, you need to go back to the house, a girl like you shouldn’t be out here – you’ll get hurt.”

“You don’t want me to get hurt, I don’t want you to get hurt. Please, Father, come back to the house…” She pleaded to him. 

The way she spoke made him believe they were the only two in the crowd. 

“I won’t get hurt, Amaris. Now go back inside.”

“Father. I can’t do that. Please, come inside…”

He looked down towards his daughter for a moment and almost broke for her. 

Almost.

“Amaris, you need to go back into the house. Now. Your mother would not be happy to know that you’re out here-” He interrupted himself, looking into her silver eyes and taking tight hold of her hand, “Please, Amaris.”

Amaris reluctantly agreed, looking around the chaos surrounding them, “Please promise me that you won’t get hurt..” 

“I cannot promise anything, but I will try my best, darling..” He placed a kiss atop her raven head, then relinquished the hold on her wrist and hand.

Amaris obeyed her Father, sinking back into the crowd. It did not take long for her to hear his roars above the crowd and the praise that followed behind. 

She had always questioned him on why he insisted on leading the riots. Amaris knew that he would get hurt one day. She always feared the day that he wouldn’t come home. She wanted to stay with him, to make sure that no harm would come to him. But Amaris returned to her home despite her wish to stay with her father. 

Categories
Creative Writing

The Rooftop

This is another excerpt from my unnamed novel! If you’re interested, you can read The Redemption and The Genius from the Gutter at the attached links!           

Tears stung Jaelyn’s eyes as she stared out over the skyline of the city. Her insides felt like rocks, clogging up her organs so she couldn’t move. So she couldn’t breathe.

            Everything she worked for months was starting to vanish before her eyes. All because she couldn’t lie to her mother.

            She hid her face in her hands, letting out a sob. When she needed to be strong, she wasn’t. She couldn’t tell her mother that she wasn’t hiding something from her. Jaelyn was disappointed in herself for the fact that she invited her mother to come with her to the Donor’s Gala, and that there wasn’t a chance in the world that anyone would talk to Jaelyn with an ounce of respect again.

            Jaelyn looked up  from her hands and saw the lights ahead of her wash out in a sea of her tears. All before her were blobs of buildings and lights. She didn’t want to go back downstairs, and she didn’t want to go back home.

            “Jaelyn, hey,” she heard Mars say from behind her. “Do you need to talk?”

            She spun around on her heels and wiped her face with the sleeve of her dress, stammering “Don’t come closer I’m fine, please I’m fine.” The last thing she wanted was her hero to see her crumbling in on herself.

            “You aren’t fine.” His voice didn’t change. It stayed the calm and loving tone it had always been when he talked to her.
            Another sob let out and she found herself running to him, hugging him tightly and burying her face against his expensive blue suit. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” she begged.

            Mars hugged her tightly, saying “You have nothing to apologize for.”

            “Are you kidding?” Jaelyn looked up and said, wiping her eyes “I just wasted all of your time. I am not going to win. My mom is down there drinking every ounce of champagne there is and telling everyone how horrible of a person I am. I’m a failure, I can’t even make her happy by getting close to winning.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “I won’t matter to her if I win. I won’t matter to her if I lose. I’ve wanted her to love me for so long and I was so stupid to think that if I won this she would love me! Nothing I will ever do will make her love me… I am a failure.”

            Mars looked down at her for a few moments, brushing her black fringe out of her amber eyes, and he said after a few moments “You are not a failure.”

            “But I am, I always have been. She’s telling everyone how much of a disappointment I’ve always been, how the hell can you stand there and tell me that I’m not a failure?” Jaelyn stepped away from him, wiped her eyes and said, “If someone should know a failure when they see one, it would be you.”

            “You aren’t a failure, Jaelyn,” Mars reached his hand out to her. “Let’s sit down and talk, okay? Just me and you. No Mrs. Beyer. Just me and you.”

            Jaelyn hesitated, but slowly nodded and put her hand in his. Mars led her over to a set of benches overlooking the skyline. They sat down next to each other in silence. Mars leaned his elbows on his knees. After a moment, he asked her a question.

            “Why did you enter this competition?”

            “It was for a school assignment.”

            “I mean why did you continue? You could’ve pulled out at any moment. You could’ve stopped and said ‘I’m done’ whenever you wanted. But you kept going. Why?”

            Jaelyn didn’t have to think about her answer. “Because I want to be better.”

            “Better than who?” Mars didn’t look at her.

            “Better than-“ She paused. She didn’t know. “Myself?”

            “You shouldn’t be answering my question with another question, you know.” Mars leaned back on the bench and continued “Better than who?”

            “Better than what I was.”

            “And what was that?”

            “A picker. A good for nothing picker on a scholarship to go to school. I wanted to be better than the picker everyone saw me as.” Jaelyn rubbed her arms as a breeze blew past them. She never realized it was colder on the top of a building.

            Mars slid his suit jacket off of his shoulder and put it around Jaelyn. He asked her after a moment “Is that how you saw yourself too?”

            She wrapped the jacket closer around her, looking down at how it overflowed over her frail body. She couldn’t lie to her mother, but she couldn’t lie to Mars either. “Yeah.”

            “Why?”

            “It’s where I’m from. It’s who I am… everyone from the slums is a Picker. No one ever gets out of there. If I don’t win this… If I didn’t push myself, to try and win this… I would be there forever. I don’t want to be there anymore. I hate it there.”

            “Because of your mom?”

            “Yeah… and my brother.” Jaelyn blinked a few times when she realized what she had said. Not once had she ever uttered the words ‘I hate my mom and brother’.

            “Can I tell you a story?” Mars looked over at her, and when he received a nod, he leaned back on his knees and said “When I was your age, actually, probably older, is when I got my first taste of what true city life is. Sure, I lived here my entire life – my father had a great penthouse, my mom and I were happy. I was always curious about what else was out there. When I was home from university for a break, I decided to take that chance.

            “I snuck out, which wasn’t very hard to do. A smile will get you further than you think it will. But, anyways, that’s not the point. I decided that I wanted to go to one of the clubs on the other side of town. Rumtown was the last stop on the monorail before it crossed over the bridge to the Island. Honestly, I don’t know why I wanted to go there, but I did.

            “I couldn’t tell you a thing about what the club was like – what it looked like, where anything was, how many people were there… but there was one person there that I can’t ever forget. It was as if we spoke the same language, she knew exactly what I meant by everything I said. She was one of the prettiest women I have ever met in my life.

            “We walked up to the roof top together, and laid out under the stars and talked. We talked about everything: from the sky to our home lives to even the foods we refused to eat. When I tell you I fell in love with that woman that day, I’m telling you the truth.”

            Mars rubbed his head, looking up and over at the horizon before them. He didn’t speak for a few moments, and then said “Everything isn’t perfect here. No matter what the billboards or those shows say – this city can eat you alive.

            “I was dating Terra at the time… and I love her. When I tell you I love Terra, it’s true. But, I had a lapse of judgement that night…” he looked at Jaelyn and says “I’m not perfect. I know you think I am, but I’m not.”
            Jaelyn looked at him for a few moments, asking quietly “Did you cheat…?”

            Mars nodded a bit, rubbing his forehead and looking away from her. “I regret it. I love Terra with my whole heart. I don’t know what happened to me that night – but something about that woman just drew me in, and I lost control of myself. I think I blacked out, honestly, because I can’t remember a single thing that happened that night after knowing what I wanted to do with her…”

            “Did you tell her you had a girlfriend..?” Jaelyn asked.

            “The morning after, like an asshole,” Mars chuckled sadly. “I told her I didn’t want anything serious, that it was a one-time thing, and that nothing would come of this. But she didn’t like that. I don’t blame her, I mean, I was a huge asshole.

            “And I left. I went home, showered, and called Terra and told her how much I loved her. I proposed to her a month later. I had this city to hide in. I ran away from my mistake and got away. I don’t know what happened to her. I know she was from the Islands. What did she have to fall back on? Working? Selling garbage to pay the bills?” Mars looked at Jaelyn and said after a moment “Everyone’s got that moment in life where they screw up. Where they think that it’s all their fault and that nothing they can do can change their actions… I know I messed up, and that it was my fault, and now I do everything in my power to help people like her… I donate to women’s shelters constantly, provide whatever extra resources I can to the Islands. Once… I even threw away one of Terra’s diamond earrings in hopes that someone would find it while working and be able to feed their family.”

            Jaelyn looked out over the horizon and said quietly “But you’ve changed. You’re the ideal, perfect person.”

            “No one is perfect. I’m still learning,” Mars said. “I want to make up for the wrongs that I’ve done in my past.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, lightly, and asked her “I still don’t understand why you think all of those wonderful things about me.”

            “Because…” she thought back to when she sat alone in her room, at the beginning of all of this. Where she stared at the minimalist portrait poster on the back of the broken wood door. “Because you’re my hero.”

            Mars didn’t speak. He kept his hand on her shoulder, and asked after a moment “Do you want a hug?”

            Jaelyn hugged him as tight as she could. She was shaking, her eyes hot and welling up with tears. Her mind flashed to when she ruined Delta’s dress with cake. How she ran outside because she couldn’t breathe. Mars was the only one that came out after her. The only one that saw as she was moments away from breaking down. He didn’t even know her then. He barely knew her now – yet he was doing the same thing. He wasn’t going to let her suffer alone.

            She wasn’t going to suffer alone anymore.

            “I don’t know why you’re my hero… but…” Jaelyn sat up and wiped her eyes. She could feel the mascara washing away on her red face. “I don’t have a dad. I don’t know who he is, anyways… and mom doesn’t know either. She just said that he was probably a fling she had whilst in a fight with Rex…”

            “Rex?” Mars asked.

            “That’s Cade’s dad. My brother, Cade.”

            “That’s… an interesting name, for sure.” Mars chuckled. Jaelyn thought she heard his breath hitch, but when she looked back at him he did nothing but smile at her.

            “I guess I just look up to you so much because I don’t… you know, have a dad. You are so dedicated to the ISA and everything that you do, I want to be just like you.” Jaelyn rubbed her hands over her wine colored dress “I remember you saying that Dr. Snow was one of the smartest people you’d ever met. I guess I hoped you’d say that one day about me.”

            “It’s interesting, you know,” Mars began quietly, “That you’re so sure of yourself as a student and academic, but you aren’t sure of what you think personally.”

            “I hadn’t thought about it that way.” Jaelyn replied.

            They sat in silence for a while. Jaelyn gnawed at the inside of her cheek. She knew that the winner would be announced soon. But she didn’t want to get up. She didn’t want to see her mother or brother down there. She didn’t want to see Delta’s perfect family. She didn’t want to know if she won. Jaelyn, for once, wanted to run away from everything she had ever worked towards. She wanted to run away from her dreams. In a perfect world, Jaelyn would never leave that spot on the rooftop with Mars.

            “Jaelyn,” Mars said, “We should head back downstairs.”

            She stood up slowly, following him back to the elevator. As she stepped inside, she said “Thank you, for everything you’ve done for me.”

            Mars smiled in the reflection of the metal elevator doors. Jaelyn didn’t notice the tears in his eyes.

Categories
Creative Writing

The Genius from the Gutter

This piece was written years ago, but it has been repurposed to be a part of my novel. This is from the same story as “The Redemption”.

“Now remember, everyone, what you got on this assignment does not reflect how you perform in this class, or any class in Hoffman Academy. This assignment was graded by The International Space Association, based off of their rubrics. The ISA is looking for students who will be able to create machines and life support systems that can be tested, and eventually used, on Ivosa,” Mrs. Alia explained to the class, her arms full of rubrics and research papers, “Though this project will influence if you will be attending The Great Mind Meeting with the ISA, it will not impact your grade in this class.”

Mrs. Alia began to walk around the room to hand back the assignments. Her perfect manicured hands passing back the piles of paper to the anxious students provided no clues to the grades they would receive.

There was a mix of emotions about the room. Most students let out a groan of disappointment.

“What did you get?” asked Ryder Quinn.

“35%” Erik Roe whined, “What about you?”

“33%” Ryder groaned.

Tanner Oxford looked at his grade and smirked. He looked around the room for everyone’s response once the papers had all been handed back. He was one of the smartest kids in the class, and his personality showed it.

“Those of you that scored 95 or above on this project will be attending The Great Mind Meeting,” Mrs. Alia explained as she returned back to her spot at the front of the room. She glanced towards the clock, time ticking down to the end of the day, “Remember that your papers on Ether Willis and Wona Lark are due next time I see you.”

The bell chimed. Students automatically packed their bags and flooded into the hallways. All the students could talk about were their grades on the project.

In Mrs. Alia’s classroom, one student remained. She stayed in her seat, staring at the stack of papers on her glass desk.

“Ms. Beyer,” Mrs. Alia said as she walked over to her and stood next to her desk, looking down at the girls raven hair, “What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t right,” Jaelyn replied. Her eyes were fixed on the red numbers on the rubric, “Something must be wrong. This can’t be right.”

Mrs. Alia smiled. She took the paper and looked at the grade, “Jaelyn Beyer, 100%. You should be used to this grade by now. This isn’t the first one hundred you’ve received.”

“Mrs. Alia, the ISA gave me an one hundred on this project? How many people got an one hundred? Was it easy?”

“Jaelyn, you were the only person in our school to receive an one hundred. You deserved it. You worked night and day on that assignment.”

“But… But this isn’t… I really did it? I did the best in the class?” Jaelyn asked, looking up towards Mrs. Alia. A smile was plastered across her face.

Her teacher smiled, “You did the best in the school, Ms. Beyer.” Mrs. Alia turned away and walked to her desk, “Now go home, the rain is going to start soon. You don’t want to be caught out in the wet.”

Jaelyn stood up and put her dark blue backpack on, holding the papers in her arms. She walked out of the classroom, and out the front doors of Hoffman Academy.

Her dark skirt brushed against her legs as she walked towards the monorail station. She walked up the glass stairs and waited underneath the overhang for the outbound train.

The rain began to fall. It was light at first.

“Hey, Picker,” Jaelyn heard over her shoulder.

She sighed and glanced towards Tanner, “What do you want, Tanner?”

He smirked and came up the stairs, stepping under the overhang with her and peering at the papers she was holding, “What did you get?”

“Doesn’t matter to you. Tanner, please leave me alone.”

He laughed. Behind him appeared Axle Wring and Moore Traillon.
“Just tell me what you got, Picker,” Tanner stepped closer to her, “I just want to know, that’s all.”

Jaelyn stepped away from him. She hugged the papers closer to her white button down, “Go away, Tanner. Please.”

“You embarrassed? Did you fail?” Tanner asked, laughing to himself, he reached for the papers and grabbed the top of the stack, “Let me see!”

“Stop it!” Jaelyn yelled, pulling the papers away from his hands. She stepped out into the rain and held them as close as she could, “Go away! Leave me alone!” Jaelyn searched for the train, but it was nowhere in sight on the tracks. She looked back at Tanner’s dark eyes, “Why are you even waiting for the train? Daddy not picking you up in the limo today?”

“I told him not to,” Tanner spat back, “I told him I was busy after school. Had to deal with a Picker.” He looked at Axle and Moore, “Grab her arms.”

Jaelyn turned on her heel and ran down the platform.

She could hear him yelling behind her, and soon she could hear their stomping feet as they started running.

Jaelyn’s eyes were focused on the space in front of her. She blocked out the taunts.

Even though she lived outside of the city, she knew the monorail stations better than any of them.

She took a sharp turn down the stairs. She slid down the railing to the street. Jaelyn ran through the pathway under the tracks and up the second set of stairs.

The train pulled up and came to a stop. The doors slowly opened. Jaelyn ran through the open doors and turned to look through them.

Tanner was coming up the stairs as the doors shut. He began cursing and pounding his fists on the glass. His eyes met Jaelyn’s and she smirked.

She held up the rubric to the glass, showing him the bright red one hundred circled on the top of the paper.

As the train pulled away, Jaelyn felt a wave of relief wash over her. She sat down on the black padded seat and shoved her papers into her bag. She had learned after so many years of torment by Tanner Oxford how to avoid him and how to get away from him.

Jaelyn was lucky enough to be able to attend classes. In Brighton View, only the wealthy could attend school. Everyone went to school until age 12. Then, secondary education was only available for those who could afford the cost. The tuition at Hoffman Academy was a whopping $65,000 a year. Jaelyn could never afford to go to school, but when she was young she took the Scholarship Test for the Homeless or Needy. That was the first one hundred she ever received. Hoffman Academy paid for her tuition in full. Her uniform – including the skirt was now ripped due to sliding down the railing, her books, her pencils, her pens, anything that was required for school, they provided for her.

Jaelyn had studied for hours every night before that exam. She wanted nothing more than to be able to learn and develop a mind fit to one day work for the International Space Association. She wanted to study the stars and the movement of the planets. She wanted to be able to learn everything there was to know about Ivosa, their sister planet, and just about anything else that space had to offer her.

As the monorail came to a stop, she stood up and walked out the doors and onto the platform. The stench of rotten meat and spoiled milk filled her nose.

She looked over her shoulder at the glittering city that was now in the distance behind her. Jaelyn sighed, then turned back to the stairway in front of her. She walked up the stairs and into the sunlight, where the stench was stronger.

On the outskirts of the city, piles of garbage weighing metric tons separated the marvelous, shimmering city from the rotting and decrepit slums. The slums that Jaelyn called home.

Her clean black shoes were covered with dust as she walked along the dirt roads. She had gotten used to the smell at this point, 17 years surrounded by the garbage of the wealthy would do that to someone.
She passed many homes on her way to her own. They were dark, with broken windows and patches in the roof. When storms came through, the wind would pick up large debris and where it was thrown would never be known until it happened. Crime was also heavy in her area, which explained why everyone was usually awake during the night time.

At this time, everyone was just starting to wake up for their shift Picking.

The Pickers went through the garbage, day after day, to find valuables worth selling. That was the life of a picker. Wasting their life away picking through the trash of those who didn’t even think about where their garbage went.

Jaelyn passed by groups of pickers that were going through their finds for the day. In the morning, many of them would make the long trip out to the farms where they would trade their valuables for money and food. Jaelyn’s long time friend Marea Montrone was one of the farmers daughters – she always offered to make the trek so she could see her friend.

Jaelyn could see her house in the distance. It was just like the other houses – dark, run down, and cold – but it’s where the rich weren’t.
Cade would be out picking at this hour, she thought, at least he won’t be home. Jaelyn walked up to the front door and tried to turn the handle. It was stiff, but she was able to push the door open if she used a bit more force. Cade had punched the door frame the night before in a fit of rage when he found out that Jaelyn wouldn’t be able to go get food the next morning because she was attending classes. He was angry a lot of the time.

She shut the door behind her, and looked around at the relatively empty room. On the far side of the room, by the windows that were covered with dark curtains, her mother laid out on the floral stained couch. Her arm was outstretched over the edge of the couch, fingers barely touching the dried cheap wine that stained that area of the brown carpet. Her mouth was agape and her eyes were shut. In her hand that was resting on her stomach, there was an empty bottle and a used cigarette.
Her mother’s chest slowly rose and fell as she slept. She was a heavy sleeper, she never heard Jaelyn leave or enter the house. She never heard Cade scream – or she didn’t care to listen.

Jaelyn walked down the hallway and into the last room. In the back of the house was her room. It was the smallest, but she picked that room because it had the best view of Ivosa at night. Cade was happy to trade rooms with her when Jaelyn was able to understand that she could see Ivosa in the sky.

Jaelyn carefully stripped from her uniform and put it on the red hangers in her closet. She sat in her bed and looked at the rip in her dark skirt. She opened a drawer next to her bed and pulled out a small sewing kit that she had found in the garbage one day. Carefully, she began to sew the rip. The school will supply a new one anyways once they see the rip, she thought, but what’s the point walking around like the Picker they say that I am?

Once her skirt looked good enough, it joined her blouse in the closet.
Jaelyn dressed herself in her dark green oversized t-shirt and black pants. She lied back in her bed and stared at the ceiling above her, looking at the star chart that she had created with paint that her mother gave her on her 15th birthday.

She rolled onto her side and looked at her door. Hanging against it was a poster from the ISA with Mars Addington promoting the programs. She smiled as she looked at her hero.

Mars Addington personally funded many of the ISA’s projects. He was intelligent, generous, and made Jaelyn believe that she could do anything. She could recall in the documentary The Beginning of the Future that they had watched in class many times why she loved him so much.

“The International Space Association, my colleagues, and just about everyone that has been apart of this project have done a better job than I could have ever hoped they would. When Dr. Evelyn Snow came to me with the idea to make this colony, I was more than happy to personally fund this project. I can say, repeatedly, how proud I am with what we have accomplished. Dr. Snow is one of the brightest women I have ever met. I am happy to have worked with her, and hope to work with her for years to come.

“I hope that our accomplishments of the past, present, and future will inspire generations of engineers, scientists, and astronauts. As a boy, my father was involved with the International Space Association and taught me everything that he knew. Interests start at a young age – and for many, your interests can turn into an occupation. I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do the minute I could understand exactly what my father had done for work.”

Jaelyn smiled as she lied in bed. Hopefully, she thought to herself as she felt her eyes become heavy, He’ll say that I’m one of the most intelligent women he’s met.

She shut her eyes, allowing the troubles of her day to melt away as she drifted off into her dreams.

Categories
Creative Writing

When You Are An Anxious Daughter

When you are an anxious daughter

There is a thin line between

Excusable and overreacting.

The first can be met with advice and love

While the other is met with disapproval and anger.

How dare you feel so deeply.

How dare I feel so deeply.

When you are an anxious student

You avoid doing any work until the last moment

Because if you don’t turn it in, you can’t sleep.

You can’t think.

You can’t eat. 

You drown in the sea of expectations.

A pleasure to have in class.

The cycle continues.

When you are an anxious friend

There is no such thing as an anxiety free zone.

You beg your friend to be your bus buddy

Because you can’t sit alone.

Everytime they say yes.

Everytime you feel just as guilty.

When you are an anxious creative

Everything isn’t good enough.

The doubt engulfs you like fog.

You rip a piece of yourself out and 

Splatter it before you, only to hate it.

To hate yourself.

When you are an anxious lover

You want to be strong.

To be brave.

To love.

To be fearless.

To be there for them as they are for you.

Why is it so hard to be there for yourself?

When you are an anxious human being

Even the smallest thing can trigger

A flood of confided emotions that haven’t been

Felt since the first day.

But the trauma leaves you numb.

Someone has it worse trickles from your lips.

The validation that you pour into another’s cup 

Barely drips into your own.

Jumping back and forth between

I’m fine

And 

I AM FINE

Is endless.

When you are anxious

You are at war with yourself.