Categories
Writing Updates

The Creative’s Corner #3

It’s official – I am done with all of my finals. All of my essays, tests, homework assignments, and even tutoring – all done until the first week of February. Granted, I am still working on my capstone – but that will be ongoing until the end of Spring 2021.

This has given me time to sit down and do what I enjoy doing – read. In the past two days, I have read I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid and Farewell, Earth’s Bliss by D. G. Compton. Reid’s book was phenomenal – my best friend Mikaela had been recommending it to me for a year and I finally had time to sit down and read it (on top of the fact that it was assigned to me to read). The ending was confusing at first, but I talked it through with her afterwards and it all started to make sense. If you have any time at all, sit down and read I’m Thinking of Ending Things – not only is Reid an incredible author and story teller, but he creates a haunting double storyline that a read cannot get enough of. I rated it 4/5 stars.

Farewell, Earth’s Bliss was fine – I don’t have any strong opinions in favor of this story. It was published in 1966, which makes sense to the crude and honestly upsetting language that is used through the book. Personally, I feel that the character of Jacob was used strictly as the butt of a joke as well referred to in derogatory terms by Simon, who I will call a bully. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters or even to the plot itself (did it have a plot? I’m not sure, still), so I rated it 2.5/5 stars – my lowest rating of the year so far. Maybe if I read this in 1966 I would’ve enjoyed it more, but the language has not aged well into modern times, and ultimately I was left blindsided by the racist and sexist remarks made throughout the book.

One of the best things about my capstone is that I am assigned not only books to read, but TV shows and movies to watch as well. Recently, besides finishing the first season of Twin Peaks, I have been watching The Twilight Zone and working my way through the 27 episodes that my professor picked out. I had never watched this show before, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed watching it. There were some episodes that I couldn’t fully watch – one of them being “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” because of my fear of airplanes. However, even with that being said, it is facinating to see how they filmed the episodes back then. My favorite episodes so far have been:

  • Third from the Sun
  • The Obsolete Man
  • The Eye of the Beholder
  • The After Hours
  • People are Alike all Over

Next up on my list of things to watch is the Netflix movie adaptation of I’m Thinking of Ending Things which I’m excited to see. Other than that, I have to catch up/finish watching The Mandalorian season 2 as I haven’t had time to watch any episodes since my semester got so busy.

It is strange to have so much time now. I only just found out that tutoring was over for the semester yesterday, so besides my RA obligations I have no plans as to how I will spend the rest of my time at school. I don’t move out until Saturday afternoon, which means I guess I have more time than ever to catch up on whatever work I need to do.

I’ll be back later in the week with more content!

Much love,

C.E. Egan

Categories
Writing Updates

The Creative’s Corner #2

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve all had a fabulous week, and are ready for some recovery time. What is something that went really well this week? What is something that you’re grateful for? I’d love to know in the comments below.

Next week is my last week of classes before finals – woohoo! This semester has felt like that longest one so far, so I’m eternally grateful that it is almost over. However, I know this next week will be the most stressful for me. I am challenging myself to complete all of my finals and coursework by December 11th. I am doing this because the last week of school, finals week, I have to stay on campus since I work as a Resident Assistant. This is the time where I want to focus on my writing, as well as get some reading done. My professor is having me read and watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid, so I know that I will need to have the time to do so. The 12th-18th will be my week of editing and working on new pieces.

I submitted “4:30AM” to my capstone professor, and I got some great feedback on it. I’m going to edit it, as well as expand, and this introspective piece is going to be going into my final portfolio for my senior capstone. I didn’t know how I felt about the piece as I wrote it, so it was wonderful to get to talk through it with someone else! I’ve found writing to be a lonely process for me lately, and this class has allowed me to talk about my work and revise it.

Writing is lonely for me because I don’t often talk about my work with others. In the past, I have received constructive criticism that was not spoken of as such, but was phrased more that my writing was not good, and this has kept me from sharing a lot of my work. I can take this feedback, but more often than not it has come off as a critique of not my writing, but me. I had vivid memories of professors telling me that my work ‘doesn’t make sense’ and that I would need to change a majority of what I’ve already done. Or, in some cases, I’ve had peers read my work and tell me that I should give up. This process has been lonely because I don’t share much with anyone.

However, I finally have two people in my life that love listening to me talk about my work. Just yesterday, I was out with one of these friends and we ended up talking about fanfiction and what we thought made it good. I told my friend about one I wrote/have been writing, and to my surprise she absoluely loved it. Little moments like that remind me that I can write great things, and that the people who want to see me succeed in writing will give me critiques directed at my work, not at me.

That’s all I have for my newsletter of the week. Thank you again for supporting me, and I’ll be posting another short story again soon.

Much love,

C.E. Egan

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

The Creative’s Corner #1

Hello again, friends! Its been a hot minute since the last time I posted on here! I’m here to catch up with you all, and update everyone on what’s going on with me – my writing life and my academic life (I’m a college student, after all).

A mental health check in – Covid19 has been on everyone’s minds for months and I want to give you all a space to relax. Take a moment here to do the following:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Relax your jaw.
  3. Relax your eyebrows.
  4. Take another deep breath.
  5. Look around you. Name 3 things that you can see.
  6. Name 2 things you can hear.
  7. Name 1 thing you can touch.
  8. Take another deep breath.

If you haven’t yet, get up and stretch your legs. Drink some water and eat something healthy. Or, eat something your brain needs. Whether that be an apple or chocolate – eat it. You deserve it.

With that relaxation in mind, I hope you’re all doing well and that everything is going as good as it can. Though things are repetitive and lonely right now – you deserve a pat on a back for how far you’ve come and how hard you’ve worked. I’m proud of you.

I haven’t been doing the best at taking care of my mental health, so even typing these reminders has been helpful for me. I hope they were helpful for you too.

As some of you may know, I am a junior in college currently. My life has been swamped with school work, reading, tutoring, and trying my best to have fun with friends. I’m working on my senior capstone currently (yes, a year early – it’s so I can do my internship next year) which entails a lot of reading. The professor I’m working with has given me some awesome recommendations though. I wouldn’t of been able to read the following without his input: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin, Ubik by Philip K Dick, The Tombs of Autuan by Ursula K Le Guin, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Rocannon’s World by Ursula K Le Guin, and other titles that I have not even begun to read. If you can’t tell, I love Le Guin and her work – she writes the genres that I’ve always been interested in and she has written one of my favorite short stories to date: “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas.”

My goal for this capstone, which is a year long, is to create a portfolio of different kinds of pieces so that I can apply to grad school or even a PHD program after I graduate from my undergrad program. Lots of things are happening – grad school panic is real.

Classes are heavy reading based as well, though I’m only taking one English class. I have lots of history reading that I have to do as well as ethics work – philosophy has been a challenge, but I’m learning and have done pretty well in the class. I work as a writing tutor at my school and everyday I’m booked with other peers to help them with their papers. That is exceptionally draining at times – but I am also a Resident Assistant on campus and thus have the stress of that on my shoulders.

However, on top of all these things, I have been able to read what I want and I’ve been able to write more. I will be talking about all of this in a later post, but as it is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – I set out on the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I am proud to say that I hit my goal on November 14th! Thus came my next challenge – finishing the entire novel by the end of the month. And, on November 24th, I finished the first draft – clocking in a total of 70,500 words.

The Astrologist officially has a first draft! As crappy as it may be, it is a draft, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. This is one of the first times I’ve completed a first draft of anything I’ve written, and I have been relatively emotional about it.

As I said, I’m going to talk more about NaNoWriMo and my process and struggles with working on the project as a full time college student and employee of the college. But, I haven’t given up writing at all: sometimes, I have to push off writing to focus on the more important things in life. I’m working to have a schedule of writing something every single day.

In closing, thank you all for the support that you’ve given me in my absence. I’m going to post more on here as I am coming down to the last 3 weeks of school and so I will have much more time to read and write. Is there anything you want for content in particular? I’m going to write some book reviews for the works that I read for my capstone (as listed above) as well as books I’ve read for pleasure. Is there anything else you’d like to see? Let me know in the comments!

Much love,

C. E. Egan

Categories
Writing Updates

Writing Update 9/7

This post isn’t going to be very long, as I haven’t had much time to write lately. I moved back to college last week, and I officially start classes tomorrow. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get prepared for that, as well as tackling all of this while in a global pandemic. I work as a Resident Assistant, so I have also been learning different protocols, as well as learning about a plethora of different topics. It was overwhelming at times, but as this is my second year as an RA – I was prepared to handle these things.

I did find time to read Elevation by Stephen King. Overall, I thought the story was interesting. I found Deirdre and Missy to be one dimensional however, as it seemed that their only traits being shown were that they were lesbians (‘lesbeans’ as a child in the text says). I didn’t know what the story was focusing around either – the race, the restaurant owned by Deirdre and Missy, Scott’s mysterious illness, or some other twist that was yet to be thrown at the reader. Scott was definitely the most developed character by far, as he was the narrator. I am glad I read Elevation, but it is about 3/5 stars for me.

Now, onto the writing. I haven’t been able to bring myself to write much of anything lately (though I suppose this post counts). It isn’t that I don’t have the inspiration, but I am lacking motivation. I have been recovering from a back sprain that I have to go to PT for, and on top of that the transition from home to school has been a whirlwind. Whenever I have a break, I find myself wanting to curl up in bed and hide from reality. However, I have been trying to work on The Astrologist more – meaning I’ve written about another page or so. I have also been editing my play Blue Ends so that has been taking up time.

I am hoping to finish the second chapter of The Astrologist before the end of the week. It is mainly filler, but it is important as a cutaway from the first chapter. I want to get into the flow of the main story line as soon as possible, but I am trying to defeat writers block/lack of motivation at the same time.

Posting may be lack, but I will always come back to the blog. I’m going to try and post at least once a week until I get readjusted with school and attending college in a time of COVID-19.

Thank you for all of your understanding.

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 Great Mind Meeting

This is another piece of my novel! Check out the rest of my posts further down in my blog!

When Jaelyn came home, the meeting was in 5 hours. She rushed to her room and locked the door behind her. She leaned back on the door and looked at her reflection in her window. She smiled and turned around to face the poster hung up. Mars Addington. 

She was going to see Mars Addington in person. Her hero. The legend. The Mars Addington.

Opening the closet, she pulled the dress off of the hanger and shoved it into her backpack. She put on her best shoes, and ran her fingers through her hair to pull apart the small knots.

It was easy to sneak out of the house. Mae was asleep on the couch, as usual for this hour, and Cade still hadn’t come home from Picking yet. All Jaelyn had to make sure she didn’t do was slam the front door shut. 

Once outside, she ran down the dirt paths and past the lit up houses. There were lots of people around, but none paid attention to her unless she was about to run into them. She weaved through Pickers and to the monorail station.

She checked the letter again. It was folded up from being hidden in her pocket. At the end of the letter the students were told to bring them to get admittance to the International Space and Air Museum grand ballroom. She hugged the letter to her chest and smiled at her reflection in the window across from her seat. She had never been so excited for an event.

She got off at the Museums stop on the monorail. It was just a 5 minute walk from the stop that she was able to see the large white block building. The museum looked to be 4 large white blocks connected. They were several different sizes, and one stacked on top of the other three. It was blinding under the moonlight. Jaelyn watched as limos pulled up to the front of the building. Several boys and girls would get out of each, wearing lavish gowns and pressed suits. 

When Jaelyn realized that she was yet to put her dress on, she was set into a panic. Where was she going to change? There was no way she would be able to enter that building without it on. She was out in the streets in the middle of the city. There were no trees to hide behind, no bathrooms nearby. Glancing around, she noticed an alleyway off to her right. She decided that was the best place to change.

In the alley there was a dumpster and several trash cans. The rats scattered as she walked further into the darkness.

She hid behind the dumpster, took a deep breath, and pulled the dress out of her bag. She kept it in a ball in her hand so the flowing bright orange ends didn’t get stained by the murky puddles. Looking around to make sure that the only thing that could see her were the stars and the rats hidden away, she hesitantly took her shirt off and pulled the dress over her, leaving her pants on.

Another car rumbled by and Jaelyn pressed herself against the brick wall, staying hidden from the line of sight of the street. She took her pants off and left on her black school shoes. She knew that all the girls around her would be in heels, but she didn’t own any, and she wouldn’t borrow any from her mother. 

She shoved her shirt and pants into her backpack, and held the invitation tight in her hand. Jaelyn glanced around the street before coming out of the alley and continuing towards the building.

There were two men posted outside the entrance doors. Behind them were a group of men and women in slimming black suits. Jaelyn watched as when a group of kids approached them. They handed their invitations to one of the men, and then followed two of the members of the group. They must’ve been guides to the ballroom.

Jaelyn walked up the large marble stairs and approached the man on the left.

“How can I help you?” He asked her. His voice was dark and deep.

Jaelyn handed her invitation to him, saying quietly “I’m here for the Great Mind Meeting.”

The man inspected the letter and said, glancing at her “You didn’t come in a car?”

Jaelyn bit the inside of her cheek and quickly replied “It broke down. Down the road. I didn’t want to be late.”

He nodded after a minute and turned around to a slim red haired woman and said to her “Take Ms. Beyer to the ballroom.”

The woman gestured Jaelyn to follow her. As she walked down the hallway she said over her shoulder “Congratulations on your score, Ms. Beyer. Are you excited?”

“Absolutely,” Jaelyn replied as she followed her and then added “And thank you, miss.”

The woman smiled at her and led her down the hallway. There was the sound of voices and music becoming louder, and soon Jaelyn three sets of doors open.

Inside was a wide open room, decorated with hanging crystal chandeliers and large round white tables. There were floating white and cream colored lanterns dotted around the ceiling, some floating on their own. There were models of planets hanging as well, in perfect scaled detail. The tables were decorated with gold and silver plates with cream napkins and matching silverware. On top of the plates were small white boxes with silver ribbon tied around it. The center pieces were lilacs and baby’s breath, as well as what appeared to be tiny models of Ivosa in the middle of the flower arrangements. At the back of the room there was a large stage with a podium and a large projecting screen. 

The windows on the sides of the room were adorned with white curtains, tied back with gold rope and pulled away to reveal the view of the Brighton View City Gardens on the left side of the room. On the right, Holloway Pond could be seen glittering in the moonlight. Also on the right side was a group of musicians. Jaelyn couldn’t even begin to identify all of the instruments that they had with them. She had never seen a professional music group perform.

The red haired woman led Jaelyn through the doors. Some students were standing, while others were sat around tables. At a closer look, Jaelyn could see that there were name tags in front of the plates. She followed the woman over to a table in front of the stage and saw her name placed between two others: Ember Daniels and Julis Dedam. 

She thanked the woman and put her bag underneath her chair. She looked around to see if she recognized anyone from her school. She slowly made her way around her table and didn’t recognize any of the names at her table. 

“They let you in?” Tanner said across the table.

Jaelyn met his eyes and furrowed her eyebrows and replied in a mocking tone “They let you in?”

He rolled his eyes and shoved his hands into his dress pants pockets. “I can’t believe you actually showed. Considering I’m sure that they’d kick you out once they find out that you’re a picker.”

“I have the right to be here, Tanner, as much as you hate the idea.”

“Sure, picker, whatever you want to think.”

Jaelyn clenched her fists at her side, biting the inside of her cheek and saying “I don’t understand why you treat me the way you do, Tanner. I deserve to be here. They wouldn’t of sent me an invitation if they didn’t want me to come.”

“You don’t belong here, picker,” Tanner snarled, “You don’t belong in high class society. You should give up trying to impress with your little knowledge of astronomy and technology.”

Jaelyn’s mouth was dry. She opened her mouth to spit a response, but the only sound she heard was another girl’s voice saying behind Tanner, “Dude, anytime you open your mouth you make people want to punch you in the face.”

Tanner turned around and gave Jaelyn view of the girl. She was his height, with tan skin and a mop of curly dark brown hair tied up in a bun on the top of her head. She wore a long black dress with a slit up the side of the leg that reached her thigh. Her eyes were dark and narrowed as she looked at Tanner.

“What do you want?” Tanner rolled his eyes and scoffed at her.

“Oh, I don’t think your mother will want to hear about you talking to me like that, now will she?” the girl then smiled and threw her arm around his shoulder and said “Now, cousin dearest, why don’t you be nicer to this lovely girl?”

Tanner tried to shove her away and replied in disgust, “Don’t touch me.”

She rolled her eyes and let go of him. She placed her purse on the chair next to Jaelyn’s and said “Don’t be such a party pooper, Tanner.”

“Ember, she’s a p-” Tanner began to protest, but Ember quickly cut her off.

“I don’t care what she is.” Ember looked at Jaelyn and flashed a pearly white smile at her, saying “Hi, I’m Ember Daniels.”

Jaelyn quietly replied “I’m Jaelyn Beyer.”

“Oh, so we’re sitting next to each other!” Ember walked over to her and smiled and said “I love your dress. It’s gorgeous.”

“Thank you.” Jaelyn wasn’t used to compliments from people her age. Mrs. Montrone complimented her a lot, and Mrs. Alia complimented her hair cut. But the only person her age that usually complemented her was Marea. Sometimes Jaelyn thought she did it just to be nice.

“Ember. I don’t think your parents would like to know that you’re talking to a Picker.” Tanner crossed his arms and glared in Jaelyn’s direction. 

Ember raised an eyebrow and said “Tanner, what did you get on the assignment?”

“Why does that matter-”

“What did you get?” Ember asked again, narrowing her eyes.

He lowered his and mumbled “99.”

“Well, I got a 100. So maybe, since I’m smarter than you, you should listen to me. And stop bullying this girl.”

Jaelyn stared at Ember. She got a 100 too?

Tanner’s face flushed and he bit the inside of his cheek and grumbled “You aren’t smarter than me.” He turned on his heel and walked away from the table.

“Sorry about him.” Ember turned to Jaelyn and smiled warmly at her. “I hope he didn’t bother you too much.”

Jaelyn mumbled in response “He’s been bothering me since our first year of secondary school.”

“Seriously?” Ember sat down in her chair and continued, “He’s such a jerk. I’m sorry about him.”

Jaelyn shrugged and said “I’m used to it. I’m sure other people think the same things that he just happens to say out loud.”

“I’m sure that’s not true. Just because you aren’t from here doesn’t mean you don’t belong here.”

From here? Jaelyn bit her cheek harder. She was from here. The trash heaps were still part of Brighton View. She decided not to mention anything. She wanted Ember to like her. Jaelyn knew that you don’t correct your friends.

“I know it’s only been ten minutes since I got here, but this sure is boring.” Ember looked around the room and added, “this is a bunch of high school students and they hired a classical orchestra. This is stuff that those adults would like.”

“Do you know who is presenting?” Jaelyn asked.

Ember shrugged. She picked up her crystal water glass and took a drink.

Jaelyn watched the doors as more students began to flood in. She took her seat next to Ember and soon their table was full. Once everyone had checked in and had sat down, there were waiters that came into the room. They each carried golden platters. The waiters, mostly men with a few women as well, came over to their assigned tables and put the small porcelain plates in front of the students. Their first course made Jaelyn’s mouth water. It was a small piece of brown meat – either beef or veal, she wasn’t sure. It was decorated with orange and red sauces and what looked like thinly sliced potatoes on top of it. She wondered if it came from the Montrone farm.

She was ready to dig into her plate, but she watched Ember pick up the third fork in the line and start eating with that. She took note of that, picked up the same fork and her knife. She took a bite and it melted in her mouth. Jaelyn had never tasted anything like it before. It was sweet, spicy, and warm. 

“So, you’re from Hoffman Academy?” Ember asked after she swallowed her first bite of food.

Jaelyn nodded and she quickly shoved another piece of pork into her mouth.

“And you got a 100? That’s pretty impressive, it seems like you’re the only one to have gotten that from there.” Ember glanced around the table and whispered to her “None of the others at this table are from there, are they?”

“No.” Jaelyn swallowed her bite. “I’m the only one who got a 100 from Hoffman.”

Julius, the read haired boy sat on Jaelyn’s other side, chimed in “I figured no one from there would even get invited.”

Before Jaelyn could process his thought, Ember jumped in “Well, Jaelyn did it.”

Julius shoved another piece of pork into his mouth.

Jaelyn couldn’t believe how quickly Ember jumped to defend her. The only other person who would do that was Marea. But she was all talk, she never did anything she said she wanted to do.

Almost as quickly as Jaelyn finished, their plates were whisked away and a new one was placed in front of them. This one had a silver cover on top of it. When lifted, a white smoke flowed over the edges of the plate and across the table. There were laughs across the room and then the clatter of silverware digging into the noodle dish.

By the time dessert came, Jaelyn was laughing with the others at her table as if she had known them forever. The blonde girl across from Jaelyn talked about her parents arguing over where to send her older sibling. The boy with long black hair told them all about his favorite band and their concert coming up.

In the middle of Ember telling the table the story about her father’s auto business, the lights began to dim. The lights on the stage got brighter, and a younger woman walked over to the podium. Her light hair was on her head in a tight bun and she wore a long form fitting black dress. Nothing about her struck Jaelyn anyway; she didn’t know who she was.

“Hello and welcome to The Great Mind Meeting.” She smiled and held her hand up. She flicked her wrist and a large graphic appeared on the holographic screen behind her. “For those of you who do not know me, my name is Andromeda Calquin. I am the Director of Affairs for the International Space Association. I was assigned by my higher-ups to create and distribute this research assignment, as we are always looking for bright young minds to intern with us.

“As you all are aware, the only students that received invitations to attend tonight’s meeting were students that were graded at a 95% or above. Out of the hundreds of students assignments that were graded, the 80 of you here tonight were able to obtain such an incredible feat.” She clapped, and a roar of applause between the students themselves and the staff standing near the doors of the room.

When it died, she continued on “You all showed through your work that you have incredible potential.” She flicked her wrist again, and the slide behind her changed. “It is my pleasure to announce the reasons behind this project.”

Behind her the large screen showed the cover page of the International Space Association’s yearly published magazine. On the cover page was a girl with orange hair, tied back in a tight ponytail. She wore large black framed glasses and her face was pointed and her features were slim. In bold lettering above her head read “Best Rising Scientist of 2150” in white letters.

Ember leaned over to Jaely and whispers “I know that girl. She’s such a snob it’s ridiculous.”

“Every year, the ISA selects a student to receive the Best Rising Scientist Award. Usually, we look at course work as well as their internships involving the ISA. However, this year we decided to do it differently,” Andromeda continued. “This student, Delta Gardence, is a senior attending Swanson Academy. She has been working under Dr. Orion Hoffman for 2 years. As a part of her internship with the ISA, she had to create a scale model of a CO2 remover that she and Dr. Hoffman created together. Not only has she excelled at that, but she then proceeded to create a working model at the scaled size. She is sitting amongst you all tonight.”

As Andromeda continued to drone on about all of her accomplishments, Jaelyn took the chance to scan the room to find the girl. It wasn’t that difficult to find her. She sat at the table next to Jaelyn’s, and she herself had noticed that there weren’t many red haired people in attendance. Delta, Julius, and one or two others. She was looking up at Andromeda, sitting straight up with her hands folded together on the table.

Ember whispered again “She’s the ISA’s little angel. They never shut up about her. She’s so full of herself.” Ember leaned her elbow on the table and watched Delta and continued “Look at her, sitting there all pompous while Calquin praises her in front of all of us.”

Jaelyn took a closer look at Delta. She seemed to have her nose turned up. She was smirking to herself and she pushed her glasses up and closer to her face.

“Now that you mention it…” Jaelyn murmured, but before she could finish her thought, she heard the words she had been wanting to hear all night.

“I’m sure you’re all tired of listening to me drone on, so I will introduce our next speaker. Please give a warm welcome to Mars Addington, spokesman for the International Space Association.” Andromeda stepped away from the microphone and clapped.

Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion then. Jaelyn stared in amazement as Mars walked across the stage. He was taller than she thought he would be. On the stage he looked perfect. He had no wrinkles, no freckles, no flaws in sight. He had bright eyes, dark hair, and one of the whitest smiles Jaelyn had ever seen. Even though she had seen his face in pictures, on tv, and in documentaries; he was still stunning.

She wasn’t clapping, just frozen in place as he made his way to the podium. 

When he reached the podium, he gave Andromeda a hug and a kiss on the cheek. She stepped back and took a seat in one of the empty chairs.

“Hello everyone!” Mars announced, “Give yourselves a round of applause, please!”

There was another echoing of clapping. Jaelyn joined in this time.

“You all should be incredibly proud of yourselves. Seriously, you all should be proud of yourselves for getting to this point. You all have amazing opportunities ahead of you. I can’t believe I get to work with some of the brightest minds in Brighton View. You guys are the men and women who will grow up and continue to make Brighton View the leader in space exploration and colonization.

“I think one of the most important things a young mind needs is a role model to look up too. Mine at your age was my father. Growing up, I always wanted to do everything that he did. I watched him. He taught me how to shave, how to tie a tie, how to tie my shoes, and so many other things. My father also taught me about the planets and the stars.

“Each one of you has someone who inspires you. This person, even if they have no idea that you exist, they inspire you to do more than you ever thought that you were able to do. This concept is so important to me. If my father hadn’t been such an inspiration to me, I probable wouldn’t be in the field that I’m in today.” Mars looked out over the crowd with a smile, and he continued “I hope to be an inspiration to my son as my father was to me.”

Mars took a water bottle out from underneath the podium, took a sip, and then chuckled “I’m sure you’re all wondering what comes after this meeting.”

He put the water bottle down and flicked his wrist, a new screen appeared behind him. The lettering was geometric and in bright blue letters: WHAT COMES NEXT.

“As Ms. Calquin explained in her speech, Ms. Delta Gardence has been interning at the ISA for the past two years. Last year, she was named the International Space Association’s: Best Rising Young Scientist Award. With that award, she received a prize of $10,000 and a feature in the ISA’s magazine.” Mars took another sip of water. “This year we decided to open it up to all students.”

A feature in the ISA’s magazine guaranteed you a job offer once you graduated from high school. Jaelyn’s heart began to race. That could be her. She could be the next featured young scientist and she could finally be out of the trash heaps. Her mind wandered to all the possible outcomes her life could have if she was chosen to be the next feature. She could work for the ISA, or even begin her own smaller company that provided niche research for flight companies or even food researchers. In that moment, she did not care where she ended up after being featured. All she could think about was finally being away from her home.

Living in the city would smell so nice. Instead of rotting food, she would smell the clean air. She could take long, hot showers in her own bathroom that she didn’t share with anyone else. She could look out clean windows that were taller than her. Jaelyn could buy food from grocery stores. She wouldn’t have to deliver trash to the Montrone’s to make money anymore. She would make a living doing what she loved. She would live where she was safe and alone.

“What we’re asking from all of you in to create a scale model based on the invention in your research papers. You all cited from scientists, past and present, and created inventions of your own. While they were just descriptions of what you created, one of the many reasons that you all are here is that the inventions you ‘hypothetically’ made have a possibility of being successful.” Mars flashed his perfectly white teeth as he smiled and finished by saying “There will be more instructions given to you all before you leave. I want to, again, congratulate all of you on your incredible work. Enjoy the rest of your night here with us.”

He stepped away from the podium while everyone clapped. Jaelyn glanced around at the students sitting at tables surrounding her. She could see the same looks of awe on other faces that she could feel on her own. They all were having similar daydreams, Jaelyn was sure of it. 

The lights rose back to their regular lighting, and everyone continued to eat and chat. Jaelyn fell silent at her own table, listening to the conversation surrounding her. She was too busy thinking about her possible future. 

When the plates were cleared, Ember turned to Jaelyn and asked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jaelyn replied. “Just thinking a lot. Can you believe it? That any of us could be featured in the magazine?”

“It’s pretty cool, yeah. But the fact that they want us to make scale models of our designs is annoying.” Ember leaned back in her chair and fixed her dress at the waist. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that much money to take out of my savings to spend on parts.”

“What did you research?” Jaelyn didn’t want to talk about money. 

“I looked into work done by Weston Brooks and Elijah Queens. They did a lot of work a couple years ago on the creation of an airlock. I always found it super interesting that the lock must be super powerful so that nothing breaks it, otherwise everyone dies. What about you?”

Jaelyn clasped her hands in her lap. “I did research on an oxygen machine created by Orion Hoffman. I also looked into how colonizers create power on plants other than our own. Some of Evelyn Snow’s early research was about that. I also looked into Raymond Addington’s work talking about that.”

“So, what are you going to create a scale model of?” Ember raised an eyebrow.

Jaelyn bit her cheek and said “Probably the oxygen machine. I haven’t really thought of a way to combine the two ideas yet.”

Ember smiled. “That sounds pretty cool.” She sat up and looked around the room. “You know, I’m pretty surprised that Dr. Snow isn’t here. She’s usually at all of the ISA’s events.”

“Mars is here though, which is pretty cool.”

“I know, right?” Ember smiled and said “He was my hero when I was in elementary school. He work on the planets and the stars started up my interest in space.”

“Me too.” Jaelyn was thrilled she had so much in common with Ember. “He’s still my hero.”

Ember stood up out of her seat and looked around the hall. She glanced at Jaelyn and asked “Wanna walk around with me? I want to see if I can find where everyone is getting those little chocolate medallions.”

Jaelyn nodded and stood up, walking away from the table with her. She looked around at all of the decorations hanging from the wall. She liked the sound that Ember’s shoes made when they hit the tile floor. Click, Click, Click. She wished she had shoes like that.

“Are you coming to the after party?” Ember asked.

After party? “I didn’t know that there was one, I didn’t get an invitation to that.”

Ember laughed. Jaelyn felt her heart sink. Had she done something wrong? She didn’t know why she was laughing. “It’s a party at Caine Warshborn’s house. He invited a ton of people. You should come with me, it’ll be fun.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know if I should. I have to go p-,” Jaelyn began to say, and then cut herself off. She didn’t want to tell her she had to go picking. “I have to go practice.”

“Practice what?” Ember asked, weaving between two waiters.

Jaelyn bit her cheek. She hadn’t thought this through. “I have to practice my speech. I’m giving one in class on Monday.”

“Oh, cool.” Ember walked over to the long banquet table and scanned options available. “If you decide to have some fun tonight, let me know. I’ll get you into the party.” She picked up a small chocolate wrapped up in purple paper and bit into it “This is awesome. You should try one.”

Jaelyn reached down and picked up the chocolate. She took the wrapper off of it and turned around to throw it into the recycling bin. She didn’t look where she was going as she took a step, and her body crashed into another.

She was flustered and looked at the brown stain on the mint green dress in front of her. Jaelyn looked up as she apologized “I am so sorry I didn’t see you.”

Delta looked down at the stain, and then looked at Jaelyn and spit, “You should watch where you’re going!” She grabbed a napkin off of the table and wiped off as much of the stain as she could. “This dress is brand new!”

Jaelyn was frozen staring at her. She couldn’t get anything to come out of her mouth.

“Delta, relax,” Ember cut in. She stepped up next to Jaelyn and said, “It was an accident. Chill out.”

“She should’ve been looking where she was going. Now I have to get this dry cleaned.” Delta huffed. She looked at Jaelyn and said, “Who do you think you are?”

Ember took a step-in front of Jaelyn. “She said she was sorry, Delta. Just walk away. I’m sure you have more important things to do than attack Jaelyn because she accidentally ran into you.”

Delta clenched her fists at her sides, and then shoved her way between Jaelyn and Ember, walking out into the hallway.

“Isn’t she just lovely?” Ember wipes her hands on a napkin.

Jaelyn was still frozen. She felt like she couldn’t breathe.

“Jae?”

She turned and walked away from Ember, headed towards the small balcony doors at the side of the hall. She needed air. She couldn’t be in that room. She thought about her mother and her brother. She thought about the night that they cut her hair. It felt like Cade’s hand was back on her windpipe. She didn’t mean to run into Delta. 

It was an accident. 

It was an accident.

Shoving the doors open, she felt the cool breeze hit her face and she stumbled over to the railing of the balcony. She gripped the edge tightly, breathing heavily. She was trying to get air into her lungs. There was an elephant sitting on her chest. Jaelyn shut her eyes and tried to steady her breathing. She squeezed the metal bar hard in her hands. She thought for a moment that the railing was cutting her hands. It was an accident. 

She heard the door open up behind her. She could hear the music echo out of it.

“Are you okay?” She recognized the voice.

Turning around, Jaelyn’s heart raced faster. She was face to face with Mars Addington.