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Grade
8

I could swear on my life that I wasn’t going to live. Scaling a long terraneous wall wasn’t exactly healthy. Especially in the dark. I had to complete my assignment, though. My mission was to retrieve the much longed-for items. This was the last night possible before they were disposed of.

My sweaty hands groped for another hold as I slowly pulled myself up the wall. I could barely see a thing, and my arms ached like mad, but I knew I had to keep going. If I fell, I would be caught for sure.

Finally, I found what I was looking for. My left arm circled around an oval container, and I started back down the wall. I might just escape out alive. That was, until my footing failed, along with my right arm. I tumbled down, crashing to the ground; the oval container bursting and flinging its contents every which way!

Oh no, I’m busted for sure. I’m so dead. Sure enough, searchlights blazed on all around me. The master of the lair loomed above me with the most dangerous expression.

“What do you think you’re doing, up so late at night with the cookie jar!”

State
MI
Zip Code
48197
Grade
11

Be warned- the walk home is long and dark.  

By that time, everybody would have left except the few expectant stragglers by the entranceway.  You would need to make your way, cautiously, across the risky intersection (an unfortunate accident), and onto the sidewalked hill.  The sky would be a darker shade of black as you tread on and over the twigs, leaves, ice patches... silence interrupted by the comforting buzz of the cars that sweep past, spewing their indistinguishable diesel smoke.  Their criscrossed lights lead you on intermittantly, illuminating a certain landmark here, a post there.          

By now, you are almost home, and the remaining path is guided by lampposts, stooping ravens with tiny embedded suns.  But when you cross the cemetary, dread tiptoes its way suddenly onto your throat, not because of ghosts or curses, but of something much nearer and immediate; anyhow, the air is crisp and clear, and there shuuld be nothing to fear.

Not until you reach your destination at least, a too-familiar noise grows and closens, your hand trembling as the door opens to wash you in light, heavy light.

State
MI
Zip Code
48105
Grade
11

Zoey was only eleven when, on one summer day in her backyard, she lived a thousand lives. This is quite impressive, really, when considering the effort that even one life requires.

First, she hit a homerun in the biggest baseball stadium in the world. Then, she took a ladder up to the sky and, after exchanging cordial greetings with the Big Dipper, she hula hooped with Saturn’s rings. After landing back on Earth, Zoey ventured fearlessly into the forest, an explorer discovering a new territory.  In order to make sure no wild Tyrannosaurus rexes were approaching, she began climbing a tree, when, suddenly, she lost her grip and came crashing down.

It was late in the day, so the sun was sinking beneath the horizon and the sky was turning into cotton candy colors when an injured Zoey ran inside. In her backyard she only left behind overturned stones and muddy footprints, secret clues of the people she had pretended to be.

That night, when Zoey’s arm healed and she went to bed, she closed her eyes and promised herself she would come back tomorrow, for there are always more

games to play and adventures to have.

State
NJ
Zip Code
07974
Grade
11

God save us.

 

I am a priest in a parish church in Rome. What was once a holy city; a safe, blessed place, has become an abyss of agony and terror. The people’s faith has been challenged. They cannot see the light of God past the blood shrouding their vision.

 

The filthy, diseased streets teem with weeping, suffering townsfolk - nonetheless, still - begging God to take the pain away. They thrust their blackened fingers towards the sky as they sob over the piles of pustular bodies. Hopeless. Beyond salvation.

 

Until he came.

 

He came in a long, black robe and towered over the crawling, cowering sick. His face was masked by a massive beak. We had heard this man was a doctor, and rejoiced at his arrival. He could heal us. A sign from God. Heavensent.

 

I rushed to the doorstep of my parish to greet him. He was doing something in the city square. He opened rows of cages at the bottom of his wagon. A cacophony of squealing. A screaming black ocean of rats spilled onto the streets. The doctor departed on his wagon.

 

Now, I write with hours to live.

 

God help us. God save us all.

State
Singapore
Zip Code
597628
Grade
10

Is happiness available for all or reserved for the privileged few? Regardless, I discovered mine on an early summer morning.

 

Joy found me sitting on the crisp lawn. Sunflowers patterned the girl's dress, her grip firm as she helped me up off the ground.

 

I learned that her favorite color was yellow and that she preferred green apples over red. We passed notes in class when the teachers turned their backs and talked on the phone late at night.

 

We lay in the dewy grass, Joy’s smile as bright as the moon perched above. I drank her in and became intoxicated on nothing else that night.

 

We fought, we loved, we laughed, and we cried. Though my skin had grown wrinkled, the world was vivid with Joy by my side.

 

Eventually, Joy passed, and I became bitter. Cloudy days stretched out in agony, and my thoughts were occupied with her and the sole desire to follow her into the next life. I closed my eyes, the sound of a distant lawnmower drowning out all other senses.

 

She was brilliant, she was beautiful, she was Joy, and she lived a life full of Sorrow.

State
MI
Zip Code
48197
Grade
12

"It's coming!"

The whispers spread through the halls as Principal Johnson stalked over, senior class rank in his hands. Rarely did the postings draw such a commotion, but every May, the entire student body gathered to find out who the valedictorian was. Not to know the graduation speaker, no: to complete #1 on the senior scavenger hunt.

Every senior class of worth has a list to be completed after college acceptances, and all traditionalists have "#1: film the valedictorian doing something illegal." In preparation, the jocks had staked out Pam S., the cheerleaders John G., the rich kids Rebecca B., and the stoners Oliver X. 

When posted, the news spread like wildfire: text alerts screamed as everyone frantically sought the dark horse, Alina M..

Alina's phone buzzed and she smiled, glad she could execute her idea. Sarah, a cheerleader, sprinted over. Before she opened her mouth to flatter, Alina stopped her. Sarah had always been nice; Alina might as well give this win to her.

"Film this!" she whispered, urgently. Sarah nodded, although confused as to why.

Smirking, Alina walked away. She skipped right across the street, skirting around slow-moving cars, then turned back to Sarah. 

"Jaywalking's still illegal, right?"

 

State
MI
Zip Code
40183
Grade
9

I remember. The orange groves. The rain. We were children then, and you told me you had a favorite tree, but I told you oranges are just oranges, that you can’t have a favorite tree with oranges. You pointed to one in the middle of the grove.

“That one,” you said, as you sat down beneath its leaves, letting your raincoat meld into the mud as you put your hand on the trunk. “It’s special. I feel it.”

I wanted to say something. I wanted to start an argument perhaps, wanted to see you mad for a while. For fun. But I held my breath as I sat down beside you, letting you ramble on and on, letting you speak your nonsense while I picked the dirt from underneath my nails and chewed them to stubs. I wish I saved your words in firefly jars, I wish I captured your smile and laugh in unbreakable amber. I wish I held onto you as time split us apart, and as I sit down beneath your favorite orange tree now, rotting and old, I’ll put my hand on the trunk as you did and try to feel something too.

State
LA
Zip Code
70002
Grade
11

In summer, the banks of milkweed graced the breeze with waltzes, their sweat swirling off along the way. The milky river swayed in its banks while the buzzards staggered drunkenly in the air. That was when Mond the box turtle appeared on the river.

His face was puckered, fruity, with glittering eyes and wizened chops that looked wiser than all the rest put together; his back was polished bronze: passing ducks often noted their reflection in it. Mond figured he could float well enough, and gave up on swimming, feasting on the creatures who lived on his log instead. You would often find Mond a bemused turtle as he watched "dumb" ducks, wasting their youth learning paddling.

The next day, Mond’s log jumped over a waterfall without warning. And though he could float, Mond could not swim to the log a hundred meteres away. 

A duck swam by the turtle carcass and quacked. Word soon got around the Milky Way about the poor turtle who didn't learn to swim.

State
MI
Zip Code
48105
Grade
8

 

How would one describe the color blue without using the word blue? When you smash cake into your face on your first birthday it is the coloration of your laugh. On the first day of kindergarten it is the name of your new best friend. It is the first time you fly your fingers over piano keys. When you stay awake late reading it is the color of letters burned into the back of your brain. The drip of watercolors on a flowing canvas. It is feeling the chill of ocean crests against warm skin, the cold at the tips of your ears when you say I love you, and the color that is streaked down your cheeks after your first heartbreak. When you are painting your unborn baby’s room it is the tone of paint swatches and rollers. It is the shade of the day you send your own kids off to start their lives. The sparkle in your eyes when the grandkids come to visit. It is the hue of the machines they have you hooked up to now and the IV in your arm. When you finally let go, it is the color of your last breath.

 

 

 

State
MI
Zip Code
48103
Grade
8

Water. That’s all I can see. 

I hastily make my way home, avoiding elbows and umbrellas, maneuvering down sidewalks and through tight alleys. Raindrops quickly seep through my gray T-shirt. My clothes seem to be glued to me and my hair is stuck to the sides of my face, always making its way back to cover my eyes. I feel as if I’m blind, stumbling down the busy streets with the city smoke and water obscuring my vision. I lift a shaky hand above my eyes, attempting to keep the droplets out, but failing. I feel like I’m drowning in arctic waters. The raindrops hits me like boulders as if I’m the victim of an avalanche. 

I quickly scramble into a deserted alleyway, away from the pushing shoulders and demanding voices on the sidewalk. Through the wall of water, I squint and see a rusty door. I tiptoe inside and am met with a dark passage. I’m insane I think as I begin stumbling blindly down the unknown tunnel, but I’m not sightless for long. I blink a few times, I’m met with something you’d never expect to see at the end of an alleyway tunnel: a sunlit forest. 

State
MI
Zip Code
48103