Tag Archives: fiction

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 1: Admitted Denial

“So, that was an actual God?” Jacobus asked, sitting on a stump, still breathing hard.

“Short answer, yes,” Aliene said between gulps of air. They were back in the forest, but every nerve was still panicking. “The Celestial chiefs can manifest Avatars for speaking to or defending the tribes.”

Jacobus slapped his cheek, calming himself a bit. “That happen very often?”

Aliene just looked at him, shaking her head; she stood to examine the bow Centauri had given her. The blue metal fins retracted, suddenly folding in a couple times, becoming no longer than her forearm. Aliene took a strip of cloth from her wrist and secured the magic bow to the back of her belt, hiding it beneath her shirt. Aliene put her pack on as Jacobus stood and did the same. “I should find another bow soon.”

“He did say not to use it a lot,” Jacobus said before his face twitched slightly. “I am assuming here, but you don’t have a large inner-magic reserve do you?”

“No,” Aliene replied as she began walking after looking up at the suns position. “If I remember right, Schillia is the closest country, so maybe we should head there for good supplies.” Aliene had taken a few steps before realizing Jacobus had stopped walking; she turned to him and the air left her lungs.

His face wasn’t angry but the air around him shivered from his gaze. Jacobus inhaled deeply, saying, “I wouldn’t suggest it.”


“Going there would cause more problems than it could ever solve.” Jacobus calmed himself but still looked drained from the thought.

“There a longer version?” Aliene let her hands fall to her sides.

Jacobus sighed. “We should walk and talk.”

Aliene nodded and waited for him to reach her side before they continued.

“During the fighting of Schillia’s civil war, I was ordered to do many things I am not proud of. The comfort of knowing it was in service to my country faded quickly after I was released.” Jacobus’ pace quickened as he spoke. “Without the direction I had while in the army, those memories I ignored began hounding every moment of my existence. Whether awake or dreaming I couldn’t outrun them. That is why I began traveling to monasteries.” The rhythmic pace began creeping up towards a jog. “You know the rest from there.”

Aliene was quiet a moment. “Do you ever regret being in that army?”

“I couldn’t say one way or the other.” Jacobus began slowing as he asked, “Have you ever done something you regret?”

Aliene wrinkled the area between her eyebrows. “Yeah, it was a long time ago, but it was when Hafwen first began teaching me magic.” Her pause held until Jacobus went to speak, but Aliene cut him off first. “I had been warned that using magic the first few times can mess with your emotions, the lesson awakened an anger I didn’t realize I had. I attacked her.”

Jacobus waited a moment. “But it was an accident, right?” Aliene just looked at him, face muted of expression, but her brown eyes trembled. “You just gave in,” Jacobus said quietly, half looking through her as if seeing something else further away.

“It was the first and only time. I had ignored the feeling so long it got replaced with something worse.” Aliene’s breathing turned rapid as she slowed down.

Jacobus stayed beside her saying, “That is probably true for many parts of life.” The two walked in soft silence for a while before Jacobus froze mid-step. “Well, that is not very inviting.” He and Aliene stepped out of the tree line onto blackened earth.

Aliene nodded her agreement. “This is the Morbid Row, the border of Misten’s land.”

They looked around at the dead and dying plant life dotting the plagued soil that hissed steam where it wasn’t covered in pools of dark, oily water.

Child of Starlight: Issue 2 – Part 4: Celestial Chief

Aliene looked up past the branches into darkness. “Yes it was.” Aliene stood pulling her sword and bow out of her pack.

As Jacobus loosed his reach and contracted it, the muscles in his arms visible grew. With a blast of wind from the brush a voice called to them, saying something just out of hearing. The pair exchanged glances until Aliene froze, visibly disturbed. “Did you hear that?”

“Just now?” Jacobus questioned, Aliene nodded. “No.”

“There it is again,” Aliene stood from her crouched position. “It’s calling me to it.”

“What is?”

“I don’t really know,” Aliene started walking sword still raised. “Come on, grab the brick from my bag.”

Jacobus didn’t answer, just obeyed and followed behind her, leaving his own pack and the rest of hers. He looked past Aliene into the inky blackness that enveloped her, then it filled his own vision. Until the faint glow of something in the distance appeared, and a voice came from all around saying, ‘Go towards it and fire an arrow.’

“Now that I—” Jacobus was cut off by Aliene shushing him.

After the sounds of a bow creaking followed by the whoosh of its release, an explosion of light rushed past them. What had been a black abyss was now filled with countless flecks of light. Swirling like firefly’s in a dome, that then became still appearing to be stars in a clear sky. Jacobus felt a hand on his shoulder force him into kneeling, he fought it in vain till he saw what it was. A man taller and broader than any Jacobus had ever seen, and as the being passed by him he saw the legs of an equian. It was in fact a full body of an equian as the beings lower half, the feet of which were large thick talons, the digits linked by webbing. His whole body had a rough skin that glistened like scales, and a pair of long folded fins sprouted from the sides of his left forearm.

“Daughter do you know me?” the voice from earlier said as the being approached Aliene.

She had fallen to her knees staring at it, “Yes,” her voice was meek.

“Say it, child of starlight.”

“Aquar Equias, Chief of hunters, Centauri,” Aliene flinched as the being flexed, extending his left arm and watched him pull his right hand along his left arm like you would a bow. She looked on in amazement as a sliver of pale blue light manifested, Centauri aimed upward and fired the sliver. It claimed into the air and burst becoming almost like a sun that began filling the area with soft blue light.

“Dear child how long I have watched you grow,” Centauri spoke with a voice that made the air shiver. “Your strength is something beyond mortal limits. You bring me honor,” the being turned to Jacobus, “So you will quiet your mind boy, I am one of the avatars for her pantheon of gods.”

Aliene coughed out a breath tearing up as she looked to the being who would be her god. “Why Me?” Aliene says finally letting tears flow down her cheeks. “Why would you do this to me,” Aliene screamed it clutching her chest.

Centauri was silent for a moment, “If I knew child I would tell you, truly. It is your mark, it was made by your magic, I have watched over my tribe for a thousand generations. I have seen heroes be foretold come to pass and be welcomed amongst the starlight households.” The being of hunters bent to place his hand under Aliene’s chin lifting her face. He looked into her hazel eyes that begged for relief, to have this burden lifted. “You are different, you have something more than what I know, how you live, how you deal with this, will be up to you. All I can do is arm you with what I do know, give me your bow.”

Aliene lifts her weapon with both hands bowing her head, as she does the weapon changes flashes of light force her eyes closed. When the light subsided, she looks at what her bow had become. Heavier than before and almost pulsing with magic. It was thinner, but as she gripped it the ends fanned out like the gods own arm. “Give it a try.”

Aliene stood her mind asking why there was no bowstring, but her body just moving. Her arm went through the motions and as she drew her magic was pulled from her hand. She aimed at a tree that appeared some ways off, half rotten and released. With a hiss and whistle her target more splattered than splintered but was missing a huge section in an instant.

“Raw power has its uses, merely think sharper to pierce a target, though try not to use this more than ten times a day child. Don’t lose it I have blessed it but Hafwen did spend weeks making it for you in the first place,” Centauri smiled at her beneath his star filled eyes and nodded at Jacobus, “He is more than he seems, don’t discard such faith.”

Jacobus had stayed a good distance form the girl and the god, kneeling and as the being of hunters nodded at him he stood only to drop the meteor stone. “What the,” Jacobus picked it up as Centauri appear beside him, no sound, no warning. The being took it, examining the stone for the moment.

“Interesting, this is the star that fell to you?” Jacobus nodded to answer him. “This is from the House of Crafting.” Centauri looked up towards the sky, seemingly past the darkness. “I give you this advice young one, in the heart of a mountain north of here lives a being much like myself, should you find him give him this stone.”

Aliene opened her mouth to reply but was suddenly blinded by white hot light, when she blinked rapidly to adjust her eyes she heard the buzz of insects calling and the song of birds fill the air.

Castle of Crows – Part 6

After all the noise of the night before, I think it was the silence that woke me up. The rain had finally stopped, and the world had finally gone quiet after the wild panic of the night before. The candles around the room had gone out while we slept, but now that the sun was up there was dim light shining through the curtains. The door was still locked, and it seemed undamaged despite the best efforts of whatever had attacked the room earlier.

Now that there was nothing trying to force its way in, I felt safe enough to investigate the room. The wood cabinet was locked up tight, but the work table had more then enough weird things on it for me. Besides the cauldron, there was an assortment of herbs and stones, and several rows of shelves holding dozens of little bottles filled with powders, liquids, and what appeared to be bones. Each bottle was labeled in Aunt Pen’s neat script, but not in English. There was also a book filled with recipes, but none of them looked like they made food. At least, I hoped they weren’t food.

Macey yawned behind me, and I turned to see her rubbing her eyes as she woke up. Continue reading Castle of Crows – Part 6

At the Alter

After months of planning, of fittings and tastings and color coordinating, the day was finally here. Everything was beautiful, the flowers and the bridesmaids and the forest surrounding the field where the wedding would happen. The ceremony was set to begin at sunset, and they’d light the candles the lined the aisle. It was going to be beautiful, maybe even perfect, or it would have been, if it had been anyone’s wedding but my own.

I watched my reflection with a detached indifference as the hair stylist wove flowers into my hair. I could hardly recognize the woman in the mirror before me; she looked too beautiful to be real, like she’d been pulled from the pages of a magazine, inhumanly flawless. She lacked the scar on my chin that I’d gotten while playing field hockey. I’d hated that scar when I’d gotten it, but I’d had it so long that my face looked wrong without it. I couldn’t see my freckles either, or the birthmark that was supposed to be on my collarbone.

My reflection looked beautiful, but she didn’t look like me. This whole day was like that though, beautiful, picturesque, practically perfect in every way, but it wasn’t me.

“Oh, Claire, you look so beautiful!” My mother looked like she was on the verge of tears, her eyes big and watery and filled with pride. “Everything’s just so perfect. I’m so happy to see it all come together.” Continue reading At the Alter

Castle of Crows – Part 5

The moment the sky went dark, Aunt Pen was grabbing us both and pulling us out of the room. I could hear howling from outside, followed by the familiar cawing of crows, and while the noises scared me, the panicked look on Aunt Pen’s face was what kept me from asking questions. Her face had lost all color, and as she pulled us through the halls and up the stairs she kept looking around like she expected something to jump out of the shadows at us.

When we got to the third floor, Aunt Pen started leading us down a very familiar hallway. It was where we’d first started looking for the passage to the tower, and when Aunt Pen stopped in front of that blank wall it occurred to me that she might not have been completely honest when she said she’d never found the passageways.

There was a crash behind us, and Macey and I turned to see a crow had crashed through a window down the hall. Before I could even try to identify him though, there was a scraping sound, and we turned again to see the stone wall opening up to reveal a staircase. Aunt Pen grabbed us and pushed us through the opening. Continue reading Castle of Crows – Part 5

Child of Starlight: Issue 2 – Part 3: Pasts That Define Us

The day continued and the two travelers began sticking to the shade of trees, avoiding the searing sunlight of midday. Aliene was beginning to feel the rebound of her exertion. She looked back to Jacobus who had stayed quiet over the past few hours. The man still looked as if he was on a leisurely walk. Does he outclass me by so much? The thought had wormed its way into her skull, exacerbated by the silence between them. Aliene had only been able to compare herself to Hafwen growing up; her mentor had always been better at everything. Speed, power, endurance, and stealth, the four tenants of a hunter. Hafwen told Aliene she was better than some but how could the young girl really know?

The use of magic had always been compared to how she used her muscles normally. Magic just made up the difference in what she could normally do and what she may need to do. The farther the difference, the more magic needed. Outer magic was a little different but pulled from the same source within her. Hafwen had drilled Aliene till her magic was drained, then made her keep going, fighting through the sharp tingling that ensued. A sensation Aliene was starting to feel now in her legs.

Should I just rest? A foreign concept after twenty years of scheduled life. They had food for a few days and nowhere to go. I have nowhere I need to be. The realization of that fact stung Aliene more than she expected. Continue reading Child of Starlight: Issue 2 – Part 3: Pasts That Define Us

Castle of Crows – Part 4

The rain kept on for the next three days. Macey and I explored every room we could get into: spare bedrooms, parlors, a study. The first day was all hide and seek, and while there were plenty of great places for us to hide, with only two of us it got boring quickly, with the seeker often being unable to find the other. Hiding got boring when no one was around to find you. After I hid behind a couch and under a curtain, Macey spent an hour trying and failing to find me, so we called off the game until we could get more players. On the second day we stayed together and explored what we could, even venturing into the basement to see if there was a dungeon, but we only managed to find the wine cellar before Macey insisted on going back upstairs.

Continue reading Castle of Crows – Part 4

Child of Starlight: Issue 2 – Part 2: What is Known

Darkness filled the area within her vision. Through Aliene’s reach, however, she felt every branch, vine, and pool. The tears had dried from the sheer speed Aliene had been running at. “Away, just get away,” was her only thought. As a ray of dawn pierced the dark of the forest, Aliene reached a small clearing and stopped, allowing herself to breathe deeply.

“About time, how long did you plan on running like that?” Jacobus’ voice made Aliene turn around and glare at him.

“I was sure I had left him behind, how then?” Aliene’s thought was cut off when she noticed Jacobus wasn’t breathing hard; his wasn’t even elevated like hers. “What are you?”

Jacobus had a slight smile as he answered, “Just a former monk; let’s leave it there.”

“No, I know most of this forest by heart. You as a stranger would not have been able to keep up so easily.” Aliene dropped her pack, drawing the sword sticking out of the bag. “Now really, what are you? Why are you following me?” Continue reading Child of Starlight: Issue 2 – Part 2: What is Known

Dahlia’s Secret; Part 1

The air was heavy, full of the sound of crashing waves breaking over the harbor. Mist was borne aloft on the breeze, bringing with it the smell of salt and shore. Every now and then a man’s shout, the horn of a disembarking ship, or the cry of gulls would shake Ryan Dowler from his reverie as he sat there, seated at a coffee table near the pier’s wrought iron fence, awaiting the vessel that would carry him far away.

It had been the gulls this time, their call breaking the monotonous sound of the ocean and causing Ryan to start. The young man straightened, looking down the dock for what seemed like the hundredth time in half-hearted search for his transport. When only the crashing waves greeted him, he sank a hand into the pocket of his tweed coat and drew from within a golden timepiece, which he flicked open. Minuscule hands made their slow dance across the polished backdrop—half-past noon. Ryan shut it and gave another look down the dock, a puff of derision escaping from nostrils.

Of course, Ryan expected such a wait and had prepared his patience accordingly. Captain Jasper had earned a bit of a reputation around of the docks of Clydesport as an excellent navigator, but somewhat unreliable in terms of punctuality. It was common for the old skipper’s ship, the Meredith, to take port hours after its intended arrival time, usually to the detriment of whatever contract Jasper had offhandedly signed days before. Ryan, after learning of this, had taken the necessary steps to avoid such a situation, and had arranged for their meeting some four hours early in order to try and assuage any lateness of the eccentric seaman.

Nevertheless, Ryan had made sure that he had been there for the initial meet-time at eight-thirty that morning on the off chance that Captain Jasper may keep his word. It had been peaceful then, the sun dampened by thick gray clouds and the sounds of the ocean surrounding the pier. He had sat at the same table he was now, nursing a small cup of coffee as he looked out over the waves through darkened spectacles. The Meredith had remained absent, which annoyed Ryan somewhat, but he recovered quickly and chose instead to simply enjoy the morning.

When a familiar voice boomed from behind him, however, Ryan could hardly help but frown.

“Ryan? Little Dowler, is that you? My, my, boy, have you grown!”

Stray Dogs – Part 3

Her mother called a few days later, asking for help with cleaning out the house. Too big of a job to do with only one hand, she said. Andrea almost refused.

Andrea sat silently in the driveway for a long moment, before finally going inside. Her mother greeted her at the door, hugged her, and then immediately began giving her instructions on what needed to be done around the house.

“You’ve been so much help since I hurt my arm, Andy.” Her mother said as she pulled a box of junk of one of the shelves, “Don’t know how to thank you.”

“Could you give me an honest answer about something? If so, I’d call it even.”

“…Of course.”

“Why’d you tell me that Paul wasn’t my father? Better yet, why’d you tell him?” Katherine seemed caught off guard, like she’d expected Andrea to say something else. Anything else.

“I-I couldn’t live with that sin anymore, you have to understand. I had to tell the truth. They put Paul on that transplant list and I realized I wouldn’t have forever…”

Well, Now I’ve got to live with it too. Andrea wanted to say, but didn’t. She didn’t say anything at all. She had to live with a lot of things these days.

“I always told myself I was going to wait until you moved out, so he wouldn’t try to take it out on you too.” Somehow, that made it worse. “But then he got sick, and somebody had to take care of him… I never wanted to drag you back into the mess I made.” As far as Andrea could tell, that was what her mother had done since the moment she was born, and yet she couldn’t shake the urge to protect her.

“It’s…fine, mom. Don’t worry about it.”

Photo from BHG.com

After what felt like an eternity, they worked their way into the kitchen. Andrea was wiping down the counters, when she heard her mother make a tiny sound of confusion behind her, as she riffled through the cabinet below the sink. When Andrea turned around, her mother had a bottle of anti-freeze in her hands. The bottle of anti-freeze.

Andrea couldn’t breath. Her blood ran cold.

“What’s this doing here?” she asked, “Andrea, do you know why this is in here? The last time I checked it wasn’t- Are you alright?”

“I-I, uh, Paul asked me to bring it in from the garage. When I was taking care of him.”

“Why would he do that?”

“He, uh, said something about getting rid of a stray dog.”

Her mother stares at her for a moment, “Right. That… sounds like him. Well. Take it back out there when you get a chance, I don’t want it in here around the food.” she said, brushing past Andrea on her way out of the kitchen.

“Where are you going?”

“Sorry, honey. I think I just need to lie down.”

Now that she was alone, Andrea leaned heavy onto the counter she’d been cleaning, her shoulders shaking with silent sobs.


If only our ships would sail

Have you ever loved a couple from a TV show, a movie, a book, or any other media so much that it’s literally all you can think about? Have you ever thought “Oh my god, these two people would be so cute together! Why don’t they fall in love already?” because I definitely have. If you don’t know, this feeling you are having is called shipping. Shipping by definition is “A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well.”

This definition states that shipping is only related to fan fictions but nowadays it has expanded to real people as well.

Some very popular ships include Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), and Kimye (Kim Kardashian and Kanye West). People love to ship celebrities because it gives them a sense of hope when it comes to love. Celebrities are always under the microscope allowing fans to create their own love story, whether it has any truth to it or not, as to why and how two people became one couple.

Shipping allows a connection to be created between celebrities and their fans because it makes the fans think that they know what’s going on in the celebrity’s life and feel as though they’ve become friends.

Lauren Jauregui and Camilla Cabello make up the shipping nickname "Camren." Graphic from I Heart It
Lauren Jauregui and Camilla Cabello make up the shipping nickname “Camren.” Graphic from We Heart It

My favorite ship that has recently gotten way out of hand is a Camren. Camren is the combination of the names Camila and Lauren from the band Fifth Harmony.

Fifth Harmony is my all-time favorite band at the moment, meaning I know everything about them, what they like, what they don’t like, and who they are in relationships with. Because I have an obsessive personality, I have seen basically every interview, radio interview, and live performance they have ever done and each time Camren is alive and more obvious than they think.

I genuinely believe that they are in love or have been in love and are hiding it from the public. If you watch one of the most famous Camren videos, you can see for yourself the way that they look at each other and how one touch can make them happy.

However, because Camila and Lauren heard about the Camren ship, they have stopped interacting as much and don’t even have the strong friendship they use to have. This is where shipping can go too far. If you directly tell them that they are in love or tell them what their sexuality is, that is going too far.

Trying to force a label on somebody is wrong to begin with, making them uncomfortable within themselves as well as affecting their relationship with each other. I’m not sure why it has made them uncomfortable, unless there is some truth to it that they’re not allowed to talk about.

Bottom line, however, is if it makes someone uncomfortable, stop. Simple as that.

Shipping is something that I enjoy doing, no matter how painful and heart breaking it can be. Love is such a strong emotion and one of the only emotions that can’t be controlled. You can ship and be in love with two people all you want, just don’t cross that line.

Adventures in scrapbooking: Part 2

“I know, it’s just- you know it’s complicated with my family. I don’t always want to hear about where I came from,” she sighed, running her hand over Nicole’s knee. Nicole scoffed.

“Yeah, well, at least you get the chance.”

Michelle chewed the inside of her cheek. She had known Nicole for a long time: they had been friends since childhood and had gone to most of the same schools since their teenage years. Nicole had avoided bringing her to her house at first, and when she finally caved in and let Michelle sleep over, she had, in part, confirmed Nicole’s fears. She had been confused when she met Nicole’s family, not because they acted particularly different or treated one another badly, but because her parents looked nothing like her. They were perfectly pleasant people, but Nicole had been frustrated by her foster parents’ lack of knowledge about her birth parents. When she was seventeen, she’d finally weaseled out what they knew, only to find out it didn’t matter. All Nicole knew about her parents was where they were buried, and that the car accident that killed them had left her alone. She had been too young to remember anything about them, and in some ways, she felt worse because of it: she wasn’t sure what she’d missed out on.

Michelle’s mother had taken an instant liking to Nicole, and they were far closer than Michelle could hope to be with her mother.

“Honey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… you know I love my family. They love you, too.”

Nicole looked down at her hands, long eyelashes fluttering on her dark cheeks. Michelle sat next to her and slid up close, kissing her cheek. She didn’t want to see Nicole cry.

“I love you.”

“I know. I love you too.”

They sat together on the black fabric for silence in a moment. Michelle held her hand.

“You know what? Let’s search the house. Maybe they just missed something- there could be a duct, or a little space behind one of those baseboards or something.”
Nicole smiled, running the palm of her hand over her face.

“All right. I’ll grab a flashlight. We can check out the attic some.”

Although the house wasn’t very big, the downstairs portion had more than enough space and storage for the two of them. It had two bedrooms, something that Nicole had pointed out made having friends over easy, although neither one of them was too social and Michelle suspected it was really about being able to invite over her mother. All the time they had spent in the attic was the few minutes it took to put up the two plastic bins in the one corner of the otherwise empty room. There was a wall along one side where the roof slanted, creating a small triangular closet that they had briefly poked their head in, but not investigated thoroughly, and that was where they went now.

Leaning in, Michelle looked around skeptically. She clicked on the flashlight.

“What about that little door?” she asked.

“What little door?”

“It’s at the back here. It cuts off the rest of the little closet thing.”
She crawled down toward the small square door, no more than three or four feet high. It was latched with a hook and eye, and she pulled it out and it swung open, revealing a tiny, dark room.

The space was unfinished, with only loose pieces of plywood across the beams, and curiously devoid of ladybugs.

“There’s a box in there,” Michelle said. “I’m going to check it out.”

“Be careful, Mitch,” Nicole whispered, holding the flashlight as she crouched down, leaning against the door to keep it from slamming shut. Michelle nodded, tucking her hair behind her ear as she leaned in and crept across the plank of plywood.

“Ugh, god. It smells like piss,” she grumbled. “I hope there’s no rats in here.”

She crawled toward the cardboard box and hesitated before touching it, imagining nests of rats, waiting to pour out over her hand once she grabbed it.

“Mitch? Is everything all right?”

She tried to inhale through her nose to calm herself, and ended up kind of sputtering against the smell of ammonia. Frustrated, she grabbed the box, ignoring the thought of rats scurrying around her head.

She pulled the box with her back across the plywood and to Nicole, who turned her flashlight on it.
“What does that writing say?”
Michelle turned the box. On the side, in heavy-handed black marker, was written the name Ashlee and age 9.

“If there’s a kid in here, I’m gonna- I don’t even know,” Nicole cautioned as she shut the door to the small room.

“I don’t think it’s big enough for that.”

“Yeah, well, It’s big enough for a head. I’ve seen Seven.

“I don’t think it’s a head.”
“It better not be.”

Carefully, Michelle opened the flaps of the box. Blessedly, there was no head inside, but only an old stuffed bear, several magic marker drawings of animals, a tattered copy of a Magic Schoolbus book, and a blue scrapbook so full that its covers splayed outward. She picked it up and it fell open in her hands.

There were hundreds, if not thousands of ladybugs inside the scrapbook pages. They were glued with white glue, glitter glue, even taped over Hello Kitty stickers and cutouts from coloring books. They were everywhere, even crushed after leading off trails of glue toward the edges of the page, clearly having been alive when they were placed there.

“This is like a little kid serial killer,” Michelle whispered. She held the book at arm’s length, horrified.

“Maybe this place has always been infected with bugs.” Nicole said, and took it from her carefully, walking out of the closet and back down the stairs as Michelle trotted after her. From behind her, she heard Nicky talking hopefully.

“It’s disgusting, don’t get me wrong. But maybe that’s why they can’t get rid of them? They could be hiding in that tiny room?”

“Maybe,” Michelle grumbled. “I need a glass of wine. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“The glasses aren’t unpacked, hon.”
“It doesn’t really matter.” She opened the pantry and pulled a pink solo cup off the stack, slapping it onto the counter with a hollow clack before screwing the lid off a bottle of red wine and pouring it into the cup. Across the table, Nicole crossed her arms. She considered rattling off the same line she used at her students, that problem solving has to come from the heart, not from a bottle, but she just rolled her eyes as Michelle downed the cup like an ambitious frat pledge.

As she put the empty cup down on the counter, Michelle watched a ladybug plodding across the counter away from her hand. Angrily, she slapped the solo cup facedown over the bug. She slid a piece of paper beneath the cup. “I’m so tired of this,” Michelle spat. “There has to be a way. I’m sick of it.”

As she lifted it to take it out the door, they both froze. On the table, just where it had been, was the ladybug. Michelle screamed, and the bug took off.

“Mitch, calm down! You probably just dropped it without realizing!”

“No, I didn’t! I didn’t!” but she was already second-guessing herself. She rushed to the wall where the bug had landed and pressed her hands against it, leaning in close and staring upward to where the ladybugs milled around on the wall.

“They’re ghosts,” she whispered.

The clear sound of the doorbell rang through the house.

“I’m going to go get that,” said Nicole slowly. “Please don’t be weird.”

She left Michelle in the kitchen and went down the hall to the front door. She didn’t bother to glance through the window before she opened it and was slightly surprised when she did. There were two smartly-dressed young white men with little black nametags and black backpacks standing nervously in front of her.

“Hello,” said the one on the left, a pale young man with red, wavy hair. “Do you have a moment to talk about our lord Jesus Christ and his gift of salvation?”

Nicole hesitated. She knew Michelle wasn’t fond of inviting strangers in, and neither was she, but she couldn’t just shut it again or pretend she wasn’t home. All the same, she was shaken from their bug related discoveries. Even the prospect of talking with someone else, someone who wasn’t insisting that they were haunted by insects, felt like an appealing and grounding prospect.

“S-sure,” she stammered. “Come on in.”

She brought them into the living room and she sat on the loveseat across from the couch while they introduced themselves to one another, asking her if she had any questions about their faith and told her they would answer them to the best of their ability. They referred to one another formally, brother and their respective last names. The redhead seemed to be a little more at ease with their discussion, whereas his friend, who was broad-shouldered and blond, was more awkward.

Nicole told them that she was living with her cousin (a lie they didn’t seem to detect, although aside from both having brown eyes and not being white, they did not look much alike) and that they had just moved into the area (which was kind of true, almost). She offered them water bottles, which they took politely. They talked about general religious questions, but Nicole grew antsy. She kept catching brief glances of Michelle skulking around in the kitchen with the scrapbook, trying to avoid detection, which didn’t help.

“Are you a woman of faith?” The redhead asked.

“Yeah,” Nicole lied, “I’m a Christian, sure. I just want to know, hypothetically, what you would do if you felt like there was some kind of, uh, weird- well, I mean, some kind of lingering presence somewhere?”

He mulled it over.

“I’ve never encountered it personally, but I’ve heard of it. I think I would pray on it, and maybe try to lift up my mind to holier things.”

Nicole laughed nervously. “Right, yeah, of course. But I just mean, you know- hypothetically.”

He considered it for a moment before his blond friend chimed in.

“You know, according to the plan of salvation, the third of spirits that followed Satan into hell can serve to tempt and torment humans here. A kind of presence like that, well, I would think it was trying to get someone to sin.” The blond one’s face darkened, and he looked very serious. “Are you facing that kind of torment, miss?” His companion looked apologetic.

From the kitchen, Nicole saw Michelle gesturing across her neck, eyes wide and her face drawn into a urging cringe. She looked back at the boys and tried to sound as nonchalant as possible.

“Oh, no! Lord, no. Not me. I was just curious.” She attempted another smile.

The blond one examined her suspiciously.

“Well, if you knew someone who did, there’s always a Melchizedek blessing.”

“What’s that?”

Michelle’s arms dropped to her sides and she made a face similar to the one Nicole had seen on the news when congressmen were indicted on sexual scandals. Nicole tried not to react and looked back at the missionaries on her couch.

“It just orders spirits to leave. It’s performed by a senior member of the church. It’s nothing dramatic. But I’d probably also pray and examine my things and beliefs to see if I could have been doing anything that would have invited those spirits into my home.”

“Of course,” the redhead added, “we could just pray on it right here. It couldn’t hurt.”

Nicole thought about it. At the very least, it couldn’t hurt. She nodded.

“Sure. Why not? Better safe than sorry and all that.” She forced a laugh.
“That’s wonderful. We can all join hands,” the blond one said, and the young men clasped hands and offered theirs to Nicole, who took them hesitantly as they bowed their heads.

“Heavenly father, we’re here with our sister, Nicole-” the redhead began, voice low and reverent. Nicole opened one eye just a sliver to see Michelle creeping in the hallway, stashing the book as quietly as she could. She saw Mitch mouth the word “Sister?” indignantly as the blond one continued.

“We’re here to ask that you protect her and her household from evil influences and materials that may have been brought into their lives by unholy forces, that any temptations and forces that have been brought to her by the devil be pushed out of her home and out of her life.”

Nicole looked around as the two missionaries continued to pray, heads bowed devotedly, each holding one of her hands. As they continued, they seemed to intensify, and just as she began to worry this may take longer than Michelle was willing to lay low for, they stopped, looking up at her hopefully.

“Thank you for praying with us,” said the redhead.

“We can leave our information with you,” interrupted his friend.

“I tell you what.” Nicole smiled. “I’ll write in and I’ll read about it.”

She stood up, and the missionaries seemed to take the hint that it was their time to leave. Nicole walked them toward the door as the blond one tried to continue talking about possible sources of this corruption- it could be Charmed, he suggested, or maybe some inappropriate music? Had they played any occult based games recently? She insisted that no, of course they hadn’t. That that wasn’t her cup of tea.

“Hey, did you realize you have ladybugs above your door?” Interrupted the redhead, as if it was a fun curiosity that nobody had noticed before. “They’re supposed to be good luck.”

“Yes,” Nicole said happily through clenched teeth as she pulled the front door open. “I saw them. I’ve heard.”

She shook their hands and urged them out of the house.

“Thank you, boys, it’s been a great talk. You take that water and come back anytime, all right?”
“Thank you for your time, ma’am. You and your friend have a blessed day.”
“Yeah, you too,” called Michelle from behind Nicole as she slammed the door. As she did, she rolled her head on her shoulders.

“The Mormons? Really?”

A dark red blush lit up Nicole’s cheekbones and nose.

“Well, it’s not like it did any harm.”

“Didn’t really help, either,” Michelle quipped.

“Stop it. You don’t have to be so caustic. They were perfectly fine people.”

Michelle opened her mouth to respond, but couldn’t justify any of the responses that came to mind.

“Well, the ladybugs are still there,” she managed weakly. “So there wasn’t any point.”

Nicole crossed her arms.

“Not everything has to be about getting some kind of immediate result, Mitch. You can do things just to be nice without worrying it’ll compromise your badass attitude.”

Disheartened, Michelle chewed her lip.

“I know. I’m sorry.” She didn’t want to have another fight with Nicole about something like this. There was no reason, and she didn’t like to argue with someone that she loved.

“I know you were just being nice, all right? Let me make it up to you somehow.”
Nicole put her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows. “What do you mean?”

“Just… let me make it up to you. I’m sure there’s something you’d want me to do.”

Nicole considered it.
“All right. There is something, but you won’t like it.”

“What is it?”
“I want to go see your mom.”

Minnie Part Two

Minnie was one of the smartest girls in the school.

Minnie raising her hand. Graphic by Katie Gibson.
Minnie raising her hand. Graphic by Katie Gibson.

Those of us who paid any attention knew she was the one to ask for help. She was always the first to raise her hand and always got better test scores than everyone else in class. You could even see her intelligence in her eyes, in the way she stared at you like she was trying to figure out what to think of the person who currently had her attention.

Continue reading Minnie Part Two

Hungry for a good book? Try The Hunger Games

I will start by admitting that the plot in The Hunger Games is a little crazy and far-fetched. This fictional government makes 24 teenagers ranging from ages 11-19 compete in a televised killing match. As crazy as the story line is, millions of copies of this book have been sold, and it is becoming a mania with such great frenzy as to make children play their own version of the hunger games in the school’s playground. In my opinion, you should read this book (not just watch the movie on Netflix)! Continue reading Hungry for a good book? Try The Hunger Games

Book review: The fault in our stars

The Fault in Our Stars is John Green at his best – emotional and gripping, with witty characters and a story that keeps you glued to the book until the end. The book follows a terminal cancer patient named Hazel Lancaster as she falls in love and learns important lessons about life, death and dreams. It is, as Markus Zusak says, “A novel of life and death and the people caught in between.”

A touching story about a terminal cancer patient named Hazel Lancaster who learns about life, death and everything in between. Photo by Creative Commons.

However, some readers may not like the somber tone of the story. Most of the main characters are either dying or debilitated, or related to those who are. With that in mind, let’s delve deeper into the story. Continue reading Book review: The fault in our stars

The merits of reading fiction

I know several people who don’t take the time to sit down with a good book every now and then unless they need information about a certain topic. It seems I’m surrounded by people who don’t like to read or make excuses about not having time. It’s a little sad.

Fiction is a good thing for a multitude of reasons. First, it gives your imagination a workout. Even if you’re horribly unimaginative and chose to go to school for journalism because of a terrible lack of fiction writing skills, like myself, it helps your brain picture things that you can’t see. This is especially true for mystery novels because you’re picturing scenes and trying to work out a difficult problem.

Second, even made up stories have some basis in fact. Our teachers didn’t make us read Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm and Brave New World for no reason. We were actually supposed to learn some life lessons from those books that would shape us into thinking adults. If you haven’t read any of those books, shame on you.

Fahrenheit 451. Photo from Creative Commons.

I would go so far as to say that the whole point of fiction is to tell some form of truth by dressing it up in something more agreeable to the common person. Sometimes stories are a little less agreeable, but either way it has the same impact. Just because the characters aren’t real, the place doesn’t exist, or the time period hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it’s not based on reality.

My favorite book happens to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I can see why some people might think it doesn’t have a serious message, but it does. The point of following the Earth-man Arthur through his adventure after Earth is destroyed teaches us that time drags us kicking and screaming into the future no matter what. Also, life is ridiculous; get over it.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Photo from Creative Commons.

Then there is fiction that brings you back to a time that’s passed. I like reading books by Jane Austen because they highlight parts of the past that seem ridiculous now, and seemed ridiculous to her. The fixation on marrying above your class is a perfect example. Although today we don’t put a lot of emphasis on class differences when it comes to marriage, at least not as much as in Austen’s time, it’s still easy to see how much things haven’t changed.

There are more recent historic fictional accounts that have become popular today, such as The Help. The issue of civil rights might not seem that old to our parents and grandparents, but let’s face it, The Help will eventually become one of those books high school teachers force kids to read. It’s equally as important that they are exposed to that story as it is for them to read Animal Farm. Sadly, in my generation I don’t know too many people who willingly picked up The Help until the movie came out.

The Help. Photo from Creative Commons.

I don’t really trust someone who doesn’t read to do much good in this world because they probably aren’t good at considering different perspectives. In the words of Lemony Snicket, “Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.”