The Party - Sean Kimura '18

Max

Today I turn five years old, and I can’t wait till everyone shows up. Exactly twenty minutes till everyone is supposed to be here, then we can play tag in the huge indoor jungle gym. My mom even bought my favourite cake, Dairy Queen’s ice cream cake. My birthday party is going to be a great time as I get to open presents, which is my second favourite part of my birthday. My absolute favourite thing about my birthday is that we can play tag in the jungle gym. Things get very intense and wild when playing with my friends because we are all so competitive. My friends show up and it’s time to play. Ryan starts to count and we all run. I jump head first into the ball pit but decide to get out and run through a narrow tunnel to get to the top of the jungle gym which leads to the slides. There’s a plastic board so I can see bellow. I see my mom greeting all my friends parents and taking their coats.

She looks really tired and for some reason sad so I yell, “Mama look, I’m at the top!”

She smiles and waves but returns to what she was doing. I can hear him coming and he’s coming fast. I gave my hiding spot away. I turn to my left and I can see him plowing through the obstacles in the tunnel. I slide down the slide to my right. Swoosh! My feet hit the ground and I start running to another entrance. Swoosh! The entrance is blocked off with older kids and I can’t get in. I turn around and he’s right there.

“Everyone come for presents and cake” my mom yells.

Saved! We sit down at a table and Ryan shoves his gift in my hands. I rip through the wrapping paper to find a box. I try to open it but it’s taped shut. I try and I try but I can’t get it open. My mom cuts the tape and hands it to me. I open it and stare at it. Ryan looks nervous and doesn’t stop jittering. It’s… It’s perfect. It’s the new Lego battleship I’ve wanted forever. I hug Ryan and tell him that I love his gift. I continue to open the rest of the gifts, then it’s cake time. They sing me Happy Birthday then I blow out my candles. I take a deep breath and exhale making sure I got them all or else my wish won’t come true. I get the first slice and devour it in seconds. We play a few more rounds of tag and then everyone started to head home. I say “goodbye” and my “thank you” to all my friends who came and soon it’s just me and my mom. She’s cleaning the table as I sit on a chair. I lower my head and wait until she’s done cleaning.

“Did you have fun?”, she asked.

“Yes, I had so much fun! Thank you! I didn’t even get tagged the whole time and I got awesome gifts!” I reply like I’ve rebooted, like a robot and gained all my energy again.

We put on our coats and we head to the car. As soon as I put on my seat belt and lean back I fall deep asleep. I wake up in my bed and slowing turn to my Star Wars clock to check the time. My mom walks in, sits on my bed and brushed my hair.

“You’re gassed, aren’t you?” she said with a smile.

I thank her for everything as she gently makes her way towards the door. I roll over onto my side.

“Goodnight mom. You’re the best!” I say with an exhausted voice. My eyes shut and I’m back to thinking about cowboys and aliens, sound asleep.

Ryan

I can’t wait to go to Max’s birthday party because he’s my best friend. We’re going to the best and biggest indoor jungle gym in town and I’m so excited. My dad was rambling on and on saying, “It must have been so hard to get a reservation there cause it’s always booked”. I don’t really understand what that means, but he said it like it was a good thing. I got Max some Lego’s because I know he loves Lego’s. I got him the battleship Lego kit because he really likes coming on my boat with my dad and I, during the summer. He always talks about our boat and how he can’t go on it during the winter time. It’s almost time to go to his party I think with a huge smile on my face. My hands are tense in fists, shaking with excitement.

“Dad, let’s go! I don’t want to be late”, I say while I swing the front door of our house open. I race towards the car and beat my dad to the car like usual. I’m feeling fast today. It must have been the broccoli I ate for lunch. My mom always says that it will make me stronger and faster. My dad rolls into the empty parking lot and says that we’re early. The fresh snow made the drive very slippery but my dad is a speedy driver so we didn’t really have to leave our house an hour early.

My dad laughs and says, “I haven’t done this in a while” to himself and tells me to hold on. He speeds up and starts to do donuts in the parking lot. I don’t know what’s purring louder, the car engine or my heart beat. Full of adrenaline, we walk into the indoor jungle gym. I say hi to everyone and we go play tag. I volunteer to go “it” in tag because like I said before, I’m feeling fast. I close my eyes and spin in a circle counting to thirty. I start to stumble at twenty-five so I open my eyes. The game begins as I look for everyone. I fly into the ball pit and sink in. I freeze for a second and I listen if the balls around me move. No one is hiding in here so I get up and listen, much like a snow fox uses his ears to try to and find his prey under the snow.

“Mama look, I’m at the top!”, I hear Max yell as he looks out of a plastic window at the top of the jungle gym.

I sprint through the thin tunnels, weaving my way around obstacles and other random kids. I can see him at the end of my tunnel, as I catch my breath for second. I’m so close to catching him, I plow through the obstacles in my way and almost touch him. He takes the slide. Swoosh! I squeeze my long legs in the slide and get to the bottom. Swoosh! Finally, he’s stuck, trying to get into the jungle gym. I have him now with nowhere to go. I confidently walk towards him, when all of a sudden his mom screams.  

“Everyone come for presents and cake”.

All that effort for nothing I think to myself as I drag my feet the table where the presents are placed neatly. I sourly shove my present in Max’s hands and wait for him to open it. I suddenly feel bad for aggressively placing the gift in his hands and I hope he forgets about it and likes my gift. He rips through the wrapping papers but struggles with the box. The suspense is killing me. I really hope he likes my gift. My palms of my hands start to sweat a little as his mom helps him open the box. His eyes grow huge and his mouth opens wide. He rushes to me and hugs me and says he loves it. I hug him back and once he lets go, I let out a large breath of relief. He continues to open his other presents but no one else gets the reaction that he got when he opened mine. I feel a sense of relief and pride as I sip my grape juice, knowing that I got him a present he really likes. We sing him “Happy Birthday” and we eat a delicious Dairy Queen ice cream cake. After we finish eating, we start playing tag again and another kid is it, thankfully. I hide in the ball pit for abit then my dad comes over and says it’s time to go home. I say goodbye to everyone and put on my coat. I walk towards the car with my dad but I let him get there first.  He looks at me strangely.

“I can’t always win”, I explain, smiling from ear to ear.

Jessica

Today is a very important day, it’s my only son’s fifth birthday. I have tried so hard to make it a special and memorable day for him because he only turns five once, right? I’ve lost track of time as I’ve been scrambling around the past couple of days making sure I have everything for Max’s party. We arrive at the biggest indoor jungle gym in the area and I must say I’m impressed. I start to understand why I had to reserve one year in advance. This place is filled with little kids running around and they seem to be having a blast. I just hope Max and his friends have a great time. The last thing I want to hear is that Max’s birthday was boring. That would crush me. A worker points me towards the table that we reserved. I dodge kids left and right while holding Max’s favourite kind of cake in one hand and an enormous bag of drinks and snacks in the other. I take my coat off and put it on the back of a chair. Max’s friends start to arrive and I greet their parents. The kids go off and play tag in the jungle gym. In the meantime I take their coats and offer them a coffee or tea.

“Mama look, I’m at the top!”, Max yells down at me from the top of the jungle gym.

I smile and wave with a hand full of coats. I see Ryan, one of Max’s friends, pop up from the ball pit and look right at Max. Ryan sprints into the jungle gym, he ripping through the obstacles in his path like how a tornado would through a house. I stand still in the middle of the playground, watching this all happen. I think to myself for a quick second and stay fixed on the crazy chase. This is like a scene from Rush Hour Two. I snap out of my mini day dream and it hits me, he’s going to get caught because he wanted to show me how much fun he was having. I’m so happy that he even thought about me while he was playing tag with his friends. As Ryan shrinks his distance in a matter of seconds, I start to feel bad for Max. He smoothly goes down the slide and heads for an entrance. He’s blocked by other kids that in my opinion seem too old to be here. Ryan stumbles a little on the slide and meets Max at the bottom. Ryan walks towards Max with his head up high, a little too confidently for my liking and right when he’s about to tag Max, I panicked.

“Everyone come for presents and cake,” I screamed.

Seeing the disappointment in Ryan's eyes made me feel awful. I ruined all the fun for Ryan just to make my own son happy. All the kids run back to our table huffing and puffing like a pack of wolves. Ryan, still pouting a little from the game of tag, hands Max his present. Max crumples the wrapping paper easily but starts to struggle with the box. After a few seconds of him struggling, I take the box and cut the tape with my nail. Max opens the box and freaks out. He immediately hugs Ryan and tell him he loves it. Ryans face turns from a frown to a massive smile. Ryan got him the Lego kit he’s wanted so badly. Max unwraps his other gifts while some other parents and I get juice boxes and the cake. I light his candles and bring over his Dark Vader Dairy Queens ice cream cake. He blows out his candles and I start to cut the cake. I give the birthday boy the first slice then cut up a big slice up for Ryan because I still feel bad. I continue to give out cake till the boys are done eating. The kids head back into jungle gym while the other parents and I eat some cake and drink coffee. After a while, kids start to head home. Once Max’s last friend leaves, I start cleaning the table and he sits on a chair with his head down.

“Did you have fun?”, I say worriedly.

“Yes, I had so much fun! Thank you! I didn’t even get tagged the whole time and I got awesome gifts!” he replied, all fired up again about his toys.

We put on our coats and drive home. Max was asleep before we left the parking lot. I carry him into bed when we get home. I check up on him later and he’s awake. I sit down on his bed and brush his short brown hair.

“You’re gassed, aren’t you?” I say in a soft voice.

As I quietly leave his room, he thanks me for everything.

“Goodnight mom. You’re the best!”, he says in a tired voice.

My spine shivers as I hear those worlds come out of my sons mouth. A tear of happiness dribbles down my cheek. Those are the words every mom strives to hear come out of their sons mouth.

Max

My birthday wish was to make my mom happy.

TV Head Trio - Ashe Angevine '18

It was just a normal day, nothing new really happening for the smallest, and youngest tv head child, Clay. Clay never spoke much, and even when they did all that came out were robotic noises. Instead, they use words to project on their screen, where the mouth should be. Anyways, Clay was just walking around the neighborhood with two other TV heads, Psyche and Tabetha.

~CLAY POV~

Today is a nice day. It’s clear and sunny and it makes my whole body warm up, but in a good way. I get to walk with Psyche and Tabetha too. They’re practically like sisters to me. Wer’re not blood related at all, but we all live in the same house with Mama. It’s kinda weird.  I hope we see a cat on our way to the store. Psyche doesn’t like them, but I don’t mind. Psyche doesn’t seem to like me that much. Mama said it was a phase. I hope it i-!

*CRACK*

...Oh dear…

~TABETHA POV~

“Ok, so I’m getting the milk and all the dairy things over there, right?”

“Yeah, and I’m getting the fruit and flour.”

Psyche and I were just discussing who was getting what at the store for mom. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t take the car though. Considering we’re getting a bit of groceries.

“One more thing. Since we’re separating, you should take Clay.”

I almost stopped walking. A bit of anger was starting to build up inside me. Psyche never liked Clay for god knows what reason. I turned my head to her with a confused look, but I’m not that dumb. “But why? I spent a lot more time with them than you-”

*CRACK*

We both froze for a second. That didn’t sound good at all as fear built up in my stomach. We both turned around, finding Clay on the ground screen first. They eventually got up, but their screen was cracked, and awful too. Tears began to show up, but they looked much distorted and out of place.

I heard Psyche mutter “Holy shit” behind me, but ignored it. I carefully picked Clay up, brushing dirt off their sweatshirt before giving them a hug. They shuttered in my arms, but I just muttered that it’s gonna be okay. Looks like we’re gonna have to go to the repair shop too.

“Well, they’re not bleeding, so let’s get a move on.”

That’s it. I had enough.

I spun around quickly, and I just, snapped. “What is your deal with them!? They broke their screen and this is how you react to it?!”

“Oh, c’mon! It’s a screen. I have one, you have one. It can get repaired.”

“That doesn’t. Answer. My question,” I shouted, “Clay’s been nothing but nice to you, and this is how you repay them? You treat them like they ruined your relationship with Eros-”

“YOU LEAVE EROS OUT OF THIS!” She snapped, “I JUST WANT TIME BY MYSELF, AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS?! THEY COME ALONG AND BOTHER ME! I CAN’T EVEN  BE IN THE HOUSE WITH ERO-!”

A buzz, then her screen went black. She short-circuited again. Thank god we got that automatic jump starter for her…

~PSYCHE POV~

I was just screaming just a second ago, but the next moment I was...restarting? Jesus Christ, I did it again.

I looked at Tab for a sec, and she looks pissed, arms crossed and her screen getting red. I let out a sigh.

“Okay, okay, fine. Don’t get angry, alright? Clay, I’m sorry for what I said”

“And?”

“We’re all not perfect,” I knocked on the side of my own head a couple of times. It’s hard to see, but it looked like Clay’s screen was blushing. That’s a good sign.

“And?”

“Jesus, Tab, What else do you want?”

“Hug them,” She was serious in her voice,  jerking her head a little bit to Clay, “Now.”

“Okay, okay! No need to get bossy..” I walked over, giving Clay a hug. Guess I’m not the only one with Mom’s temper. “Is this better now, your majesty?” I turned back over to Tabetha. She nodded her head, giggling a bit.

“Well, let’s get a move on, yeah?”

Clay nodded as well as Tabetha. And off we went again.

~TABETHA POV~

Good thing that ended quickly. It was pretty quiet the rest of the way to Tony’s fix-ups, the repair shop. “Hey Psyche,” She turned her head to me, “While we’re here, we should get a checkup for your jump starter.”

She nodded, opening the door to the shop. I don’t really like it here. It smells like oil, dirt, and glass polish. I run the bell, the radio changing and some footsteps were getting louder. Soon enough Tony, the radio himself, was behind the counter.

“Well, well! If it isn’t the wondrous tv-trio!” He practically shouted, feeling Clay hiding from behind me. Tony must’ve saw, cause he started to speak quieter.

“So what’re we here for today? Auto jump check-up?” He looked over at Psyche, who was looking at me almost in a panic.

“That’s one reason,” I said with confidence, “We also had, uh, an accident…”

I pulled Clay to my side, watching Tony’s body language go from energetic to sympathy almost immediately.

“Oh dear….” His voice was a bit quiet. I guess he has a soft spot for Clay. He placed his fingers against their head, tilting a bit to inspect the situation.

“Hmm...I can definitely replace the screen…” He spoke lowly, his hands returning to the counter, “In fact, I’ll do it free of charge! Just leave these two here and give me about 45 minutes.” That’s good. I decided to leave the two at the shop while I went to get food, since the grocery store is right across the street.

Once I got all the groceries, I went back to Tony’s, picked up the other two with a sigh and went home.

The end

Justice - Bekarys Alimov '18

Alexander

“Order! Order!” I shout and hit the gavel as hard as I can. With both sides having spoken their final arguments, it’s time for the jury to decide the fate of the defendant. For the first time in my very long profession I feel the old cold touch along my spine. Wow, a decade of being a judge and I never had this kind of case; I thought that I went through each possible one. It reminds me of my old man's last words, “remember, don't expect anything from the people, because each one of them changes and not always for the benefit of humanity.” God, this… Arthur guy.

I exit the courtroom but my mind is still there. Maybe it's wrong to give him the chair? No, you are a judge. Get your head straight. This man committed a murder, and nobody is above the law. The law keeps the peace and justice. If I make him an exception, then there will be others who will use this against me, and all of the justice system. There is no other way, this is the only way.

 

Christian

This can't be happening. Are they serious? It wasn't Arthur's fault, his son's death made him insane. It's insanity, that's what it is. Even though he doesn't admit it, my masters degree in psychology does. If he is found guilty, then he will get the chair!

“This isn't right,” I say to Tom, but he just looks at me and then back at his newspaper. I fix my glasses and say again, “this man is insane, they should let me work with him!” but this time with a louder and more aggressive tone. Tom stares at me, with his “not again” eyes. He is a nice guy, but he is here only because my sister asked him to come with me to keep company.

“Listen, you've got a ton of patients already. Why do you need another one? Forget it dude, that's just one life of many that are dying everyday,” Tom replies, but that gives me more to think about. How many lives were ruined by our book? How many have falsely accused? How many have given their lives for the good but we see their actions as evil?

Tom is right, this is one life of many that are dying because of the false writings on the law book. But this life is in front of me, and it is here for a reason. To show me the incorrect way that we use to judge people's lives.  I sit quietly then, thinking and speculating the right way we can decide the fate of the defendants.
 

Arthur

            It's been almost an hour, and I am sick of hearing this woman cry behind me non-stop. My lawyer was good, but I don't think he was good enough to save my sorry butt from this situation. Actually, I don't even care. I know what I did was right, and that is everything I need to think about. The door opened and I see how the jury and the judge enter. Well, what you got for me?

            “All rise,” I hear the man in a shiny suit command. Damn, Johnny actually wanted to look like that, all classy and so proud of himself.

            Judge Alexander stands tall behind his desk and speaks out, “Arthur Storm, on the charge of murder, we find the defendant guilty of first degree murder. The defendant found guilty, the sentence being the death penalty.”

            After he said the last two words, one well-dressed gentleman with glasses screams out “this is not right, what has happened to us?! To the society?!”

But soon security takes him and his friend out. Son, if you want to save me, you'd have to do more than just scream a bunch of nonsense.

            Rodney Alcala didn't deserve to live. That son of a gun done raped and killed six children… including my son. His death, was a real pleasure for me. After spending six months planning his death, imagining it and rehearsing it constantly, it ended up even better than I imagined. Keeping him alive for as long as possible for him to feel as much pain as I could give him, for who knows how much crime he really committed and how much he would do if not for me. It was worth every toothpick under his nail, every bone that I broke and the scars I have given him. It was all for the people but they won't understand it because they haven't lost anyone who was dear for them.

            I enter an armored car, and soon I hear the engine going. I guess I'll see you soon Storm Junior, can't wait to meet you again.

 

Christian

            “What the hell was that?!” I hear Tom shout at me. He's right, that was an unnecessary explosion of my emotions. But hearing the verdict, it made me feel so wrong. My vision became blurry, and my mind was going a hundred and twenty miles per hour, I just could not control myself.

            “I'm sorry,” I barely say, trying to breath in the air. “I just, lost it.” I straighten up and inhale as much as I can and then breath out.

            “Yeah, well you made us look like idiots!” Tom shouted again. Why doesn't he understand that that doesn't matter. A man is sentenced to death and he is worrying about how he looks in public.

            I come close to him, glare into his eyes to the point where it is uncomfortable for him. “You just saw a man’s life being tossed out, and you care how the ladies will look at you? Pathetic.” I say these words as I turn around and just walk towards my car.

            While driving in the highway, I continue to think. Arthur killed a man who was killing more people, a man who was doing it for pleasure and who would kill more if he was still alive. Should we really punish Arthur then? Can't we see that what he did was actually right from a certain point of view? That's it then. In order to have a correct way of judging people, we shouldn't ask ourselves what the defendant has done, but rather why they did it and how will it affect the people. But then they need to tell the truth, we'll use the lie detector. But then, there is a way people can get away with it… Hmph… Then we have to rely on people's honesty. But who in their right mind would confess to raping and murdering? It seems, that the law that we have is the only one we can have because we can't trust the people. This is the right way, Chris. This is the Right way.

 

Alexander

            This is what he deserves, he killed and now he is going to be killed. This is justice. The man in glasses doesn't understand. It's seems easy when you don't get what is really happening, but really, the big picture relies on every piece. A mosaic won't be complete with one little piece missing.

            “Sir, are you alright?” I look behind me and see a police officer holding my arm. “Do you need to see the doctor?” Wait, why do I need to see the doctor? After he asks me that, I touch my forehead and notice that I am sweating like a dog.

            “I am alright, I just need some fresh air,” I whisper, and move towards a window. Open it and breath in as much as I can. It's okay, the decision has been made. There is nothing you can do now. Why am I even thinking about this? The man committed a crime, he must be punished. Justice applies to everyone. You did the right thing, Alex. You did the Right thing.


 

Arthur

           I could have turned him in, that would've been good enough. I would even get a reward. I had all evidence against Rodney, he could rot in jail till he died. All the sufferings that he gave to those children would pay back in prison. I could have… I should have… no. Men get arrested, dogs get put down. Rodney was tainting this world, he was a disease, and I was the cure.

            Guards carry me through the spooky corridor, the kinds you see in horror movies with blinking lights and white tiled floors. The guards finally set me on a black chair and start to strap me in. I was not thinking about my death, but rather my reunion with my son John. What must he had felt during his last moments? He needed me and I wasn't there… but now I am coming Johnny. I am coming and we can all be together now: you, me and mommy. The guards finished.

             “Any last words?” One of the guards asked while another put a sponge on my head. A tear came out of my left eye.

             “I did the right thing…  I did the right thing.”

Cardboard Boxes - Dolphine Penzo '18

The place is small and barely decorated. It has been stripped naked and left for a new owner to exploit. A lonely chair sits in the middle of the livingroom floor. A lamp stands gloomy in the corner of the room, attempting to provide a glimmer of light over the darkness penetrating the windows. Every noise creates an echo. A huge mirror fills the space of the hallway, making the place appear less forsaken. Although it is nearly empty, the walls carry the sweet memories of laughter as well as the frustrated yells of anger. The familiar smell of home has faded yet still lingers. Moving boxes are still more familiar than any place she has ever lived in. She walks into what used to be her bedroom and stares at the four cardboard boxes stacked against the pink wall. Pink. The room suddenly feels more pink. She continues to look around the place, soaking up the emotions and listening to the stories every corner has to tell. The cold, black stone floor in the hallway talks about jump ropes and angry neighbors. The heavy door speaks of pain and broken fingers. The bathtub mocks her fear of water and imaginary creatures emerging from the drain. Her fingers lightly trace the holes in the walls made by nails and tacks from where the pictures used to hang. Pictures which carry stories of their own. The walls are screaming at her. They’re empty and exposed. She attempts to comfort them by explaining that she doesn’t want this to happen either, but nevertheless it is hopeless. Abandonment. It is a betrayal like no other. Two, almost three years. That’s longer than she ever expected to stay anywhere.

How many times now? Twelve. In her eight years this is the twelfth time she’s saying goodbye. There must be something special about this one, because never has a wall spoken louder than this. They’re frustrated and so is she. Never has a place been so close to be called “home”.

Four years pass and the attempted pursuit of happiness has failed. Moving boxes are stacked yet again. A baby boy with a dimply smile, fair skin and gray eyes is the latest addition to the duo. The new place is unwelcoming. The walls speak a different language. There is no bathtub to tell its stories. Even the air is flawed; it flows in the wrong direction. The place carries someone else's memories and refuses to create new ones. The hostile environment creates a bitter atmosphere and resentment within the people. No story is really worth telling, except for the story of the old wrinkled man with as much energy and enthusiasm of a child, sitting in his front yard cooking tea on his grill. He was a warm hearted man with a smile full of gaps and a peculiar character. Soon enough number fourteen rolls around the corner and by now she’ll call just about anything home. This place allows her to flip through the pages of the past and fill in the empty space with her own pen. It is after all a familiar place, one she has visited before. A place of lost but harmless souls who strome around only presenting themselves when they want to be seen. Nobody minds except for the dimple smiled boy. Eyes follow him in the dark and tease him out of it. He does not find it as amusing as the rest of us. Later he has come to accept the eyes and invite them to play hide-and-go-seek with him. The girl is now grown and has written plenty of stories on the walls for the next owner to scroll through. Cardboard boxes consume the already small space of the new hallway. Flashbacks of broken fingers and mystery creatures in the bathtub jumble in her mind as she carries the boxes of her past up the three flights of stairs to the attic of her new home.  

The Nameless Village - James "JD" McKenzie '18

     Iraq; 17:00, -transcript[CLASSIFIED]

:blackop6669927***-****

The city of --- in southern Iraq,

The air is heavy and wet, it's the rainy season in --- , farmers flush the fields, hunched over, and excessively clothed for their mid-summer occupation. It's the best time to till and plant, while the soil is soft and wet. We’d been in the air for about 20 min when suddenly one of the farmers looked up and revealed the RPG-v7 from under his robes, unleashing a  surprisingly accurate round that struck the tail, sending us into a controlled crash landing, Sargent-Shawst managed to aim us for a plateau on a nearby hill hoping to give us the advantage of superior terrain. We skidded in with a large shake, dismounted and prepared to engage.

Shakir Al Mahed had never been a violent child, from the day he was born all he could seem to do was good deeds and righteous acts. He was known as the pitiful flower by most in his village, which emphasized his sad virginity to self indulgence and freedom. It was of his own free will that he abstain from the earthly temptations, he did it to please Allah and to obtain those pleasures in the afterlife. His devotion was pure and strong, he wished to serve Allah however he could. Sadly, it was this devotion that would lead him to the lifestyle that would ironically, end his Life. How had the pitiful flower, Shakir, ended up where he died, no one will ever really know. His life was one of simple kindness and devotion, and Allah claimed him so young, he took him on that fateful day in the summer.  

The air was hot and wet, heavy with the stench of mud and sweat. The chaos erupted around the post dinner rush, while the neighborhood was buzzing with farmers planting and weeding their crops while the sun was still up. I decided to go on my usual rounds to spread my wealth within  my community, first over to Magi Hussein, the village wisemans, to ask if he's heard word from the cell,. From there I go to the town square and buy my groceries before returning home to pray. Once I completed my mid morning prayer, I headed back into town; to the slum to pass bread to the poor. The session was wonderful and gave me the strength I needed to continue to do good for others. I continued from there to the local mosque to scrub the floors and polish their tiles. From there I returned home to help work in the fields just like any other day. But today was special, today Allah gave me a chance to prove myself to him to show my devotion, today the final task was to eliminate the infidel and free my village from their oppression. Just as planned I began my evening task of planting and weeding in the fields, the RPG weighing heavily on my back while I hunched over. There was an eerie calm that came over me that evening, Allah must have sent me his strength to fight this battle, for I felt there was no way I could lose. It was my job to bring them down, then the others would finish them off. All I had to do was make the shot and watch the nonbelievers pay, so that is what I did. When I heard the sound of the engine to the south I knew it was them, they were flying patrol, scouting the area coming to collect new soldiers to train and to take food and taxes from the poor people of the village. They rounded the village once, and as they made their second loop I raised my robes and shouldered my weapon. My sights were locked on as if aimed by Allah himself, my heart pounding in my ears and adrenaline coursing through my blood: down, down, down!

My name is Hadeel, I live in a small building in the slums of the town with my mother, two younger brothers and baby sister.

It is always midweek when the UN soldiers make their rounds supplying water and much needed resources to the village, my mother is ill and they provide us medicine to keep her healthy, Our village relies on them to survive and to keep the extremists from turning us into slaves for their cause. I never really picked a side of the conflict, I'm really just trying to survive and keep my family together. My little brothers and baby sister all need to eat and drink and I'm falling apart trying to keep this family together. Every week their faces light up when they hear the helicopter coming from the south, children fill the streets and everyone rejoices. I was busy cleaning my baby sister when my brothers ran outside and my mother gingerly made her way to the door, leaning on the frame she smiled at me and said it was them. As the helicopter did its first round the children chased it around the village hollering and laughing. I wrapped up my little sister and carried her outside on my hip to join in the festivities, the helicopter rounded the church tower and was coming back around for its usual landing spot in the empty lot behind the cemetery and suddenly the warm spring breeze turned to ice. There was shock and confusion everywhere, flames raining from the sky screams echoed down the narrow alleys. Hanou, the local school teacher was killed by shrapnel from the tail of the helicopter. I rush to my mother who had collapsed on the front step, I pick her up and get her inside and tell her to stay in the cellar where she is safest. I leave my sister with her and run out the door to find my brothers, gunshots ring in the distance while I frantically call out to my brothers. I hear my youngest brother, Malik,  yell my name with a panicked tone and as I round the corner I see him crouched in an alleyway ten yards away. I sprint to him and ask where Rahim, my other little brother, is, he says he was in the school when it happened and that the tail had crashed on the roof. I told Malik to run home and hide with mother in the cellar while I looked for Rahim, he hesitated and hugged me before running off. I took a second and looked at my surroundings, fires had sprung up everywhere, there was pure chaos in the streets, the school building was only a block away but every time I heard gunshots or an explosion I had to duck and take cover so it took me much longer than I would have liked. As I came to the building half of it was collapsed in and the other half was on fire, I scream Rahim’s name as loud as I can but hear nothing in return. I round the building to the entrance the tail of the helicopter is sitting on the rubble of what used to be the south corner of the building. I pull my hijab over my mouth to filter the smoke at least a little bit. The hall is dark and hellacious flames creeping through doorways and climbing the ceiling. I squint as I makei my way through the building yelling for Rahim and coughing as I try to inhale. Somehow amongst all the noise I could hear my brother yelling, it was less of a yell and more of a scream but I knew it was him. I ran down the corridor and followed the sound into a room completely on fire, it was Rahim, he was trapped in the centre of it all, wailing like a banshee, too shocked to realize what was going on. I don't know if I can make it to him but I have to try, I back up to the wall behind me and push off sprinting as fast as I can, I leap through the flames in two steps and grab Rahim. Just then the door frame collapses in, and we're stuck in the room. Now I'm really freaking out, I just want to curl up and cry, there's nothing I can do, I search frantically for anything that could help us, I hold Rahim tight in my arms and can feel him sobbing into my stomach. There's a window but flames line the wall it's in, the only door is blocked and there is nothing to extinguish the flames. More searching and still no ideas, the smoke fills up the room and the flames get closer, we're going to die here, it would take a miracle to get us out of here alive. Just as I began to accept my fate rahim looks up to me with tears in his eyes and says that he loves me, no matter what happens.

The next day…

As the sun rose in the east casting rays of sunlight over our little nameless village, the buildings smoldered and the stream on the edge of the village ran black with soot. Most of the homes in the village had burned down, the school had been completely demolished and a few fortunate souls who managed to escape to the woods began to wander back into town. The dead littered the streets, bodies of men women and children were scattered amongst the rubble. It was a bright and beautiful day by most standards but for the survivors of the clash this was the darkest day of the year. the crashed helicopter lay on its side on the top of the hill to the south east of the village,the soldiers that were in it occupants were either dead or captured the cargo from within was stolen as well. The terrorists had won the battle but at a great cost, many young men from the village had been turned by the local wise man, who spread the propaganda through his work with the youth.  The deaths of the many served the few and in the end nothing was gained.

Listen To the Game - Nicolas Sanchez de Lamadrid Remon '18

“This will be the most difficult subject you are going to face in your next 4 years of college, and that’s why I like to call it ‘The Game’, so listen up. In this subject you have to be able to listen. I am not talking about listening to me like the way you listen to the other stupid teachers of your other stupid subjects. There’s a huge difference between hearing and listening, and let me tell you lads, that you don’t have any idea how to listen, but that’s the reason why I am here.” These words came from Mr. H, our new philosophy teacher. Everyone in our classroom thought he was high at the very moment he started to talk. No one had never seen him before but there was something special in his way of teaching, and soon we managed to understand it.

“I will record all my classes, just for fun. I like hearing myself talking when I am alone at home, and if somebody has a problem with it, he or she can clean up and leave through that beautiful door.” He said, pointing at the classroom door, “This is the moment when you have to start listening to me. Today we have a surprise exam that only has one question, and the answer to that question will be the name of one of you guys. To find the answer you just have to listen when I start talking, keeping this sentence in mind ‘The first letter that goes out of my mouth, can tell a truth that nobody will doubt’.”

At this moment people started laughing but it all lasted a few seconds, everyone was focusing on our new teacher.

“Now I want each one of you guys to tell me your name and a good reason why you are here, it doesn’t have to be true because I know most of you don’t want to be here.”

After all the people shared  their names and their reason for being in the class, Mr. H he stood up from his chair, took a good look around the class, walked around our tables, came back to his chair, sat down and said “Interesting, but I have been in more interesting classes before.”

Someone in the background whispered the word ‘cocky’ to his friend and Mr. H heared it.

“Cocky, that’s a funny word, isn’t it? First of all buddy, if you are going to disrespect me make sure I am not in the same room as you. I am a teacher who teaches how to listen, remember? So whisper as low as you can but I will still be listening to you. And second of all, just don’t disrespect me unless you want to be punished washing my wife’s car, and mine too.”

Everyone from that moment had a huge respect for Mr. H with not even more than 20 minutes teaching in our classroom. Not because of the fact that he could punish you if you did this or if you did that… He earned this respect because he knew how to control a class, and more important, focus on him.

“Okay, I think you guys are ready for the exam.” We stared at each other with confusion, myself included.

The question was very simple, in fact, it wasn’t even a question. You had to write the name of a classmate. However, nobody knew who Mr. H was thinking of. No one knew how to answer the question and without speaking, Mr. H wrote a zero in all of our exams papers. I was shocked when I realized that my name was the answer.

“As you all can see, nobody has been listening to me. The answer is the name of your classmate Nico.” People were amazed and confused at the same time, “I told you to focus on the first letter that goes out of my mouth every time I speak, and if you put them all together from that moment, when I asked you guys to tell me your name, they create the word ‘Nico’. The ones that don’t believe me, there you have the voice recorder I have used to record the class, do you really think I like to listen to my voice during classes when I am home alone? It’s just the proof of the answer, and by the way, you can keep it, I just bought it before entering here.”