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Hog Creek Review
Allen County High Schools 2011

Fiction
Allen East star Apollo Career Center star Bath star Bluffton star Delphos Jefferson star Delphos St. John’s star Elida star Lima Central Catholic
Lima Senior star Perry star Shawnee star Spencerville star Temple Christian
Freshman/Sophomore Division
The Difference
Daniel Rohan, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

            I never got the concept of Heaven or Hell. I mean, I know that Heaven is eternity with God and Hell is eternity away from God. But I never realized how beautiful Heaven was or terrible Hell was, until that fateful day.
            “Greg!” I turned to find Mr. Hairston walking quickly over to me. Mr. Hairston is our History teacher here at LCC. I've never really been on his good side which makes school… interesting.
            I waited for him to catch up. He came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder, as if he thought I was going to run away. He had beads of sweat trickling down his face. It looked as though he had been taking a jog around the school in his shirt and tie.
            “Greg, after lunch, you are to report to Ms. Kahle's room. It'll be the physics room at the end of the hallway in the Science and Tech wing.”
            And with that he was off. Not very good directions—after all, this is my first week as a freshman in high school.  Besides, I've never even been to her room. The only rooms in that wing that I've been to are the Alpha Lab and the Biology Lab.  I go to the Alpha Lab for my third period Tech class taught by Mr. Rogers. Anyone would've thought that he looked big enough and mean enough to be a body guard. My Biology class is taught by Ms. Shepherd who looks so in shape that she could've been a ten time champion from Biggest Loser.  I guess I'll just ask around until I find out where I'm going.
            Brring!
            Fifth period was finally over. Mrs. Crawford wouldn't stop talking about the differences between Heaven and Hell. I'm so thankful to be out of there. Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I have second lunch so my stomach was grumbling all through theology class, which drew more attention to me than I wanted.
            This morning I had settled on packing so I could scope out where to sit.  I wanted to find a seat before all of them were taken, while sitting next to someone I knew. So today I ended up sitting with a few other freshman and sophomores from the LCC Football Team.  My lunch consisted of a PB&J sandwich, an apple and some pretzels… not too exciting.  
            After I finished lunch I made my way out of the cafeteria and up the steps onto the carpet area towards the Science and Tech wing. I walked slowly because I was trying to check out all the pictures that were hung on the wall that the students in Photo Shop took.
            Realizing I had little time to spare before the bell rang, I picked up my pace.  I took the shorter way around the hallway in order to look for Ms. Kahle's room. Wait, I told myself, slowing down. I was listening hard. I heard a waterfall, which was odd because I don't ever remember a waterfall in LCC.
            Ordinarily, I would've passed on by, because it really wasn't any of my business.  The sound was coming from the Beta Lab.  I thought, since it was in the computer room, it would be some student playing some sound effects. But as I got closer, I saw a black cloak slip to the side of the room.
            I thought it was kind of odd, someone wearing a black cloak in the middle of August, especially since black attracts sunlight which would make the person wearing it pretty uncomfortable.
            I stepped into the room and found no one inside with me.  The sound of the waterfall had gotten even louder. I stepped forward and found myself staring straight into a void. On the floor where the carpet should've been was a giant hole. The hole was about twenty feet in diameter. The curious thing about this hole was that every few seconds I could see an image.
            First, I saw a woman in a garden picking an apple from a tree with a snake at her feet. The image changed into a desert scene. There was a man on his knees with his head bowed and his hands in a praying position.  A man stood next to him in a dark cloak with a hood over his face. It shifted again. This time the image was in a garden with fog flowing between trees. It must have been past dusk and closer to midnight. Again, I could see the same man in his praying position, head bowed, on his knees, and hands folded. The man looked as though he was in pain, though no one had struck him. Again, the same man in a dark cloak was next to him with a snake at his feet.
            The image changed. I was staring down into a pit, lava was everywhere. This is too freaky, I thought. I turned to leave and I was staring into the face of the man from the images. He pushed me back and I fell.
             I was falling fast. I was falling faster, gaining speed as I descended.
            I hit rock. Feeling dizzy, I got up. I looked around; it was as though I was on the planet Mustafar from Star Wars. Lava was everywhere. I thought I was in a dream, but in a dream, can you feel the temperature around you? It was weird, it didn't seem like a dream, yet here I was, standing on an ashy island surrounded by molten lava.
            My flesh was burning. I could feel pain on my skin as though I had been drenched in acid, yet my skin wasn't melting or dissolving away. My insides felt the complete opposite. Inside, I felt freezing. I felt like I would never be happy again and that I would never find my way out of this place. Panic began to rise up inside of me, it overwhelmed me. I felt a lump in my throat and I began to tear up.  I thought back to theology class where I learned that if it is given up to God, it will be taken care of. 
            I took out my necklace, which was in the shape of a cross with the crucified Christ on it.  I lifted it to my lips and knelt and began to pray.  As I knelt, my knees felt like they were about to burn off.  I started the “Our Father.”
            “…Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil …” There was a cackling behind me.  “Amen,” I said and I rose and turned to face the one who had laughed at me.  It was the man who had pushed me into the hole that had brought me here!
            He wore a black cloak with no shoes or sandals. Any ordinary human down here would  probably have burned his feet right off. The man was very pale-skinned and had no hair.  He sat on a throne that looked as though it was made entirely of human bones.  Across his shoulders was a snake, whose head the man was petting.
            I pointed my finger at him. “Are you the man who brought me here?” I shouted.  The man simply smiled as though I had amused him somehow.
            He said, “Yes, you are here because of me.” In a cold voice he spoke, “You are here because of your role.”  I winced as he spoke the word “role.” What did he mean by that? “I know you, Greg; we are alike in many ways.”
            “What do you mean by that?” I said, finally finding the nerve to speak.
            “Both of us are men of power.  We were formed from a higher power, yet we both want more out of life.”  He was right.  I don't know how though.  It was like he could read my mind.  I've always wanted a greater purpose, though I haven't ever known how I'd fulfill it.  Yet here I was and the opportunity was waiting here in front of me like a deer waiting to be killed.
            “Join me, Greg, and I can give you anything you have ever dreamed of.”  He was sounding excited.  Anything I have ever wanted.  I have wanted a lot.  “Who are you?” I asked. He straightened up and stared at me with a cold look in his eyes.  “I am Satan and you are in my domain.”
            Hell, I thought to myself. Satan grinned, an evil smile, like he had read my mind, and nodded. “Do we have an accord?” he asked.
            I thought to myself, If I joined him, I could have all I've ever wanted, said a voice inside my head.  But God has given you all that you have or will ever need, He is your God and your only good, said my heart.
            He is only trying to tempt you, my heart said.  I thought back to the images of the desert, of how Satan was standing over Jesus, tempting Him.  How Jesus didn't give in though he wanted to.  He didn't back down, but kept his faith in His Heavenly Father. Don't give in, think of Jesus and His courage, your will against evil is stronger than Satan's will against good.
            I looked back up to Satan. “No,” I said.
            “What did you say to me?  Be mindful of your choice of words, boy.”
            “I said NO.  I will neither join you now nor ever.”
            Well, that set him off.  He was up off his throne and I could see the hate, the fire, burning in his eyes.  “So be it” he said, and he transformed.   His skin began growing from pale, white skin to red, hot skin.  As far away as he was, I could still feel the heat radiating from him.  He was getting bigger.  His face, his ears had become slits.  His eyes had gone from white with black pupils to yellow with red pupils.  He grew a large pair of wings, which sprouted from the back as though they belonged to a dragon.
            He grew from six feet to ten feet.  This was starting to scare the living crap out of me.  But that wasn't the end of it.  His legs became hairy, like that of a goat.  I had to get out of here.  But wherever I turned there were more pools of lava and each ashy mountain was at least nine feet away from each other.  I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and more importantly, nothing to defend myself with.  I looked back to where Satan had been before and as scared as I was when he was changing, I was terrified when I saw that he wasn't there.  In his place were his bone throne and the stand that had once held his pitch fork.
            My mind went blank, like a fresh piece of paper. Then fear slowly crept its way into my mind. Where had he gone? Is he going to kill me? How bad would it hurt to be stabbed with his pitchfork? Questions swarmed my mind like a hive of bees swarming honey.
            I turned a split second later; I ducked because from the corner of my eye, I saw a pitchfork heading for my head.  As I hit my knees, a foot came with a well aimed blow straight for my gut.  I was hit with such force; I flew through the air, over a pool of lava and hit another sandbar eighteen feet away.
            “Uhhggg.”  I felt like I was going to puke, but the kick had pushed my stomach so far inside my body, I wouldn't be able to get anything out. I leaned on my arm to get up, but I fell right back down.  My left collar bone had broken.
            Satan in his monster-like form walked toward me over the ashy lava dune and straight to the lava.  I thought he might jump, in order not to singe his feet, but he just walked straight across it, not sinking but walking on it like Jesus walked on water.  He made it look like it was sand under his feet.  Onto the sandbar he walked, like it was a walk in the park.  He had his pitch fork in hand and an evil grin on his face.
            “I'm disappointed in you,” he said. I was still lying on the ground, completely vulnerable to any attack he might throw at me. “I thought I was going to have some fun.  I thought you'd put up a good fight.”  I could see the fire in his eyes.
            I heard a horse whinnying in the distance, but it had to be my mind playing tricks on me before my death.
            He raised his weapon and whispered something in a distant language then struck his fork at me so fast, I couldn't see it. I closed my eyes, waiting for the blow that would end my life.
            I heard a loud “clang.”  Fearing for my life, I slowly opened my eyes, still curled in my armadillo stance.  The Devil's pitchfork was about two feet from my chest but that wasn't what had amazed me.  What had amazed me was that there, holding the pitchfork in place from touching me was a long blade, shining in the lava light.
            “Get up!” My heart beat fast as I scrambled to get up. The man who saved me was in a white tunic like one the Greek poets wore.
            “Get to the Chariot!” he yelled, still struggling to keep Satan from stabbing me. I looked around and across another pool of lava was the chariot, on another ash dune.
            Damn, I thought to myself, that's gonna be a long jump.
            I ran fast, trying to gain as much speed as I could before I had to jump.  Even then I wasn't going that fast and I was running out of ash to run on.  I had to jump.  I took a deep breath while trying to keep up my speed.  My right foot landed right in front of the lava, and I jumped.  Everything seemed to go into slow motion.  I heard the metal clanging behind me with every blow that was struck.  I felt the heat of the lava underneath my legs through my pants.  The fear of missing my target began to grow as I started descending little by little. 
            I closed my eyes but my left leg hit ash and I opened my eyes as the rest of my body fell toward the dune.  I hit the dune hard and began to slip backwards down the slope towards the lava. I yelped as I tried to scramble to back up the hill.  My pants had been so close to the lava, they caught fire.
            Seeing the fire and feeling the heat gave me the extra boost I needed to scramble up the hill.  I got to the top as my pants were on fire up to my shins.  Without thinking, I lay back down and rolled, careful not to roll down again.   Within seconds, the fire died down.   Thank the Lord I had remembered to Stop, Drop, and Roll.  I guess Kindergarten wasn't a waste after all.
            Well, so far, being in Hell had given me a broken collar bone and a burnt leg.  I'm hoping I don't get sent here once my life's over.
            As I limped toward the chariot and once I got in, rope lassoed itself around my waist. “Hey --!”  The horses sprouted wings on their sides which, from what I'd been through, wasn't the freakiest thing I'd ever seen.  I turned to tell the man who had saved me to come but I never got the chance, the horses had taken a running start and my words were lost in the sounds coming from the horses.
            We reached the side of the dune and the horses jumped.  I could feel the chariot begin to fall, but as the horses increased their speed, we flew.  I was yanked back and without the safety rope around my waist, I would've fallen out. 
            I turned to see my hero pushing off of the devil's pitchfork with his sword and then running toward the edge of the dune, with Satan not far behind, and then the man sprouted a pair of wings and took off in flight, gaining speed as he flew toward me.  The devil, however, wouldn't give up that easily.  He spread his wings and took off after us.
            Now being up in the “sky” kind of scared me even more because I started to feel claustrophobic because this place had something like a roof.  The only difference between here and the roof of a house was the thirty foot spikes that hung from it.
            Up ahead it looked as though there was a white hole with black swirling around inside of it.  Just like the one that had brought me here except the opposite.  We flew straight through it and the portal started closing behind us.  From the other side of the portal, we flew into a grassy plain.  I thought we were home free, finally feeling a sense of relief.   But as quickly as the feeling had come, it had been whisked away.  Satan flew after us, fast as lightning.
            It was considerably warm today as the dark clouds began to form.  The wind whistled through the chariot as our race carried on.
            A few seconds into our flight, I heard a clash of thunder and I looked up as a bolt of lightning narrowly missed my head but hit Satan square in the back.  Then he fell, changing back into his true pale-skinned form.  Thinking the lightning had nearly killed him, I shouted in delight.
            But he turned over and gave me an evil grin.  He turned back to his stomach and continued his descent.  Right before he hit the ground, a portal opened.  It was black and had white swirling in it.  And he disappeared.
            I was overcome with relief, I was free.  As fast as we were going along with the pain from both my shoulder and leg, I found myself drifting off into a deep sleep.  It was bright here, like someone had just turned on the sun.
            I was in a white room with a white bed.  White covers, a white pillow, and a white desk.  Basically everything in this room was white.  I glanced down and apparently so were my clothes.  I noticed my arm was in a sling because of my shoulder.  I pulled the covers back from my feet and noticed that there were no burn marks on my legs.
            I then laid back into my pillow, which was soft and fluffy, pulled my covers back over me, closed my eyes and fell into a deep relaxed sleep.
            I awoke when I heard the soothing voice of a woman.  I opened my eyes and saw two people in my room; one was at the desk and one was at the door.  I sat up quicker than I had intended.  They both noticed and turned to me, startled.
            The woman put her hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me back to my bed.  I didn't try to fight back.  Her touch soothed my every nerve, like my mind had forgotten the meaning of the word “fight.” The man from the door stepped forward, “Rest, Young One,” he said.  “You will need it soon.” 
            My mind was swimming in questions.  “Who are you?  What is this place?  How did I get here?  What happened?”
            A man in a brown robe with a white beard walked into the doorway and whispered something to the other man's ear.  And he left. The man in the doorway had a worried look on his face.  “Trouble's afoot; rest now and we'll be back later.”  I started to protest but he said, “Rest. We'll talk later.” And they left.  I closed my eyes again and fell back into sleep.  And then, I had a dream.
            Unfortunately, sleeping this time wasn't so relaxing.  My dream was dark.  I was in a tunnel lit only by torches on either side.  I grabbed one and began walking down the corridor.  It was cold here, despite the fire that burned beside me.
            I heard noises and sounds of a meeting going on.  Someone was talking in a deep voice, “—and now we have something we did not have before.  They will fall before us. They will bow down to us or die.”
            I listened and found myself staring into a huge meeting of monsters, things I had never seen before, things I had only heard about in ancient mythology.  It was disgusting.  As I crept closer, a smell came from the crowd as though someone burnt the stinkiest farm in the world.  Though it was a dream, the smell was very clear, as though I was there.
            I looked around the room.  He was there, the man who had driven fear straight into my heart.  He sat on a throne of lava rock, though the heat seemed not to bother him. He stared straight at me and cold fear filled my every nerve.  I was frozen to the spot.
            Tell them, a cold voice whispered inside my head, tell them I am coming.  I am taking the throne and destroying heaven and soon my monsters shall overrun the planet. He turned his back to me raised his hands, and yelled something in Hebrew. Suddenly, the ground began to shake.  I woke up drenched in a cold sweat. 
            I was finished resting.  I had to find out what was going on.  I ripped my covers off myself and ran to the door, but tripped on the carpet on the floor.  I fell on my left shoulder, but it didn't hurt any more than it would have if I fell on it when it wasn't broken. I looked down and saw that the sling had been removed and I was able to move it freely. I put pressure on it and got up like it was nothing, admired my arm for a moment but realized what I needed to do and got up and continued out the door.
            It was dark and warm outside, like a summer night. The atmosphere felt safe as I wandered into the night. There were torches hanging onto the walls of buildings that looked as though they had been built thousands of years ago by a grand architect. Only as old as these buildings seemed to be, they looked brand new.
            As I wandered through the mysterious city, I found myself looking at a giant building with pillars at least ten times my size. I started up the steps. When I made it to the top, I heard voices muttering as I walked up to the doors. But before I could listen in on the conversation at hand, the doors opened with a loud creak.
            All heads in the hall turned toward me, even though there were only about ten people there. “Our guest has awakened!” boomed a voice at the head of the table. “Come forth, we must talk.” The man who spoke was at the head of a giant table; he had a golden crown on his head and was wearing a gold woven cape with a green robe underneath. He sat with many others around him at the table.
            I hesitated for a second but then I realized where I was and I entered. I walked in and a chair appeared to his left. He smiled and motioned for me to sit beside him. As I sat down beside him, a complete meal of beef stroganoff, rolls and butter, a country-club sandwich and milk. I stared at it in both surprise and disbelief, but it smelled great and I was starving. I grinned and started on my dinner.
            “Now,” he said “there is a war taking place a few thousand miles from here but it is harming the human race.” He looked up at the others, “The army of Satan has risen again and I need you to help fight off his army of evil. I will not force you but I will say this: you are of value to both Satan and me. He feels that if he can't have you, neither can I. But as it is, you will be in even greater danger if you return home and not stay.”
            I hesitated, but realized in a split second where I was and who I was talking to and what would happen if I chose not to fight. I thought back to my dream and the millions of lives that would be crushed because of Satan's new weapon. “I will fight for you,” I said.
            He looked deep into my eyes as if reading my thoughts. “Well then,” he said, "there isn't a moment to lose. I'm sure you remember the man who rescued you.” He waved his hand at a man sitting a few seats down from me on the opposite side of the table. He nodded at me and I did the same back. “So I'll allow you, Michael, to show Gregory his armor and weapons.” I stared at him in disbelief, but the Lord simply nodded and said “Well go on, you'll need to see what you'll be working with.”
              Michael stood up and headed out the door as I followed. I couldn't believe I was going to be able to use actual weapons…I wonder which ones I'll get, my mind wondered. We walked out the doors, down the steps and out into the night. We crossed a courtyard and found a brick building that had a few small windows. We stepped through the doorway, which by the way had no door, and walked into the armory.
            The armory was pretty warm, seeing as there was a big fire burning in the corner. We walked across the room as I tried to dodge the weapons that were lying around on the floor and propped against walls. I followed him to the far end of the room where there were shelves of weapons and armor.
            “These are your weapons. You will fight with them and they will keep you safe.” He handed me a sword and a shield but no armor.
            “What about my armor?”
            He smiled at me,” All you need to worry about are those, your sword and shield and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest. Now I want you to go back to bed, you'll need your rest. But prepare yourself, for when you hear a horn go off, know that the war of Heaven and Hell has commenced.” And with that he was off.
            Back in my room, I was standing at my bed, staring at the weapons Michael had given to me. I decided to pray. I knelt down on one knee and began to say the Lord's Prayer as I prayed for my family and all those I cared about. I finished and put my weapons on the desk beside my bed and climbed into bed. I shut my eyes and began thinking about my night.
            I awoke to the sound of a horn in the distance and I knew what time it was. I scrambled out of bed and grabbed my weapons. It's time, I told myself, the battle has begun. I raced outside and saw a horse drawn chariot awaiting my arrival. “Ready?” asked Michael. I nodded and got in hurriedly.
            I'm not saying I was looking forward to the fight but in the pit of my stomach I knew I really wanted to kick some demon ass.
            We arrived at the battle field with the enemy army already in view. The battle was taking place on a field of dead grass as far as the eye could see. And although the enemy was coming from the ground, we were coming from the clouds. Our army consisted of angels and saints, animals of all variety and even the holy family. We were ready to fight.
            The enemy looked as though it had a range of creatures from fallen humans, to snake people, to mythical creatures. It really started to scare me. The Lord came up to me and said, “Gregory, you will be the commander of my saints, I want you to lead them into battle.” I must have looked pretty scared for he said, “Fear not, little one, my spirit shall guide you and keep you safe.” That built my spirit up a little bit more and before I knew it, all the Saints ever in history had flown their chariots next to mine. I directed half of them to stay up in the clouds and fight in the skies with the angels as the rest followed me down to the ground to fight with the animals and Holy Family.
             The enemy was clearly visible now. They were being led by Satan who was being pulled in a chariot by two shadowy demons. He smiled at me, nodded to the beast next to him who yelled, “CHARGE!” They didn't need to be told twice as they came after us.
            It was the ugliest thing, the most horrible thing I had ever seen. As our forces charged into battle, it was like there was a shield of darkness that kept them from coming. They all fell.
             I charged into battle with the rest of our army. As I clashed with the enemy, I felt a spear from an enemy demon strike me dead in the chest and I fell off my chariot. I hit the ground hard, but as I hit the ground, I realized that the blow had not pierced my skin, it had merely bounced off. Fear not little one, I could hear Him say, my spirit shall guide you and keep you safe. I got up and ran forward back into the fight, slashing my sword at any and every enemy I saw.
             Satan was about now, away from his chariot, fighting anyone who had the guts to take him on. A saint who I recognized from History class known as Joan of Arc ran at him and they clashed with the ringing of metal. All time seemed to slow down as they faught. They fought with precision and accuracy. But as she tried to stab into him, she fell a little too far forward and he hit her in her stomach with a well aimed blow that would've been enough to kill a person. I saw the blade of his sword being pushed through her back. She collapsed.
            “NOOO!” I screamed and took off in his direction, hitting anyone that moved in my way. I made it a few feet away from Satan and took a swipe at his head, but he met it with his sword. We stayed in that position trying to overpower each other with our own might, but he used it against me. As I pushed harder, he sidestepped to the left and I fell to the ground.
            The devil dropped his sword on the ground and reached to his back where he had held his trident screamed something in Hebrew and the ground began to shake. There was a rumbling from deep within the earth almost like a beast's growl. “RRAAAAAAHHHHH!” A creature exploded through the earth's crust, but I had a feeling this creature wasn't on our side. The deranged creature must've been at least ninety feet long; it had a square jaw with fangs that hung out of its mouth, green eyes that looked like giant emeralds, and a body of scales that shined in the sunlight.
            Suddenly, it became very warm, as though the dragon had brought all the heat from hell. The sky turned black and I could hear the rumbling of thunder. A force of lightning so powerful that it could have taken down half of the enemy army flew from the clouds and struck the mighty beast. The lightning ran around the body of the great serpent but it merely shook it off like it was nothing.
            From the ground, I spotted Michael spreading his mighty wings and flying toward the beast with his sword held out and his shield guarding his body. As far away as I was, I could still make out the animal on his shield. It was a lion, for courage.
            Satan turned back to me as I was getting up. I turned my gaze to his chest; he had no body armor at all, just a sword that had fallen to the ground and his trident that was still in his hand. I lunged at him, aiming my sword for his chest but he deflected it as though it were a piece of paper. As I tried to regain my balance, he rolled on his back and came up with his sword. So he now had his trident in his right hand and sword in his left.
            He attacked me with his sword as I deflected it with mine, but it almost knocked me off my  feet, yet he had recovered immediately and had thrown his trident at my chest as I threw my shield in front of me to keep myself from getting struck. The trident didn't bounce off as some of the demons' weapons did. The weapon went straight through my shield and ended up an inch from my throat.
            Realizing it hadn't hit me, Satan ran to my shield and ripped it from my arm while holding his trident. The two weapons spiraled, still stuck together, a few feet from us. I raised my eyes to his as he hit my sword with such power, I had a recoil as my sword, flew out of my hand. Damn, I thought to myself. Satan kicked at my chest with a well aimed blow. I flew backwards and hit the ground with such force that all the air was knocked from my lungs. I tried to get up but the devil put his foot on my chest. He threw his blade down into my right shoulder to keep me from getting up. I struggled and tried to pull the sword from my bleeding shoulder but I couldn't. It was like the blade was being held by dozens of hands beneath the earth's crust. Satan got off of me and went to find my sword. When he returned he had an evil smirk on his face.
            “Didn't someone say ‘the one who lives by the sword, dies by the sword'? Well you're about to die by my hand and your very sword. Because of it, you will spend eternity in my dungeons being tormented and tortured.” He raised my sword for the final blow as a blade flew toward the center of his chest. He looked down in disbelief. He raised his eyes to the heavens, “Curse you,” he whispered as his eyes shut. He crumpled to the ground. As he hit the ground, all his demons and creatures of his realm, including the great dragon that had taken out almost half of our army, dissolved and all of the fallen from our army rose, like their injuries had faded.
            I looked to my rescuer. He had a bare chest which on the side I could see a dry wound that seemed to have been there for quite some time. The man was wearing sandals, but even with the sandals, I could make out holes in his feet and he had holes in his hands. He had a kind expression on his face and immediately I knew who it was. The Christ came over to me and took the sword out of my shoulder, as if it were stuck in butter.
            “Come,” he said as he helped me up. “The war is over, it is time all the children of the Father return to him.” He whistled and a chariot pulled by two horses came for us. As it came down we got in. As soon as we were inside, we took off, back up to the clouds. When we got there, we met the Father who was standing in his armor, looking down at the once battlefield.
            “It is time. The final battle between Heaven and Hell is over; we have won. And so, it is a glorious day in which all my children will come back home to my kingdom.” The Father had a smile on his face. “The devil will never again rise and there shall be peace within my kingdom,” he said.
            The three of us flew back to The Kingdom in the Father's golden chariot, overlooking our army congratulating, each other on a victory. When we made it back, there was a golden staircase full of people coming up to the clouds. My family, friends, and teachers finally got off the staircase. Seeing them brought a smile to my face.
            When they saw me in my armor, and a sword in my sheath, they all came over to me and immediately started asking me where I had been. I smiled to myself; I have a long story to tell.


The Fight for Darkaye
Todd Rode, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

           “Whoosh.”  An arrow shoots past Garmen’s head.  He dives away as more arrows come flying towards him so fast it appears unnatural.  “Where the devil are all these arrows coming from?” he shouts to his companions.
           A single arrow shoots across the open field toward the oncoming arrows.  They hear it hit, a groan, and the sound of a goblin hitting the ground.  “Quantity does not equal quality,” Jaron, the elf, says.
           “Shooting that many arrows is just as good as shooting one good shot,” Garmen replies angrily, although he is very relieved that the arrows have stopped.
           “Just because you can shoot fast, doesn’t mean you are a good shot.  The faster the shot, usually the less accuracy it has,” Jaron says.
           “The devil it does.  I’ve seen you shoot just as fast and hit every single thing you aimed for,” Garmen retorts. 
           “Elves are an exception to that rule, dwarf.  Now we need to keep moving if we’re to be getting anywhere,” Jaron replies and starts away.
           Darren was just staying out of this argument and remembering how he got into this mess in the first place. 
           “Come on, Darren, we’re going to be late,” Jessie, Darren’s little sister cried.
           “I’m coming, I’m coming, jeez,” Darren replied moodily.  He really didn’t want to go see the “fairies” in the park.
           “I’m telling you they’re real, now hurry up,” she told her older brother.
           “Fine, this just better be good,” he said as they walk over the crest of a hill.  Darren is a fourteen-year old in the city of Austin, TX.  He loved reading fantasy books, and was actually more intrigued in what Jessie had to show him than he let on.  Jessie, his nine-year-old sister, had a huge imagination that always ran wild.  They moved to Austin over a year ago and Darren still missed his old home in Dallas.  Jessie had gotten over the move surprisingly fast and was adapting to their new home well. 
           Darren didn’t really get along with his parents very well.  His mother divorced his father before they moved and she wanted to move because she didn’t want to be too close to his father.  When she had moved to Austin, she started dating this man whom Darren really didn’t like.  They were set to get married that summer, actually, and Darren was dreading that day. 
           “There they are,” Jessie said, rousing Darren from his daydreaming.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  There, on the ground, were fifteen sprites in a ring on the ground and one sitting off to the side.  “All right, I brought him; do I get my wish now?” Jessie asked the sprite.  The sprite said something in a squeaky voice that Darren couldn’t understand, and then shot Jessie with a tiny bow and arrow.  “Ow, that hurt!  Why’d you do tha..,” Jessie said as she started falling asleep onto the ground.
           “Hey, what did you do to her?” he shouted at the sprite.  The sprite lifted his bow again and shot Darren.  “Ow, what’d I do,” he said as he started feeling drowsy.  Oh man, that dart must have had some sleeping poison on it.  I wonder what these sprites are going to do with me, he thought, just as the ground rushed up to meet him.
           He opened his eyes, and looked around him.  Where am I?  Just then an elf jumped down from a tree and walked up to him.
           “Ah, good you’re awake.  I thought we might have lost you and would need to find another suitable companion,” the elf said. 
           “Who’s ‘we’?” I said, looking around.
           “That would be me and the elf,” a gruff voice said from behind Darren.  He turned around and there, sitting on a rock outcropping, blending in with the rocks, was a dwarf.  Darren stared at him, dumbfounded.  “What’s the matter with ye? Never seen a dwarf before?  I’ve always heard there was some in yer world,” the dwarf said.
           “There are some little people from his world that they call dwarves, but they’re not like you or the other buldrefolk,” the elf explained.  “Hello, my name is Jaron and I am one of the members of the Forest Elf Clan.  This is Garmen of the buldrefolk, or the dwarves as they are commonly called,” Jaron said.  “What is your name, good sir?”
           “My name’s Darren and where the heck am I?” Darren replied. 
           “Why, you’re in the land Darkaye, a land of what your world calls mystical creatures,” Jaron said.
           “Why am I here?” Darren asked.
           “You’re here to help us save Darkaye from the evil witch, Alena,” Jaron said.
           “Wait … what! What can I do against an evil witch?  I don’t have any fighting skills or magical powers or anything.  I’m just a boy from Austin, Texas, who plays way too many videogames,” Darren said, going on a tirade.
           “Well, you may be now, but we will teach you how to fight and use magic,” Jaron said, as if this were obvious.
           “How can I learn magic? Don’t you have to have special powers for that?” Darren said.
           “Only some magic needs un-trained power.  You will gain all the power you need using the words of spells and your mind,” Jaron said.  “Now we best be off, before the sun sinks too low for us to see.  Which way, good dwarf?”
           Garmen bent down to the ground and put it on the earth.  “Aye.  Is that so?  That will be helpful.  The ground says that Alena has sent two hordes of goblins our way, so I’d suggest we turn towards the east and go to Dreadwood Forest.  We can fight our way through and we’ll lose many in there, too,” Garmen said. 
           So the three companions started out for the forest.  Darren stared at the foreboding trees of the forest, packed so tightly together, that he thought for sure he would get lost.  “Just follow Jaron, boy.  An elf’s eyes are keener than any other creature, ‘cept a dragon of course, nothing can compare to those thing,” Garmen said to comfort Darren, which didn’t really help.  Dragons!  I’m going to die in this world.  Maybe this is all a dream.  Yeah!  I’ll wake up any minute now and feel so stupid for actually believing this is real.  Darren trudged along after the dwarf and elf into the forest.  
           “They went into the forest.  After them!” Larz, the head goblin, shouted.  All of the goblins started rushing towards the forest and disappeared inside it.  The three companions heard them coming. 
           “Stay out of this fight, human.  Let Jaron and me handle these filthy creatures,” Garmen said, while he took his giant double-bladed axe off of his back.  Jaron had already shrugged his bow off and loaded it, pointing it towards the commotion. 
           “Look out!” Darren shouted, as a horde of goblins burst through the trees.  Jaron had already sent five arrows at the lead goblins with more on the way, while Garmen rushed to meet the flanking horde coming from their right.  The fight was a bloodbath with none of the goblins getting close to Jaron and Garmen slaughtering all the goblins in his path.  “I think they are all dead,” Jaron said as he looked around the copse of trees.
           “Whoosh.”  An arrow shoots past Garmen’s head.  He dives away as more arrows come flying towards him so fast it appears unnatural.  “Where the devil are all these arrows coming from?” he shouts to his companions.
           A single arrow shoots across the open field toward the oncoming arrows.  They hear it hit, a groan, and the sound of a goblin hitting the ground.  “Quantity does not equal quality,” Jaron, the elf, says.
           “Shooting that many arrows is just as good as shooting one good shot,” Garmen replies angrily, although he is very relieved that the arrows have stopped.
           “Just because you can shoot fast, doesn’t mean you are a good shot.  The faster the shot, usually the less accuracy it has,” Jaron says.
           “The devil it does.  I’ve seen you shoot just as fast and hit every single thing you aimed for,” Garmen retorts. 
           “Elves are an exception to that rule, dwarf.  Now we need to keep moving if we’re to be getting anywhere,” Jaron replies and starts away.
           “Hey, wait for me,” Darren shouts as his companions start away, not wanting to be left behind.  He sprints to catch up to them and asked Jaron, “When am I going to learn how to fight and use magic?”
           “As soon as we get out of this accursed forest,” Jaron says, “Even though we elves live in forests, this one is uninhabitable and full of horrific things.” 
           Eventually, they make it out of the forest.  “I suppose this is as good a place to make camp as anywhere else,” Garmen says as he plops down on the ground and brings out a whet stone to sharpen his axe. 
           “So, is my training going to start now?” Darren asks, hopefully.  He is starting to want to train for battle.
           “Yes.  We shall start with improving your swordsmanship,” Jaron says.  He grabs a log that had the weight and feel of a sword and tosses it to Darren who surprisingly catches it.  Darren is caught off guard by how good his reflexes are.  “Now, have at thee!” Jaron shouts as he runs towards Darren with another stick just like Darren’s.  Darren brings up his stick and deflects Jaron’s overhead cut and even gets in a counterstrike.  Jaron is stunned, “Where did you learn how to use a sword?”
           Darren is equally stunned.  “I haven’t, maybe it was just beginner’s luck.”
           Jaron looks puzzled by this comment.  “Whatever! En garde!” and with that, their duel started.  Darren is surprised by how strong and agile Jaron is, but he parries everything Jaron throws at him.  By the end, Darren has actually beaten Jaron and still feels like he could keep fighting.  “Well, it appears we will not have to teach you how to wield a sword, but you will have to learn about magic.”
           Jaron brings over a small stone to Darren and tells him a spell to make the stone rise.  Darren repeats it, and is surprised to see that the stone soars into the air with ease and does not wobble or shake.  “Perhaps I was wrong about you having to learn about magic,” Jaron says, with another disbelieving glance back at Darren.  They spend the rest of the night going over spells and memorizing them. 
           They rise early the next day and set out for Alena’s castle.  They travel for two more days before they finally reach it.  “Wow, that thing is huge,” Darren says as he stares up at the enormous castle, reaching up to the sky.
           “Yes, it is.  Alena is most likely at the top.  We shall make camp and venture to the castle tomorrow and send her back to where she belongs,” Jaron says.
           “Maybe then, I can go back to my home and live in peace for once,” Garmen says as he starts to gather wood for a fire.
           “No, no fire tonight.  We are too close; she might see the smoke from it.  We eat cold rations tonight,” Jaron said.
           Garmen grumbles something in response then moves over to a rocky outcropping and takes a bite out of it.  Darren gets the rations out and starts eating and falls asleep soon afterwards. 
           Early the next morning, the three companions make their way into the castle without raising the alarm.  They climb the spiraling staircases to the loft of the castle where Alena’s private quarters were.  They threw open the doors to find her standing there, waiting for them.
           “Well, well, well.  Our three heroes have finally made it,” she says, in a silky smooth voice.  She is one of the most beautiful women Darren has ever seen.  He can’t take his eyes off her.  She has raven black hair, a graceful body, and icy cold blue eyes.  “So, this is the best human you could find?  I hope he puts up at least a semblance of a fight.”
           “He is already better than you, for he is honorable and does not use the dark arts,” Jaron says, clearly not captivated by her beauty.  “We will send you to the dark abyss where you belong, you witch.”
           “Is that so?  Let’s see how long you last before you perish like the others,” she said as she summoned a demon to attack the companions.
           The demon roars, and slashes at Darren who jumps out of the way just in time.  Garmen rushes in, with his axe held high, and brings it down, hard, onto the demon.  He shrieks in pain and hurls Garmen against the wall.  Garmen just gets back up and charges in again.  Jaron starts shooting arrows at the beast faster than Darren can blink, with each arrow hitting its mark.  “Go after the witch, Darren.  You are the only one who can kill her,” Jaron shouts.
           Darren runs after Alena as she backs across the room.  She shoots a fireball at Darren, who douses it with a water spell.  “So, you can do magic, too,” Alena says.  “Then let’s see how well you dance,” she says, as she pulls out a sword.  They clash together, sparks flying from the swords.  They break apart and come at each other again, this time a little more cautiously.  Alena swings her sword at Darren, who parries and then sends a fireball at her.  She dispels the fireball and sends an electric jolt at him from her sword.  Darren dodges and charges at her, thrusting his sword, trying to catch her off guard.  The battle goes on for a while longer until Darren knocks Alena’s sword from her hand and sends it spiraling across the room.  He then swings an overhead cut at her and she is too stunned to dodge.  The sword cuts through her and strikes her heart.  She starts to scream and dissolve into black smoke.  Darren turns to look for the demon only to find that it too is dissipating into black smoke. 
           “Well, that was fun, don’t ya think?” Darren says to Garmen and Jaron.
           “Ye did well, boy.  Ye banished the evil witch back to the abyss and rid this world of one of its most powerful evils.  Ye should be proud,” Garmen tells Darren.
           “Yes, you did better than I expected in this fight.  Many a man are distracted by Alena’s looks to attack,” Jaron says.
           “Hey, now that the witch is dead, can I go back home?  I really miss my family,” Darren says.
           “Don’t worry, you’ve done your job.  We will bring you back to the valley and you shall be returned back to your home,” Jaron says.  “The sprites shall put you back and little time shall have gone by in your world.”
           The three companions retrace their steps inside the castle and reemerge into the sunlight.  They start down the trail back to where their whole adventure started. 
           When they finally make it back, a day had passed and it was late night.  “Well, boy, I guess this is the last time I’ll be seeing ye.  Know that ye’ll always be a hero to this world,” Garmen says, and he walked away to the distant mountains.
           “Garmen is right, Darren.  You accepted your role in this adventure without protest and you have done better than all others who have tried this task.  You shall always be remembered as a hero,” Jaron says.  “Now, lay down on the grass and close your eyes.”  Darren does as he is told and feels a pull on his shirt and goes unconscious.
           “Darren, are you awake?  We’re going to be late for supper,” a voice says in Darren’s ear.  He opens his eyes and looks towards the voice and sees Jessie staring at him.
           “You won’t believe the dream I just had,” he says as he starts to get up.
           “Were there any fairies and unicorns in it?” she says, her imagination as wild as always.
           “I didn’t see any unicorns, but there were fairies in it,” he says.  “Come on, we don’t want mom getting mad at us,” he says as he walks away.  He picks up a stone and is going to throw it when a thought comes upon him.  He looks at it and says the magic words.  The stone rises into the air and stays there.  Jessie sees it and starts staring at it then her brother then back again.  “Then again, maybe it wasn’t a dream.”  He starts walking again, but Jessie stops him.
           “How’d you do that?” she asks, barely containing her excitement. 
           “How about I tell you the story of how I killed an evil witch with the help of an elf and a dwarf?” Darren asks her.
           “That would be great,” Jessie says completely forgetting about the floating stone.
           That’s one thing you’ve got to love about kids.  They don’t remember anything for longer than a couple seconds.  “Well, it all started when some fairies took me to a land called Darkaye…”


Memories of My Mother
Jessica Whitfield, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

            “Grandma,” I heard Cole’s muffled voice say.
            I turned to look at him and saw his feet in the air and his head buried in a box of junk.
            “Oh my,” I thought to myself, “What’d that boy find now?”
            "Who's this?"
            Don’t get me wrong; I loved spending time with my grandson, but I was already beginning to regret the decision to have him help me clean out the attic. I’d never met such a curious boy. He had questions about absolutely everything that he found in that dirty, old attic. I helped get him out of the box and saw that he was holding a bent, black and white photograph. Right away I felt my heart drop. I snatched the photograph from him and sat down. I looked at it in silence for a couple minutes, remembering.
            “Grandma,” Cole’s voice interrupted my thoughts, “who’s in this picture with you?”
            “Well, Cole, that’s your great uncle, my brother, Hayden. He was a very brave man. The bravest man I’ve ever known.” Speaking his name brought a tear to my eye. I quickly wiped it away hoping Cole wouldn’t see.
            “Are you okay, Grandma?” Cole asked, concerned.
            I was far from it. Immediately everything came flooding back. I was back in 1967, standing in my room without a care in the world. I was only 17; what was there to worry about, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
            I can hear the voice of my mother telling me to get cleaned up, calling me down to the dinner table. I quickly ran downstairs. She had made my favorite, fried chicken.
            “Where in the world is your brother?” my mom asked frantically. “I told him we were going to have a nice family dinner tonight. He should have been home at least an hour ago.”
            “Mom, calm down, he probably just got held up at school,” I quickly responded, annoyed, but just as my mom was getting ready to fire back at me, my brother ran through the door.
            “Everyone get ready for dinner. I have awesome news.” He sprinted to his room. 
            My mom and I just looked at each other, puzzled, neither of us had a clue just what it was he was about to share with us. I anxiously set the table, thinking about what my brother could possibly have to tell everyone. We were sitting around the table when my mom yelled for my brother to get downstairs before the food got cold. He came downstairs holding a piece of paper in his hands.
            “What’s this all about?” I asked.
            “Isn’t it obvious?” Hayden said as he flashed the piece of paper around. We all looked at it, still a little puzzled. He’d drawn an American flag.
            “Hayden, I don’t understand,” my mom was still confused. It didn’t take me long to figure it out. He’d been drafted. Why was he so excited? I’d only known for a matter of seconds, and I was already scared. Not only was I scared for him, but for the first time I was scared for all the soldiers already fighting. I was scared for all their families who somehow had to manage their lives knowing their sons may never come back. Why had I never thought about this before? Why didn’t I already respect all the people already out there defending our country, defending me?
            My parents didn’t seem as upset as I was. Were they actually happy about this? No, they couldn’t be. My mom was hugging him, saying how proud of him she was. Was she honestly not afraid? Did she not understand what could happen to him out there? Was I really the only one who was thinking about this rationally? I couldn’t watch this anymore and ran upstairs to my room. Hayden quickly followed after me.
            “What’s wrong? I thought you’d be proud of me.” Hayden sounded disappointed in me.
            “I am proud of you. You’re incredibly brave to do this, but I’m scared. You don’t know what it’s gonna be like.”
            “You’re right, I don’t. But I do know that I can’t chicken out of this. I have to do this. If nothing else, I at least have to do this for myself.” Hayden sounded so confident.
            “Will you write to me, let me know you’re safe?” I said crying.
            “Of course, I’ll write to all of you. I’m gonna be just fine. I have faith.”
            “When do you leave?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
            “A week from today,” he said with a smile on his face.
            That week couldn’t have gone by faster. I felt like I barely got to spend any time with him, even though in reality I was with him every available moment of that week. I even tried skipping school so I could spend those few extra minutes with him, but Mom put a damper on that real quick.   Then came the day I'd been dreading that entire week. His bags were packed; his room never looked so empty. I never felt so empty. I knew I’d still have my parents, but he was my only brother, my only sibling period, and he was leaving. I locked myself in my room the entire day, waiting. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it, but for some reason I was still plotting. Then I heard my mom telling me it was time for Hayden to leave. I walked downstairs and saw him standing there, bags in hand, dying to get out of there. I hated him for leaving, but at the same time I’d never felt more proud of him. I knew he was doing the right thing, and I needed to stop being selfish. I ran over to him and gave him a hug that lasted forever but still not long enough. He reassured me it wouldn’t be long before I got his first letter and that he’d be sure to stay in touch as often as possible. We hugged again. My mom snapped a photo and then sent him on his way.
            The first couple days went by a lot faster than I had expected. My schoolwork kept me busy, and my friends were there for support. Before I knew it, everything was almost back to normal. Months had gone by and I was going about my old daily routines. But I was still waiting on that letter, a letter that never came. Instead we received another letter, a letter that was delivered to our door, a letter that made my mom cry for weeks and one that tore my world apart. A letter that told me my brother wasn’t coming home. It’s a day I remember more vividly than any other, but wish I could forget.
            I blinked, and I was back in that old, dusty attic, with my grandson sitting on my lap asking me if I was okay.
            “Yes, yes. I’m fine, dear,” I assured him.
            “Are you gonna tell me the story about that man or not?”
            “Like I said, that man is your great uncle Hayden, and he was very brave.”
            I went through every detail I could remember about Hayden. I emphasized how courageous he was and how he was so excited to be a part of the United States Army. I told Cole how grateful I was that he stumbled upon that picture.
            “Grandma, can I take this picture and keep it in my room? I want to be just like my great Uncle Hayden.”
            “Of course you can, dear,” I said with a smile.

A Depression Story
Zach Ellsworth, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

Prologue

            The Depression: a time of turbulence and troubles for the United States. The year is 1933 and about a fourth of all Americans are unemployed. The world is in a downward spiral towards disaster because of the United States’ economic problems. Jobs and food seem to be on everyone’s mind. Fathers want to help their families but can’t, the older children do but there is no work to be found. With the job losses, finding a steady paycheck is hard to come across.

Story of My Life

            My name is Charlie Shermmerharn and I’m a businessman out of a house and job living on the streets of New York City. When people walk by me they look with understanding because they are in the same position I am in. Here is my story of making a name for myself in the Great Depression.
            I woke up after having fitful sleep on a cardboard mat that I actually called a bed. After I prepared myself a breakfast of scraps I walked out into the streets that are packed with people lined up in front of homeless shelters and food banks, begging for what has been gone for the past three days.
            I tried to push my way through the crowd and I was shoved, kicked, and yelled at but I eventually got through. Walking away from the crowds I got horsecollered and pulled into an alley. “You owe Fat Jimmy some cash!” yelled the goon. A punch to the gut and an uppercut to the jaw is what he gave me before I could get the reply out.
           “I don’t know anyone named Fat Jimmy!” The last thing a saw before I lost consciousness was a right hook.
            I woke up tied to a chair in a dim lit room. “So you think you could keep running from me Charlie?” said a mysterious voice in front of me. I responded with a grunt. “So this is how it’s going to be?” said the voice. The scraping of wood on concrete indicated that the man was standing up. “Well then I guess I just have to beat the words outta’ you!” yelled the man as he jumped at me, since I could not defend myself I took the blows and slipped back into unconsciousness.
            Again I awoke but this time I’m covered in bruises and in a meat locker. “Let’s try this again Charlie,” said a tall heavyset man in an overcoat. “Where is my money?” My response was garbled babbling. I could tell my adversary was getting angry. “Fine but when I come back you better be in a much more talkative mood. Billy! Guard him till I get back with some more ‘persuasive’ things,” said the overcoat man. Now was the time I would escape.
            I was untied but the meat locker was freezing so my movement was sluggish. I made it to the guard and smashed his face into the door frame. I grabbed the revolver from his side holster and ran down the hallway. I stopped at an open door and listened to a conversation of two heavily armed guards. The element of surprise was the only thing I had going for me so I jumped in the doorway and fired three shots in the guards’ general direction and missed every single one. I’ve never shot a gun in my life so I was surprised with the kickback that the gun had, it almost knocked me off my feet. The guards ducked instinctively but jumped back up and began to fire their MP40’s as soon as they realized the threat was gone.
            The spray of bullets was immense. Luckily I ducked back behind the wall to load more ammunition into my revolver. Shouts came from the room and I heard heavy foot falls as they approached the doorway. I cocked the hammer back on the revolver and waited. As they turned outside of the door I fired a shot point blank into the man’s chest. Blood spattered onto my face, it was that close, from the man’s wound. He slumped over and the other goon looked at his comrade and then at me. I quickly fired my gun once more stopping him from raising his machine gun and ending my life.
            Looking at the bodies I realized that I just killed two people. People with families and friends. Sorrow struck me like lighting, I dropped the gun that I had and cried but my sadness was short lived because I heard the guards coming to investigate the gunshots. I quickly grabbed the bulletproof vest and MP40 from one of the dead guards to ready myself for the upcoming battle. The guards turned the corner and I opened fire with my machine gun.
            The spray of the bullets killed or injured the first couple of goons and the others returned fire with their revolvers. Pain exploded in my arm, a quick look at my arm showed that I got hit. It didn’t look fatal, but nonetheless I took cover to inspect it closely. The wound was gushing blood and was on my upper arm. I ripped some of my ragged clothes off to make a cruddy bandage. Footsteps told me that men were coming to finish me off. I prepared to meet my maker but not before I took some of my adversaries with me.
            MP40 in hand, I aimed it at the general direction of the door. Immediately after the first guard walked through the doorway I let loose a deadly torrent of bullets that made him fall straight to his back. I knocked down a desk to offer some protection from oncoming bullets. Three or four men entered the room and began to fire at the desk. Surprisingly the desk held and absorbed the bullets that were fired from the goons.
            As the goons reloaded I stood up and fired my machine gun laying all four men low. Sprinting out of the room and into the hallway, I thought to myself “I might want to explore the building I’m in so I can find an escape route. After exploring the hallways and countless rooms I found myself to be in the basement of a sky scraper owned by a man named Big Tony.
            “So one of Fat Jimmy’s mob bosses is holding me captive huh? Well let’s go meet him,” I said to myself as I climbed up the stairs to the 23rd floor. “Offices” said the door but I knew this was the floor Big Tony lived on. I knocked on the door and a man in a bartender uniform answered the door and said, “What the heck do you want?” My reply was a punch to the face. Stunned, the man fell to the ground. I asked where Big Tony was and the bartender pointed to the door at the opposite end of the room while clutching his bleeding nose.
            I slowly opened the door when I heard a voice that I presumed to be Big Tony say “So, Charlie, you decide to come and meet me. Are you ready to talk?”
           “No!” I yelled and charged him guns blazing. He took two shots directly in the chest and four or five more in his arms and legs. I only meant to hurt him not kill him right away but that is what fate chose.
            After getting rid of the mob leader I started to wonder if I should continue to take out the other mob leader and the mob boss Fat Jimmy. I understood that killing was wrong but the end justified the means, is what I was thinking of at the time. I searched the room for anything I might need to take down the mob. What I came up with was a small arsenal of weapons, plenty of food, new clothes, and a billfold filled with one hundred dollar bills. After clearing out the room I walked back into the bar section of the penthouse and grabbed clear looking liquor and sloshed some of it onto my gunshot wound. The alcohol killed any infection but it burned like no other.
            Leaving Big Tony’s building I went deep into downtown to find some information on the next man on my hit list, Papa Steve. Papa Steve owned a shipping company by the docks so I decided to head over there to check out his defenses. I had to walk across town, which took about an hour, to get to the docks. When I arrived I saw a high chain link fence with wicked looking barbed wire on the top, one guard house with about two or three guards inside, and there were a couple of buildings surrounding a large central tower. It was my assumption that Papa Steve would be in that tower.
            I loaded my MP40 and Thompson, thinking about how I was supposed to get to Papa Steve. After loading my weapons I donned my bulletproof vest and began walking towards the front gate. A guard approached me when I got about fifteen feet from the gate. He asked “What are you doing here? This is a restricted…” I stopped him from saying any more by putting a gun to his chest. I said with my best menacing tone, “You’re going to walk me up to the guard house like everything is ok and you won’t get a bullet in you.” The guard nodded in fear and began walking towards the guard house.
            We entered the guard house and I opened fire wounding my escort and killing the other guards. My escort said “You lied you said you wouldn’t shoot me.”
           “Well I didn’t mean to…” I stopped because he just kicked me in the shin, it really was a weak kick too. I jumped on him and smashed his face in with the butt of my revolver. He rolled away clutching his mangled face. I knew that he wouldn’t cause any more trouble. I left the guard house and quickly ducked behind some shipping crates because I heard a car head towards the central building.
            I followed the car to the loading dock and watched barrels of liquor be traded for a briefcase full of cash, because of the Prohibition laws this was really illegal. I had to stop that booze from hitting the streets. I got up from my hiding position and sprayed the area with bullets from my MP40. The cars were totaled and the men were most likely dead. With all the possible opposition gone I entered the main building.
            I kicked the door open and with my gun ready I scanned the area for threats. With nothing that could harm me I began to walk down the hallway checking the rooms as I passed by. The final room I came across was a smoking room. A couple of guards were relaxing so I snuck into the room with my revolver ready. I’d never been tolerant of smoking because of what it did to me, I hacked and coughed because of the smoke. It was just my luck, I began to wheeze and that gave away my position. The men jumped up and pulled out their pistols from their holsters to begin searching the area for me.
            I snuck to a chair so I could have a little protection from the fight. I fired off two rounds randomly and silently cheered when I heard a man yell “I’m hit!” but I cowered in fear when about seven slugs were fired into the chair. The chair must have been made of some strong wood because it looked like it would fall apart if you sat in it. I returned fire emptying my magazine on my opposition. The goons fell and I got up from my makeshift defense, searching the bodies for anything I might need. I found a lighter, a hipflask of booze, a couple of pieces of beef jerky, and a ten dollar bill, that didn’t include the guns and ammunition that the guards were carrying.
            Walking into the hall I took the stairs up to the top floor. Searching for a way in I found that if you flicked the lights on and off two times a secret passage would appear and it lead to the 9th floor. It was labeled “penthouse.” Papa Steve must live in/on this room/floor. I munched on some beef jerky while I created a little present for my friend Papa Steve.
            With my new weapon in hand, a Molotov cocktail, I opened the door and threw the fiendish concoction into the well furnished room. I shut the door quickly when I heard glass shatter and when I felt the heat from the fire that was quickly engulfing the room. I left the building and took Papa Steve’s car into town. As I left the docks I saw firemen rush to them, a slight smile came upon my face as I realized that all I needed to do now was get rid of Fat Jimmy to end the mob and stop the crime in New York City. Driving up to an unmarked door and parking my car, I got up to the door, said the pass code to get in and entered the speakeasy.
            It was a small little hole in the wall that my old friends and some ex-mobsters go to all the time. The bar also doubled as a place to stay for the night so I bought a room and a glass of beer and looked for a possible partner that I could have in the siege of Fat Jimmy’s compound. About an hour had passed and people came and went but there was one man that I thought would be perfect for the job. He was well built and had a police uniform on. He was sitting at the bar when I came up to him. I knew that he would be the best because he could clear any criminal charges that I had and he knew his way around  a gun.
            When I got to him I asked him if he would help me take down Fat Jimmy and his mob. The cop was reluctant at first but said he would after a little thought. After that we agreed to meet the next morning at eight o’clock. I turned in for the night pondering my next move against Fat Jimmy.
            I headed downstairs at seven forty-five and sure enough my cop friend was there. “You ready for this?” said the cop with a gruff voice. My reply was a nod and some grumbling about not having breakfast. Walking out to the car the bartender said, “Hey why don’t you go meet Big Tony!” he pulled a Thompson from under the bar and began to fire at me and the cop. I hit the deck as the bullets spattered on door and walls. Returning fire I saw my friend bleeding profusely from multiple gunshot wounds. “Are you ok?” I yelled.
           “Does it look like I’m ok?!” screamed the cop. I crawled over to him as he took his final breaths.
            With my friend dead I stood up and shot my revolver into the evil bartender. “See ya later,” I said with a smirk as I exited. Hopping into my car I drove to the only place I knew Fat Jimmy could be hiding. The Stock Market offices, where this Depression started and where the mob would end.
            I parked the car near the steps that lead up the offices, I began to climb the marble steps up when two of Fat Jimmy’s men began to fire at me from the second story windows. I scurried back to my car and hid behind it as I loaded my Thompson. With my Thompson loaded I got into my car and smashed the passenger window out. I began to fire and drive towards the building. Crashing into the front double doors my face got smashed on the steering wheel. I dragged myself out of the car and I shot about a half of a magazine at some incoming guards making them fall to the floor instantly.
            After searching the multiple floors of cookie cutter office spaces, I found the realm of Fat Jimmy in the basement. It was a mobster’s paradise, Money printers, alcohol, and cigars. It was the perfect place for a mob boss to hole up in. I quickly thought of a plan and prepared to kill Fat Jimmy.
            I hid behind a barrel of booze and loaded my revolver. I slowly got up and aimed at the biggest cluster of liquor barrels, I fired a single shot that caught the barrels on fire, causing panic and chaos. Fat Jimmy dashed out of his room yelling bloody murder, screaming for his guards to put out the fire. Then he saw me. I shot four more shots and began to run. I could tell that I didn’t hit Fat Jimmy because he was right on my tail. I turned around and fired my final shot into Fat Jimmy’s head, ending the vile man right then and there.
            I couldn’t believe it. I ended the man that almost ruined my life, I decided that I didn’t want to be homeless and poor so I headed down to the counterfeiting floor and grabbed as much cash as I could, stuffing the bills into any open pocket. I drove off to find a house and a good meal, two things I haven’t had in ages.

Epilogue

After I had settled down in my penthouse on the 25th floor of an apartment building, I tried to start up my business again. It flourished and rapidly began to grow into a full-blown industry. I sold a manner of things but it was mostly cars that I made most of my money off of. I became a philanthropist, giving to the poor and needy, helping food banks and homeless shelters with their problems. I really did a one hundred and eighty degree turn from being a homeless and jobless business man to a guy living in a penthouse who  has a quarter of a million dollars in his private vault. Of course I had to take down a mob to get there. You see, I now see that good things can happen when you hit tough times.


Bell’uccello
Morgan Smith, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

            One day you were in a forest near your home. The forest was full of tall green plants and trees. In the middle of the forest, you came across the most vibrant colored bird you have ever seen. 'Bell'uccello! You are so bright and beautiful! What I would do for that beauty.'
            The bird replied, 'Yes, I may be bright and beautiful with radiant colors, but you are much more beautiful and perfect than I could ever dream. I am just colors.' 'No, no.' you say, 'I am nothing compared to your beauty. I'm nowhere near perfect. Nowhere near you.' The bird cocked its head and smiled, 'Well, we can trade and once and for all you can see that my beauty is nothing, that you are the one who is perfect, that everything that makes you perfect lines up with one another into a perfect fit. And that all I have is color.'
            The bird stuck out its wing, waiting to seal the deal. You reach to grasp the bird’s wing when it suddenly pulls back 'I am telling you. You have the bad end of the deal. You will be stuck with color, and I perfection. I warn you now.' You scoff. 'Please, I know what I am talking about. I'm not perfect. I have the better end of the deal.' The bird sighs, 'Okay, but know, I will only change you back when you learn your lesson.' the bird takes your hand and you shake. 'The deal is done. By day break, you will have beauty. When you want to change back, call my name and I will come to you.' The bird flew off and you return home and anxiously go to bed.
            You wake up the next morning, jump up and peer into the mirror. Your reflection is not you. It has perfect hair, perfect piercing eyes, perfect body, perfect everything. You can't help but stare as shock and excitement fills you. You get dressed and walk out into the courtyard. People flock to you, all wanting to speak to the new, handsome you. You have a wonderful day with everyone around you, but something is different. Even with your new self and everyone loving you, something was missing.
            At nightfall, you stand outside on your balcony, 'Bell'uccello! Bell'uccello! Come here, Bell'uccello!' The bird glided towards you from the forest and landed gracefully in front of you. The bird looks exactly the same. His colors are still as vibrant and as beautiful as before, if not more. Something did seem different though. A more happy feeling was around the bird. "Bell'uccello! You cheated me! You took my perfection and kept your beauty, while giving me someone else's beauty!' The bird shook his head. 'I have done no such thing.' A puzzled look comes across your face, 'Then why are you still as beautiful as before Bell'uccello? I don't understand.'
            The bird smiles at you, 'You see, you are perfect. You are beautiful. You were too blind to see your own beauty that I had to come and show you the truth.' 'Bell'uccello! I see my mistake, please, give me back my perfection.' You stick out your hand eagerly for the bird to take. The bird sighs and reluctantly shakes your hand. 'By day break, you shall be your old self again.' The bird flew off into the distance and you retire for the night.
            You awake the next morning, look into the mirror and see the same beautiful person as the day before. You walk away puzzled onto your balcony and prepare to call the bird when someone calls your name. It is someone you know very well, someone you love very much, someone you think is much more beautiful than you. You run to them and spend the whole day on a date with them. By nightfall, you are back at your home. You leave them inside and walk out on the balcony.
            'Bell'uccello! Bell'uccello! Come here, Bell'uccello!' The bird flies up and lands in front of you recklessly. The happy glow from the bird was gone. 'Bell'uccello! I don't understand. I am as beautiful as I was yesterday yet I feel the same as the day before.' The bird sighs, 'You don't understand, you are beautiful in every way. Yet, you are so blind to it. You should appreciate what you have and feel lucky for it, because you are truly blessed.' The bird flies off without another word in a different direction than the forest. You return to your guest in your home. They surprise you by taking your chin in their hand and gently kissing your lips. 'I have loved you for a long time' they say ' you were just never happy with yourself, but now that you are, others can be happy with you too.' You marry this person and have a child soon after. You name your child Bell'uccello after the bird that helped you. You tell your child the story of the bird as a bed time story, and tell them to tell their children, so the kindness of Bell'uccello will be known forever."


The One to Get Away
Teniya Hicks, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

            Knock. Knock.My mother answers the door; it’s Mr. Parris. I woke up this morning feeling great. It’s my thirteenth birthday. February 28th used to be my favorite day but everything has changed. My best friend, Ann, is not allowed to see me anymore. She has been “acting strangely” according to my mother. My father told me to stay away from Ann, Betty, and Abigail. So basically I am all alone.
            It all started a few weeks ago when Mr. Parris’ wife became very ill. His slave, Tituba, started to care for his children; Betty, Thomas and Susannah. Tituba is from Barbados but was born in South America. She is married to a fellow named John Indian; I’ve seen him once. Well, while John helped Mr. Parris fix up the church, Tituba would take care of Mrs. Parris and keep all the kids busy.
            When all my chores were finished I would go to the Parris household and Tituba always found ways to keep us busy. Most of the times she’d tell us stories and we loved to hear them. Now every time I go out my mother says “stay away from there,” so I stopped going. Ann and Abigail are still allowed to so they usually tell me about the games they play or the stories Tituba tells them. One thing her people really believed in was dark magic, which is not accepted in our Puritan community.
            So here we are today: Me, home, doing chores on my birthday. My parents are still speaking to Mr. Parris about everything that is going on with the girls.
            “Megan, honey please come here,” said my father.
            I walked into the room and Mr. Parris said, “Hello Megan. Happy Birthday.”
            “Thank you.”
            My mother was the only one that was trying to get to the point, “The reason we have called you in here is for you to tell us the truth about everything going on. I know you were not around this as much as the others but you have got to know something. They testify against Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne tomorrow. ”
            I hesitated to reply. It’s hard lying to my mother and father. So I calmly said, “Okay I cannot help much. Honestly, I do not know how I can help you at all.” I had lied right to their faces and they all believed me. No wonder everyone believes the accusations that are being thrown out there.
            When Mr. Parris left I spoke to my mother about my birthday. “Today is my birthday and it is not going well.”
            She replied, “Sorry love it is not a good time to do anything big.”
            “I understand, but I do not think it is fair to me.”
            “I know and I will make it up, promise. “
            This is not the first time I was promised something from her. On my ninth birthday she told me that she’d teach me how to make a dress. She had a baby the next week so of course that didn’t happen. Last year she promised that she would teach me to read but the baby was sick. So, once again, I was put on hold.
            Knock Knock Knock. I answered the door; it was my eldest sister Annabelle and her three kids. “Happy Birthday,” they all shouted. I was very happy; I do not get to see them often. She lives on a farm with her husband and children. They will be staying with us for a while since her husband is on a business trip.
            “Megan, I’d hate to ask you this but tomorrow while momma, poppa, and I are at the trials can you watch the children?”
            “Sure Anna.” I had no intentions on going to that trial anyway.
            “Thank you so much. I have a gift for you.”
            “Really, you didn’t have to.”
            “I know but here.” And she handed me a beautiful handmade necklace with a cross on it.
            “It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
            “You’re welcome little sis.”
            Yes this necklace is gorgeous, but there is something you do not know about me! I do not believe in the ways of the Puritan life with that one God you must trust and be a pure person nonsense. Neither does Betty, Anne, or Abigail. This is why we were such good friends. This is why they cannot get in trouble. This is why they HAVE to lie.
            One thing we have learned growing up in this community is that lying is and always will be a huge sin. But yet all the adults do it. Well, when I get married I’m moving to the western part of Salem so I can leave this place. The only advantage of living here is that it’s more financially thriving, unlike the western part where farm labor and trade is the way of life. That’s where my sister and her family live. The girls and I have been through so much together over the years. If they make it through this we are all getting out of eastern Salem.
            I have some money saved up so I decided to walk to the local market. I opened the little wooden door and I saw her. Tall, pale, beautiful, long, brown, hair, it was her.  It was Ann Putnam.  She noticed me first and shouted, “MEGAN!”
            “Ann!” That was the only way I knew to reply without drawing too much attention to our encounter.
            “I have missed you so much. I wish you were here with me through all of this nonsense.”
            “I know and what makes this worse is that I am not going tomorrow to the trials.”
            “Why not? We all want you there.”
            “I know you guys do but I am watching Annabelle’s children. “
            “Okay. Well we are not going to bring you into this, promise.”
            “Thank you so much.”
            “Welcome. Oh and happy birthday. So do you think you can meet us tonight?”
            “Yes. 7 o’clock by the lake?”
            “Yes, that’d be great. Well I have to go. See you then.” She gave me a hug goodbye and left. I trust these girls when they promise me things. This will be the test.
            I do not remember what I came to the market for but what I found was way better than anything in my life. I get to see Ann, Betty, and Abigail. I miss them all so much. I have to get home and prepare for an amazing night.
            It is almost time for me to walk to the lake. It is a wonderful place and we love to be there. Growing up, all the children liked to play there. It is located behind our section of houses. We all had our first kiss there, it is where we loved to swim, and it is where Tituba told us stories of magic and the culture of Barbados. So many memories that were made and oh so many that could never be forgotten.
            It was pretty dark as I walked to the lake, but I have been there so many times I could walk there blindfolded.  As I reach our normal spot, I could see it all. The fire was high and bright and I could see each girl: Ann in her long, black petticoat with a white hood. Abigail was in her favorite brown petticoat with a white apron, and Betty was in her typical orange petticoat. Wait. I see someone else, but they’re too far away. I cannot tell who it is. It couldn’t be. Is that Tituba?
            I gave all four of them hugs. I mean seriously! It has been forever since I’ve seen them. They told me their plan. In order to take blame off themselves and their families they are going to accuse other people of being witches. Tituba will be blamed first so that she can go home back to South America. This all was not right, but what could we do? I honestly have nothing to do with this at all! I wasn’t barking during dinner, or screaming and shaking in a dark room. But they are my friends and I have to stand by them no matter what. I promised that I would agree to whatever their plan entailed.
            The next morning when I woke up I was extremely nervous. The trials begin today. The accused women were charged with practicing witchcraft and worshiping the devil. People actually believed this was true. This will be the first time something so atrocious has happened. No one knows exactly what is in store for these women. No one really cares. They all just want the girls to get out of this situation safe and sound.
            Soon after my sister and parents left there was a knock on the door. It was Mr. Parris. He said, “I think you should be at the trials. Let’s go.”
            I really would like to go but I have my brothers and sisters and Annabelle’s kids too. I guess they have to come with me. “Okay just give me a few minutes.” I got all the kids ready Mr. Parris guided us to the court house.
            When we walked into the courthouse, everyone was fascinated with all of the stuff the girls were telling them that they did not notice us walk in.  We sat in the very back and listened to what was going on. Ann was talking about the first thing Tituba ever taught us where you drop an egg white into a bowl with a little water and see what shape it takes, the first time she did it she got a coffin. Everyone was shocked.
            I remember that day very well. We had just left my house and went to Betty’s. Her parents were at a town meeting so we went there. Tituba showed us this game and everyone wanted to try it so we did. We all went into the kitchen and got an egg. Ann went first. She put her egg in the bowl, stirred it and then the egg white was shaped in a coffin. We were all so surprised. The next morning when her family woke up, her baby sister was dead. It was pretty creepy. No one was allowed to find out we had anything to do with it. When I did mine I got a house and the next day we were moving into a bigger home. Everyone thought God had play in these events but we knew the truth.
            As the trial was wrapping up everyone was so shocked as to all of the accusations the girls have made. My mother was very upset because she had no clue what was going on. The courts have decided that anyone found guilty would be hung. So this will not turn out well.
            The whole town was terrified about the whole witch situation. Over the next few weeks Ann accused many completely innocent people of being witches. They were shocked and really upset.
            Today, March 24th, Ann took the accusing innocent people to another level. I was walking to the market for some milk and cheese when I saw Ann. She was speaking to the judge. I hid behind a wagon and over heard their conversation. 
            “Dorcas. Dorcas Good is a witch!” I cannot believe she just said that. Dorcas is Sarah Good’s five year old daughter!! She doesn’t even know what a witch is. She can’t even write. Ann Putnam what have you done??
            When the judge left I had to talk to her. “Ann why did you tell him Dorcas is a witch?”
            “Because it is true.”
            “No it is not! I am going to tell someone what you guys have done.”
            “You better not! Or I will tell people you are a witch!”
            “They will not believe you!” I had nothing else to say to her so I walked away and went home.
            I woke up the next morning feeling nervous. But I have nothing to be nervous about. I did all my chores and then went to the market to help Mrs. Allen. I had to clean it up. I still had this nervous feeling throughout the day.
            While I was walking home I ran into Abigail’s mother and she was quite upset. “Megan!! Megan Smith! We need to speak.” She was more than upset.
            “Yes Mrs. Williams?”
            “Do not act all innocent!  I know you were a part of the girls’ circle. You’re just as guilty as Ann, Abigail, and Betty.”
            “Mrs. Williams I am not. I have done nothing wrong.”
            “Ann and Abigail told me you were a part of this and they are trying to protect you and now you want to tell someone that these girls are lying!”
            “Mrs. Williams, please stop this. I beg of you.” I was practically in tears.
            “Megan you will not get away with this. Trust me!”  I just walked away from her. I know it was disrespectful but I could not help it. I kept crying. Everyone is about to find out the truth: about me, the girls, and all of the accused people. Thinking about this made me more upset. I ran into an empty shed to cry. After a while I feel asleep.
            When I woke up it was really dark outside. I have to walk home now. This is the first time I have ever walked home alone in the dark. While walking I hear this noise behind me. I am by the lake, so I’m close to my house. I turn around and see a shadow. It is pretty big. I see my house so I start to run. I can hear it running behind me. I fall and hit my head. I tried to get back up but I couldn’t. As I’m lying on the ground the shadow came closer towards me. It was a man. I think Mr. Williams.
            He started to speak and the only thing I heard was, “I talked to my wife and I know about you. WITCH! Letting the other girls take the blame. How dare you not be punished?! Well I will take care of that!” He made a circle, with trash, around my body then he lit it on fire. As I burned to my unnecessary death all I could think was how my family would feel. What did Abigail say to her parents? “
            As my body burned, Mr. Williams said, “You are the one to get away. Happy?”


Come Back Camelot
Jessica Recker, Delphos St. John’s
Sponsoring Teacher: Chrissy Elwer

            It is October 30 of 2010, and my day feels exceptionally long.  I, Gwen Smith, was invited to my daughter Gabriella’s house for a Halloween party.  Coincidentally, October 31 is my birthday.  I am seventy-nine years old and about to turn eighty.  Gabriella invited all of my friends and family over to the Halloween bash.  Myself, being naïve as usual, decided it would not be a surprise birthday for me, so I decide to go with the flow.  I walk up to the front door with my husband, Launce Smith.  He holds my hand the whole way to the house.  When we finally arrive at the pale green door, he turns to me and says, “Here we go!”

---

            As I walk into the living room of Gabriella’s house, I see no familiar furniture, blue carpet, or white walls.  Instead, I see a man with flowing blonde hair riding on a white horse towards me.  I realize that I have walked out of a giant forest, and Gabriella’s house is nowhere in sight.  The man is nearing me, and I don’t know what to do.  There are so many things I want to know, such as where I am and how I am suppose to get back to my daughter’s house.  The only solution I can concoct is to ask this man for help.  As he dismounts from his horse, he smiles at me like we were long lost friends.
            The exceptionally handsome man walks up to me, hugs me with his strong arms, and says, “Welcome back, Gwynevere.”
            Shocked that he knows my full name, I shove him off of me and demanded, “Who are you?!  Where am I?”
            I must have shocked him.  He looks as if I had just smacked him across the face.  “You don’t remember me, do you?  No, of course not.  I am Sir Launcelot, and you are in Camelot, the land of my old friend King Arthur.  A lot has happened since you departed from here, Gwynevere.  Arthur has declared war on me for kissing you.”
            I finally regain my sanity from his introduction and realize I have returned to my homeland, Camelot.  “Why did I come back?” I ask Launcelot.
            “I do not know why, but I can sense you are here for a purpose.  I am glad you are back.  I’ve missed you so,” Launcelot tells me.
            Without pondering or hesitating, I respond, saying, “I’ve missed you too, Launcelot.”  I know I truly feel like I missed him, and I even knew I loved him as well.
            We ride back to Launcelot’s army camp to discuss what plan of action we will take with Arthur.  “I feel violence does not solve anything.  I want to be able to make you and Arthur talk it out.  With violence, people only get hurt.”
            “I love the way you think, Gwynevere, but I have already tried to talk to him.  He refuses to see me unless we are in combat,” replies Launcelot.
            “Then prepare and wait for his declaration for war.  I will be ready,” I respond confidently.
            The next day, October 31, Arthur and Launcelot engage in combat; I watch from my bedroom in my castle.  Blood is spraying everywhere as flesh is being torn and ripped.  I am exhausted from watching bodies falling to the ground with no breath being expelled from them.  My eyes  are then drawn to the middle of the battlefield; there, fighting each other, are Launcelot and Arthur.  My breath quickens as panic took over me.  I have to do something, but what? 
            Without thinking, I run out to the battlefield.  Launcelot is knocked to the ground, and Arthur is about to strike him.  All of a sudden, I yell, “STOP!” and jump onto Launcelot, saving him from the blow.  With tears streaming down my face, I wait for the pain to strike my back, but it never comes.  I turned around to face Arthur, but when I look him in the eye, he drops his sword, falls to his knees, and cries.
            “I’m so sorry!” he cries.  “I have wanted to kill my best friend for loving the woman I was supposed to marry.  I now see the look in your eyes, Gwynevere.  You truly do love Launcelot.  I am sorry for acting so foolishly.  I have been a terrible king to my people.”
            “You, Arthur, are not a bad king,” I reassure him.  “You fight for what you love, and that is what your people want.”
            “Come, let us throw a party for Gwynevere,” speaks Launcelot.  “She has ended our feud and has us back on the path towards friendship once more.”
            The people of Camelot rush to the castle to celebrate.  A truce is to be made!  “Launcelot, can I speak with you?” I ask.  “I now know why I came back to Camelot.  I came back to make our history right.  We wouldn’t be together unless I made the fighting cease.  This was my purpose!”
            Launcelot looks me in the eyes.  He smiles, winks at me, and says, “Exactly Gwynevere, my love.  By the way, happy birthday Gwynevere, my love.”  Then, he leans in and kisses me.

---

            When I opened my eyes, I see my family and friends staring at me and smiling.  They exclaim together, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GWEN!”
            I turn to Launce and ask him how long I was gone.  He looks me in the eyes, smiles, and winks at me saying, “Never.  By the way, happy birthday Gwen, my love.”  Then, he leans in and kisses me.

The Affect
Stephanie Lamoreau, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Tricia May

Dear Greg,
            I love you. I’m doing this for you. Anything I ever do is for you. I’m not happy and I can see you aren’t either. I know I’ve hurt you. As I let precious days go by, I continue to hurt you more and more. It is clear to me you are saddened; you have the right to be. I’ve never realized until now that I’m putting you through so much misery and embarrassment.
            I’ve changed. I’m not the same woman you married thirteen years ago. I now fully understand how you are feeling. It’s terrible and I’m extremely sorry. The lies I regularly tell you are unfair. It hurts me to see that you are knowledgeable of my lies and try not to show it. You’re always trying to keep me happy and that’s why I fell in love with you. You mean the world to me. You’re my best friend, and you don’t deserve any of this suffering.
            This is why I’ve decided to end it. End it all, both your suffering and mine. No more lies. No more damage and pain. Nothing. I want you to erase the sadness that has taken over your life for the past year. All I want is for you to be happy. Please forgive me for all I’ve done.

Love,
Jane

            Greg places the beautifully hand written note back on the kitchen table, where he had found it. He stares blankly into the dim room as if searching for something that wasn’t there. He was completely frozen, staying absolutely still for what seemed to be hours.
                        Then it struck him, and when it did, it hit him hard like he’d been beaten with a bat. Eyes swelling up with tears, all strength in Greg’s body seemed to disappear. Immediately, he was lying on the floor, motionless, next to the empty bottle. Gripping the orange medicine bottle that once held around twenty snow-white tablets, Greg let his tears stream down his burning cheeks. The pain was unbearable. He wanted to lay on the kitchen floor forever because he knew he couldn’t face the haunting fear. He didn’t want to believe the fact that his stunning wife was in a never-ending, peaceful sleep on the blood red couch in the next room.
                        A year of non-stop trying. A year of struggling right along side of her. All the trouble they went through together, trying to get her to stop depending on the chalky pills to take away her pain. In the end, none of it really mattered. All the effort tossed away like trash.
                        Greg tried to wake himself up, but it wasn’t a dream. This was all Greg’s reality. Greg, still on the floor, made his way gradually across the kitchen. Scooting inch by inch on the cold, hard tile, he finally reached a small wooden table on the opposite side of the room. He forced himself to an unstable kneeling position, his hands and legs shaking uneasily. He outstretched his trembling arm to grab the phone on the table. It felt as if someone or something was weighing the phone down. Once he managed to hold the phone, Greg struggled to focus on the white numbers printed on the undersized buttons. The phone was slowly lifted to his ear. He listened to the ringing on the other end, waiting in silence for someone to answer. He started forming the words in his head, but when a masculine voice answered his call he became speechless. Greg spoke the words he thought were impossible to say. The man on the other side of the call ended their conversation suddenly. It was time for Greg to let go and he knew that. He hung up the telephone and unhurriedly lowered his heavy body back down to the cold tile. Greg laid in that spot waiting, waiting for the police to arrive, and take his wife’s lifeless body away from him once and for all.


Junior/Senior Division
The Foundry, or, A Symphony upon Deaf Ears
Chris Radebaugh, Elida
Sponsoring Teacher: LuAnn Williams

            The rain fell in a matter that just defied rhythm.  As I felt some unnatural synchronicity grip my attention, just as I found a regular, discernable tempo and timbre, a single out-of-place droplet ruined my grip.  Then two more erased my memory of the pattern.  Finally, I found a whole new song.  If there wasn’t one to find, I made one.
            I lay in my bed, waiting for the alarm clock less than a foot from my face to emit a siren that I knew would kill the warm musing safety of half-sleep.  Every irrationality clicks with a usually-dormant piece of the mind capable of interpreting meanings outside of what is typically viable for any coherent value: symbolic, literal, or otherwise.
            Even though I had been counting down its arrival as well as my sleep-drunkenness would allow, the alarm startled me so much I practically leapt out of bed.  I stood, shirtless, combative, for long enough that my roommate spoke up assertive nonsense in protest of the noise.  I replied with equally indecipherable vocalizations.  I bent over and fumbled with the clock until I managed to achieve silence.  The quiet revealed one of the aforementioned irrationalities my mind had invented: a slow, sad, monotonous rendition of Handel’s “Messiah.”
            I walked to the bathroom and took a shower, then sneaked back into the bedroom to get dressed.  Back to the bathroom.  I performed the typical hygienic routine, and picked up my razor.  I set it back down.  My half-beard would live a day longer.  I left my dorm for the hallway, the hallway for the elevator, the elevator for the lobby.
            Ella sat behind the desk, unamused and clearly not enjoying her job babysitting a sleeping child.  She smiled at me a little too warmly.  I nodded in response.  “Up a little early on a Saturday, aren’t we, Trent?”  Her voice came out louder than she expected in the silence, and it visibly startled both of us.
            “Uhhh... Yeah.  I’ve got stuff to do,” I spoke in response.  My tone sounded even lower and gruffer than normal in an almost put-on way.  I cleared my throat.  Funny how I could remember talking to Ella many times, but never speaking to her.
            I made a motion towards the door, but she stopped me, her voice still a little too loud: “Sounds fun.  Hope you don’t get too wet!”  I looked down and realized I didn’t have a jacket.  I hesitated a second before shrugging it off at the thought of venturing back up the elevator.
            “Thanks, I’ll be fine.  See ya later,” I said on my way out the door.  I turned and gave a small, tired smile to her vaguely overenthusiastic farewell.
            The rain was colder than I had expected.  I saw a couple running, the man holding his jacket over the girl.  It was the kind of thing you’d see in a movie.  I wondered why they were out so early.  I checked my phone to see if I was right in my estimation of the time, because the overcast sky obscured the sunrise.  It was about ten minutes later than I had expected.
            The campus was not exactly on par with some unattainable Ivy League beauty, but it looked nice in its own urban way.  The place felt like an exclusive city-within-a-city.  The dorms were fashioned like apartment buildings, and the class halls themselves looked akin to prestigious museums.  The restaurants and convenience stores on or near campus added to the almost isolating effect.
            I walked towards a coffee shop at a slightly rushed pace.  I was getting soaked, but I didn’t want to give Ella the satisfaction of being right about the jacket.  I stepped inside, dripping and shivering from the cold rain.  I heard an almost familiar voice off to my left.  The face that accompanied it sent me back into a dream.                
            The sky is black.  The land is bright. I stand in a Victorian-era industrial center, surrounded by a crowd of modern malcontents.  It’s loud, but I hear nothing. Malaise engulfs the scene like a fog.
            A man is in front of the crowd.  Inciting, enraging, conspiring.  I don’t know how I see him over the multitude in front of me, but I do.  I’m at the front of the crowd now.  The man hands me a piece of paper.  A contract?  He awaits approval.  I can’t read it, no matter how hard I try.  He grows impatient.
            As if to hurry my decision, he points disapprovingly, accusingly to an industrio-cyclopean monstrosity of dirty steel and smoke looming over the city.
            The Foundry.
            “Henry?”
            “I’m surprised you recognize me; it’s been a while.  How are you?”
            “Not bad, just a little tired, like always.”
            “I can tell.  You should get more sleep.  Don’t want your lack of rest affecting your life.”
            “Everyone says that.”
            “If everyone says anything, it must have some value, right?”
            “No.”
            “Everyone says that.  So I hear you’re pretty good friends with Charlie.  I went to high school with him.”
            “Really?  Small world and all those other clichés, I guess.”
            “He mentioned you.”
            “What did he say?”
            “Nothing.  Nothing important, at least, but I recognized the name.”
            “I see.”
            “Well, I better be going.  Maybe I’ll run into you later?”
            “I’m sure you will.  See ya.”               
            “Nice seeing you again.”  He shook my hand and left.  The conversation was awkward, like all reacquainting of acquaintances are.  But beyond the casual civility had lurked, at least for me, a profound revelation.
            Henry points at the Foundry, that despicable symbol against all which we hold dear.  Terror! it screams.  Sacrilegious defilement!  Consumption and pestilence!  Pyres and mourning!  But it also speaks of comfort and acceptance.  It soothes with promises of eventual relief from want and worry.  Freedom through indenturement; salvation through self-sacrifice.
            It’s Henry pointing.
            I had met Henry two or three years ago.  He was some sort of talented musician, but I couldn’t remember what he played.  Piano, or cello, or something classical like that.
            You could tell he was an artist just by looking at him.  He moved in a dextrous, precise manner, as if every second of his life was a large improvised performance.  His eyes dominated his appearance, overshadowing his short, lanky frame, neatly shaggy dark red hair, and pale, clean-shaven face.  His eyes were an unremarkable shade of light blue, but he had a half-blind way of looking at things that left you wondering if he really saw you, or anything at all.  He appeared to be stuck in some sort of eternal daze.
            I walked out of the shop, cautiously sipping a black coffee.  The rain had stopped, but I could still smell it.  Autumn’s bright colors lent a feel of dismal celebration to the cloudy world.  A few early birds were out trying to catch proverbial worms, and a busker or two had set about their work already.  I enjoyed their disparaging melodies, but didn’t have the money or presence of mind to tip them.
            I stepped on wet layers of dead leaves and sidewalk.  A few cars drove by, reminders of the outside world.  I didn’t make it very far down the sidewalk.
            Henry is waiting.  The Foundry is watching.  I sign something that may or may not be my signature on the contract.  I look at it, but cannot make any sense out of what I had just written.  Henry, not seeming to mind, now holds the contract.  He smiles a joyless smile, his eyes more dead than normal.
            The malcontents begin a riotous march towards the Foundry.
            Charlie was in front of me, panicked.  He practically ran past me, going the opposite direction.  I heard him stop, turn around, and run back to me.  He was lanky, like Henry, but tall.  His neatly gelled, short hair contrasted his worried face.  Odd how even this early and crazed, his appearance was still carefully sculpted.
            “I’m ahh, uhm, have you, haah, seen...” he was struggling to talk between gasps caused by a conglomerate of his exhaustion and nervousness.  A trail of sweat and liquefied hair gel was running down the right side of his face like a superficial scar.
            “Henry.”
            “How’d you know?”  Charlie’s face snapped from worried and scared to curious and incredulous.
            “I just had a feeling.”
            “Well, have you seen him?”  Charlie suddenly remembered he couldn’t waste time.
            “A couple minutes ago in that coffee shop.”  I pointed.  I didn’t bother asking why.
            “Help me find him?”  It took me a while to realize it was a question.
            “Sure.”
            They beat on the door of the Foundry in an uproarious frenzy.  Men and women alike lose their humanity to feral rage.  Henry stands aside, stoic.  We watch.  The doors don’t budge.  The mob grows more violent, each deindividualized by the common aggression into less than a person.
            We see him.  He was walking casually down the sidewalk about a hundred meters in front of us.  “Henry! Henry!” Charlie bellowed.  Henry showed no sign of hearing.  Charlie ran towards him, but he walked into a lecture hall; Charlie motioned me to hurry.  Regretfully, I threw away my coffee and jogged to catch up with him.
            He didn’t say anything when I reached him, but just followed Henry into the hall.  It was immense, one of the largest on campus.  I had a rhetoric class in the hall, and was familiar with the teacher.  Mr. Valiat was locally famous for his nearly scientific use of language and unparalleled skill as an orator.
            The door Charlie and I walked in was at the back of the hall, and we heard muffled voices overridden by classical music.  Henry stood on the stage-like teaching platform, and Mr. Valiat sat.
            The Foundry glowers at me.  It curses my name, and wishes unspeakable blights upon my existence.  I shrink from its rage, growing smaller and weaker, while the Foundry reaches an unrealistic size, its highest, jagged points making the distance of celestial bodies appear insignificant.  The contract in Henry’s hand begins to fold and burn without flame.  He pulls me to the Foundry’s great doors and places the contract upon them.  He does for me what I am unable to.  He places my hand upon the contract.  He screams inaudible expressions of rage against the Foundry, his face still a mask.  The Foundry grows hotter and hotter until its metal walls begin to glow and its massive wooden doors begin to blacken.  I feel the heat first through my hand, and then by convection through the air.  My hand burns, but I cannot pull it away; I am locked in place.
            Charlie yelled, shouted, and generally made as much noise at Henry as he could manage.  Mr. Valiat looked in our direction, but Henry did not appear to hear, and kept his back turned to us.  He looked almost comically small at the focus of the massive room.
            Charlie and I ran to the front of the room, where the music was almost deafening.  I did my best to ignore the obnoxiously loud symphony and focus on the situation at hand.
            Charlie grabbed Henry by the shoulders, at which point Henry, with an angry look on his face, turned around and punched Charlie in the jaw in one smooth motion.  Charlie, unbalanced and unprepared, fell to the ground.  Mr. Valiat laughed a harsh laugh.  Henry glared at him when he turned around and saw him laughing.  Henry finally turned to me.
            “What’s going on?” I asked at a level too low to be heard over the music. 
            “We are simply enjoying a beautiful piece of music.  Mr. Valiat’s appreciation for words and their complexity allows him to grasp the beauty of this song.  Isn’t that correct, sir?”  Henry seemed on edge but in charge.  Charlie stood up and began to talk, but Henry cut him off with a gesture and turned to Mr. Valiat.  “Isn’t that correct, sir?”
            “I have little taste for music, to be honest.  I would much rather read,” Mr. Valiat answered defiantly.  His pseudo-political appearance and venerable age added some weight to his voice, but not enough to topple Henry.
            “I’m sorry, I must have misspoken.  Mr. Valiat’s analysis of words and their complexity disallows him to grasp the beauty of this song.  This is why I’m not a professor of rhetoric,” Henry retorted, looking somewhere toward a back corner of the room in a detached manner.  Charlie watched, even more frightened than he had been a few minutes before.
            “What’s going on here?” I raised my voice in an attempt to be heard over the song as it, much to my relief, shifted to a softer movement, making conversation a little easier.
            “I think the song may have just reached its third movement.  I call it ‘The Collapse.’  The first movement is called ‘Roar’ and the second movement is titled ‘Knife in a Keyhole’ if anyone was curious.”
            “That’s not what he meant!  What are you doing here, and why did you punch me?” Charlie screamed, but Henry did not appear to notice. 
            “But I have a feeling that’s not what you meant, Trent.  Mr. Valiat and I were just debating the relative merits of art against practicality.  I, to little surprise, I’m sure, side with the aesthetic view of beauty above all else.  Unfortunately, Mr. Valiat appears to be quite pragmatic in his opinions, so I am attempting to change his mind.”
            The sky is now dominated by the luminescent monstrosity that is the Foundry.  The massive doors burst outward in an explosion of fire that blows away everyone but Henry and I.  The Foundry roars a grating, grumbling roar that is more felt than heard.  It grows in volume until I feel my entire body will be shaken to pieces.  The Foundry’s innards are exposed: brilliant fire fueled by millions of abandoned dreams and lives. 
            “This lunatic burst into my classroom holding a knife and threatened my very life!  He told me to sit still and listen, or he would stab me!  I’m so glad you two have come along!  Quick, run for help, or else be the help yourself!  Something must be done!”  Mr. Valiat spoke in his authoritative way, full of calculated emotion and emphasis.
            Charlie gripped his head, bent over, and screamed, then ran out of the room much faster than I’ve ever seen him move; Henry chuckled.  I stayed, immobilized by the news.  “Where’s the knife?”  I managed after a few seconds of tense silence.
            “There is no knife,” Henry said flatly.  He was not holding anything, and I saw no sign of anything hidden on his person.
            “Then what exactly is going on?” I demanded.  I slowly moved away from both Henry and Mr. Valiat.  I felt even more tension build.
            “I’m sorry, what did you say?” Henry asked, looking at me, but not quite in the eye.  I repeated my question.  “I- I’m sorry, once more?” Henry pleaded, suddenly becoming very remorseful.  I got about halfway through the question before he screamed in rage.  “I can’t hear you!”
            “I’ll speak up,” I offered, Henry’s eyes glued to me.
            “No, don’t bother.  Thank you, but don’t bother.  I wouldn’t hear it.  I don’t hear anything anymore,” Henry said in a broken, implacable tone.  “That’s how I gave the symphony its name.  I’d never hear it, and I knew no one else would truly listen.”
            “Are you-“ I began, but was caught off.
            “‘A Symphony upon Deaf Ears’.”
            “Yes, he’s deaf, and, for some reason I can’t imagine, he blames me for it!  I’ve done nothing to him!” Mr. Valiat clarified and asserted.
            “And yet, someone must be blamed,” Henry said, as if he was reciting poetry.  I began to understand.  He didn’t blame Mr. Valiat for his own deafness, but for the deafness of others.
              “So you wrote this?” I began stalling in effort to give Charlie time to arrive with someone who could sort everything out if Henry did indeed have a knife.  It became obvious why Henry hadn’t looked me in the eye: he was reading my lips.
            “Yes.  I just want it to be heard.  Is that so bad?” Henry answered, confirming my suspicions.  “Since I cannot hear it, I want to judge it in the eyes of someone who can.  But no one will.”
            “When did you go deaf?”  I continued.
            We walk through the flames, filled with the Foundry’s roar.  I cannot see anything but fire, but Henry knows where he’s going.
            “Six months ago.  The day before I began writing this.”
            “Why are you doing this?”
            We arrive at a circle of extinguished ground.  A man sits chained in a chair.
            “To make a point.  This man is a symbol against all which I hold dear.  My appreciation of music’s beauty has been taken from me, but I can still pass it on as long as Mr. Valiat’s pragmatic teachings don’t grip the world.  I’m trying to insure that doesn’t happen.”
            “So you do have a knife?”
            Henry pulls out a knife.
            “No.”
            “Then what exactly are you doing here?”
            Henry places the knife in the keyhole of a padlock on the restrained man’s chest.  He unlocks the padlock.
            “I’m freeing you.”
            The restraints fall away.  I look at myself sitting in the chair.  I am in the chair.  I look up to see Henry, only Henry, standing over me.
            The symphony, apparently on repeat, cycled back to what I knew had to be the first movement.  I heard the Foundry’s roar recreated in the form of a violent tuba solo.
            “The symphony is brilliant.”
            The Foundry collapses.

Demons of Pau
Matt Nalley, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            Waking to his last dreary day in Le Prison de Pau, Henri lies on his shaggy old cot staring intently at the ceiling. The guard walking past his cell sharply calls out, “Up!” Sitting straight up in bed, Henri's dark glare moves from the ceiling to the guard.
            The guard moves on—his voice still echoing back down the narrow hall of the prison to Henri's ears. Looking around the dank cell he has called home for the past thirteen years, he looks at the bare, gray, chalky walls for the last time. His eyes then drop to the barren floor and work their way into the darkest corner of the room. Much to his dismay, he sees Gerard, still sitting there. 
            Invisible to all but Henri, Gerard is a thin little man. So thin it seems that if he were to bend or contort his body the wrong way, the bones would burst right through his skin. His pale complexion almost gives him the look of the walking dead. Disproportional to the rest of his body, he has large hands and eyes. His hands are almost as big as dinner plates, and his eyes give him the darkest stare imaginable. Sunk deep back into his skull, they look like large, beady marbles. To Henri, they see everything; every move he makes and every breath he takes. Gerard had always been there to haunt him.
             When Henri's eyes lock onto Gerard, Gerard's eyes instantly meet them.
            Smiling wickedly, Gerard asks him, “So they're letting you out early, eh?”
            Responding coolly, Henri states, “Yes, they have to. There aren't enough men to work the army base since the damn Boche invaded. They've been sending out soldiers for weeks now and need more. Unfortunately all they've got left is us murderers, thieves, and crazies.”
            Instantly responding Gerard yells at him, “Well what can they do with you out there?! You're worthless!”
            Used to these outbursts by now Henri says, “I was thinking about training to be one of those pilots.”
            Gerard just glares at him, and trailing off he states “flying would be nice...”
            Sitting in silence a few moments Gerard stares into Henri's eyes. The glare shreds him to pieces, feeling the dark, beady eyes burn into his tattered soul. Before Gerard can bark back at Henri, the footsteps of a heavy boot begin to reverberate down the hallway.
            The guard walks back to Henri's cell, opens the door and points down the hallway towards the doors of the dining hall. Before exiting the cell, Henri looks back into the corner, and Gerard is gone. 'He'll be back' he says in his mind. Then he joins the line of prisoners heading to breakfast. Standing in the dimly lit corridor, they begin the march to the dining hall, and when they enter the brightly lit room, they are nearly blinded.
            After receiving the slimy, maggot-filled grits, Henri sits down in one of the wooden chairs bolted to the floor 'for everyone's safety' according to the guards. Setting his tray down, he doesn't really eat much. He just listens. All around him the men speak about The Great War. A general happiness fills the room, all these incarcerated men to be freed. All but one.
            Henri has been in and out of prison for years, Gerard always his accomplice. This last crime was different though. This crime landed him in prison for the rest of his life here on earth; yet he was being released. Any thoughts of the future have been put out of his head; Henri expected to rot in this building until the day he died. But here the chance to be free has presented itself; if he could survive the war he was a free man. And in order to stay out of prison he'd have to rid himself of Gerard, who has been plaguing him for far too long.
            Pondering all this on the walk back to his cell, Henri decides he was going to enlist in flight school. Returning to the dark cell Henri finds Gerard leaning against the wall opposite his cot. After hearing the iron door squeal back into place and the lock being turned, he sits on his cot.
            Gerard stares at him for a moment, knowing what is on his mind he mockingly states, “I hear you're enlisting to become an ace fighter pilot?!” Then bursting into a wicked fit of laughter he slowly walks to the cot and sits next to Henri. After the echoes of the cold laughter have stopped Gerard asks, “Where would I be? You can't leave your dear friend Gerard to rot here.”
            Now Henri begins laughing. “Of course I can,” he states bluntly.
            Just then the cell door swings open again. It was the same guard. “Well,” he says, “I suppose it's time to get all of you suited up. Let's go!” Slipping his shoes on quickly, Henri jumps off the cot and exits his cell. He didn't turn back to look at the room, not to check for Gerard, not for anything.
            Upon exiting the cell, he finds that most of the other prisoners are already in their uniforms. There is a line curving around the left side of the hall for infantry, and a small line of the few men willing to fly for the country's air force. Without hesitation, Henri walks to the air force line. Receiving a military uniform, he joins three more men at the bus to carry them to the air force base. Changing out of his prison clothes on the way to the base, all that Henri thinks of is the future, and looking to the sky he breaths in the free air.
            Arriving at the base, Henri feels like a free man. The men are now told to enter the cafeteria for a meeting with the captain. Walking across the gravel, hearing the stone crunch beneath his feet, Henri couldn't be happier. The crunching of the gravel quickly stops as they come to the building and enter the cafeteria, a large spacious room with round wooden tables scattered about. Surrounding the tables are wooden chairs, chairs you could move; chairs that a man could pick up and throw if he so wished. On the walls are tapestries of soldiers and flags of the countries involved with the Triple Entente.
            A man of high stature walks into the room and stood before the men. This is the captain. His dark, close shaven hair is prominent in the light of the room. Every medal he has is gleaming off of his chest at this moment. Staring into the eyes of each of the men he begins, “I know where all of you come from, and quite frankly I don't care. All that I care about is that you serve this country properly. If any of you steps outta line, you're out of here.” He then stares into the eyes of each man individually. After this test he finishes with, “You are currently enlisted on the only military hangar in the world. I expect you truly want to be here. Now your training starts at 5:00 A.M. Until then, I suggest you get some sleep.” And with that the captain walks out of the room, head held high.
            Being led to their living quarters Henri begins feeling a darkness overcome him. And as each other recruit is left in a room, Henri was in a room all to himself. Entering his new living quarters, he bids their chaperone goodnight and lies down on his new army cot. It is like heaven compared to the prison; he can’t believe it. He is out of that god-forsaken place. Turning over in his cot and looking towards the empty one beside him, he notices those dark beady eyes.
            Rolling back halfway Henri looks at the ceiling in order to compose himself. In order to do what he is about to do, he has to remain calm. He hears the light chuckling of Gerard in the cot next to his. As the bed springs lightly uncompress themselves the man stands up to face his nightmare.
            “You didn't think I wasn't coming with you did you?” Gerard asks.
            Keeping his composure Henri tells him, “No, I knew I would have to face you this one last time Gerard.”
            Moving closer to him, Gerard asks, “The last time, eh?”
            Sternly Henri states, “Yes, the last time. I don't need you anymore. I don't need you now, and I will never need you again!” Now, in a more stern voice, “I don't want to hear you again, and I don't want to see you. I'm done with all of it. And YOU WILL LEAVE ME BE!” And with that the room is silent. The man stands in triumph, a free man.
            After that Henri goes to bed. In the morning he wakes not to the sound of a guard, but to the sound of taps ringing down the hall of the living quarters. Quickly getting dressed, Henri bursts out of the door and runs down to the cafeteria to meet the rest of the pilots-to-be. Lining up in front of the captain for inspection, he hears their names for roll-call. “Private Lacroix!” the captain calls out, and a man runs to join him. “Private Dubois!” and another man runs to join him. “Private Fontaine!” again another man joins him. “Private Pau!” at that, Henri joins the captain.
            “Henri Pau, ready to serve sir.” The captain then leads the men out of the room; these are the men that made up the first air force regiment of the world. Murderers, thieves, and a crazy Henri Pau.

Truth
Samantha Williams, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            Kyla James thought she lived a normal life, maybe even better than normal. She had everything going for her: wealthy yet loving parents, the greatest best friend in the world, and awesome athletic ability, not to mention her good looks. She lived in the wonderful city of Chicago and attended Jackson High School, the most prestigious in the Windy City. At school she was the one everyone wanted to be around, despite the fact that she was only a sophomore. Kyla had one of the highest grade point averages in her class and was a three-sport athlete. She thought she had everything figured out. What she didn’t know, though, was that her parents were keeping a big secret from her. Sure, Kyla knew that she had been adopted by Dr. and Mrs. James, but she was about to uncover the truth about her past.
            Kyla walked out of lacrosse practice with her best friend, Halley Lowe. Kyla and Halley had been inseparable since the seventh grade. One was never seen without the other at her side.
            “Ugh! This project for Mr. McCauley’s class is beyond annoying. Ever since we moved, I haven’t been able to find the boxes with everything from when I was a baby. Tell me. How I am supposed to do a timeline of my life without a trace of my existence from birth to age four?” Halley complained.
            Kyla laughed. “You’ve lived in your house for five years now. How exactly have you still not unpacked all the boxes? But I kind of like this project. It will give me a reason to ask my parents about the adoption.”
             “Do you ever wonder about your birth mother?” Halley wondered aloud.
             “Definitely. Hopefully I can finally get some questions answered.” The girls approached Halley’s house. “I’ll let you know what I find out.” They said their goodbyes and Kyla continued onto her home three blocks away. Her thoughts remained on her past. She had always wondered why her parents awkwardly avoided any conversation about the adoption. Maybe this stressful project was also a blessing in disguise, opening a door for Kyla to question her parents about her birth family.
            Kyla walked into her beautiful home, quite a familiar place considering she had lived there her entire sixteen years. “Mom!?” she shouted, wondering if her mother was home from work yet. She knew she needed to get a head start on this project, so she decided to dig around in the unfinished basement without Mrs. James. Kyla successfully found many things she needed, but no paperwork, birth certificate, or anything from the adoption agency. She continued to explore and among a lot of her mother’s junk found a journal. Her curiosity got the best of her, and she began to read. The entries dated back to almost a year before Kyla was born. She flipped to her birth date, wondering if there would be an entry about her mother taking her adopted baby home. What she discovered caught her totally off guard. The page was dated October 23, 1994, the day Kyla had always believed she was born.
            The strangest thing happened today. Mike and I were sitting on a bench in Grant Park, and a little girl, no parents in sight, approached us. We walked around the park with the child for hours, searching for her family. We thought maybe God sent us this child, knowing that we were unable to have our own. I convinced Mike we should take her home with us. We plan on watching the news and papers, looking for anyone who might be searching for their lost daughter. But I have only known her for a few hours and already can’t imagine losing her.
            Kyla’s head was spinning. There was no adoption? Was she technically a kidnapped child? Did her parents report her to the police?
            Her mother began yelling from upstairs. “Kyla! Are you home?”
            Completely lost in her emotions, she tucked the journal into her jacket and took the stairs two at a time, hardly acknowledging her mother and going straight up to her room.
            The next day Kyla took the journal and headed to Halley’s. “Kyla, are you sure this is for real? Have you asked your parents about it?”
            “I don’t think I want to ask them. I want to unfold this information on my own.” She had already decided to contact the police and ask if there was ever a case about her. Kyla did not want to share this information, though. She wasn’t in the mood for criticisms or counterarguments.
            “There has to be an explanation. As your best friend, I’m telling you to ask your parents.”
            “Yeah, okay,” Kyla replied just to shut her up. “Let’s just finish up these projects. I think I’m just going to make some junk up for the first couple years of my life.” As it was coming out of her mouth, she realized how ridiculous she sounded. She needed to figure this out, and quickly, before the unknown tore her apart.
            Against her friend’s judgment, Kyla went to the police. She took the journal and explained all of the details she was aware of.  She warned the police that she didn’t want Dr. and Mrs. James to know about the investigation. A few days later, Kyla received a call from a detective at the police department. She went into the station for a meeting. The detective informed her that indeed, she was a missing child. Kyla James was technically Kyla Spick, who went missing in a Chicago park at age two. This was too much for Kyla to take in alone, and she suddenly wished she had someone at her side to help her grasp this new reality. But shock wasn’t the only thing she was going to have to deal with. The detective warned her that because she turned herself in, her birth family had to be contacted and the James family needed to be called in to the station. Kyla wanted to learn the truth about her family, but wished she would have simply listened to Halley. She didn’t even consider the consequences of getting the police involved, and now she was in much deeper than she had ever expected.
            “I can’t believe you wouldn’t come to us, Kyla,” Mrs. James said quietly. Three short days after Kyla’s discussion with the police, she found herself and her parents in the waiting room, soon to be meeting with the detectives.
            “Mom, I’m not perfect. But you certainly can’t put the blame on me for this mess. You and Dad decided to keep this from me. I didn’t know what to do,” Kyla responded to her mother’s miserable voice.
            The James family was being torn apart. Kyla was angry at her parents, but she never wanted to hurt them. She was being sent to meet her new family, where she would stay for an indefinite amount of time. As for her parents, they were facing possible kidnapping charges. Things were tense between Kyla and her parents, but when a cop came to escort her away to her new home, she began to sob. She wanted to take it all back. She didn’t want to go live with a new family. She wanted to forget that she had ever come across the journal. Kyla hugged her parents tightly and apologized over and over, and they did the same. In an instant, they were separated. All they could do was hope they would meet again soon.
            Kyla was immediately taken to a town in the middle of nowhere, about three hours outside of Chicago. The Spick household was miserable from the moment Kyla arrived. The four other children avoided her, and her “mother” was grumpy all the time. She acted as if Kyla hadn’t been gone for fourteen years and whined and complained about whether she would ever get money from the James family for stealing her daughter. For Kyla there was no sense of belonging, not any sort of mother-daughter bond she had always dreamed would be present with her birth mother. She felt more like a burden than a family member and was fearful to ask about how she had gotten lost as a child. Her mystery remained unsolved. She confined herself to an office space temporarily set up as her bedroom and spent most of her time wondering what was happening to her parents. More than anything, she wanted to return to them, to her home, to her life.
            After what seemed like generations but had only really been a few days, Kyla received a letter from her mother. It read:

            My Dearest Kyla,
            I cannot express how much I miss you, and how terribly I feel about the given circumstances. I know we should have come to you sooner, and for that I cannot apologize enough. But what I can do is explain myself, something you never gave me a chance to do.
            It is true, we found you in the park on that day fourteen years ago, and we took you home with us. I regret not taking the case to the police, but I thought it would all work out okay. Mrs. Spick reported you as a missing child, but refused any type of investigation. After sharing your story with a few close friends, the puzzle pieces were put together, and we eventually got in touch with Mrs. Spick. She told us to keep you, that she didn’t need another burden on her shoulders. She hardly even cared that you were gone, as long as she was sure she wouldn’t get in trouble by the police for it. We made an agreement, but when you went to the police last week, Mrs. Spick realized she could turn her back on our deal and make herself look innocent in the situation.  She wants money from us. Your father and I have avoided questioning by the police thus far, for we are trying to make our words credible enough to bring you back to us. I can only pray that it won’t be long.

All my love,
Mom

            Kyla wept while reading the letter, realizing how big of a mistake she had made. Her thoughts were scattered. She realized she was living in a house with a family who wanted her only to bring in money, with a mother who had turned her away when she was two years old. How had her life gone from so easy to so complicated in the blink of an eye? She knew she had to do something to help herself and her parents, so they could be reunited. Her brain kicked into overdrive, brainstorming any sort of possibility that could benefit her situation. An appealing thought crossed her mind, and she went to fetch some paper and a pencil to write to Halley for her help.
            The following day, a package came in the mail for Kyla. Mrs. Spick launched it into her room, not acknowledging Kyla’s existence at all. She had developed a bitter hatred for that woman after reading her mother’s letter and had been avoiding the entire family completely. “Thank gosh for Halley and priority shipping,” Kyla thought to herself as she ripped open her package. A tiny little tape recorder lay inside, just what she needed. If she could make the mother upset with her, maybe she would confess something. And Kyla would catch it on tape. It was a stretch, but it was absolutely worth a try.
            Over the course of the next week, Kyla began to show her face more and more in the house, but not in a friendly way. She faked an attitude at all times, talked back to all members of the family any chance she could, and did everything in her power to aggravate Mrs. Spick. At dinner she would leave her dishes out; after being outside she would trudge her dirty shoes through the house, and each day ignore the screams demanding her to finish her work around the house. It was finally time to attempt her plan.
            The following day, Kyla apprehensively walked down the steps, hoping that it might be the last conversation she would have to have with this mother. “I want to go home,” she said demandingly.
            “Home?  This is your new home, little girl.” Rage built up inside Kyla. She could finally lose it, say whatever she wanted to say to the woman.
            “This is not my home! You are not my mother! You have no power over me, and if you don’t give me back to my parents, I will run away, and you won’t see a dime of that money!” Kyla was screaming at the top of her lungs. The mother didn’t hesitate. Kyla’s thoughts were running wild. She was hoping the woman would admit something, anything.
            “You have pushed me over the edge lately! I will keep you in this house till you are twenty if I have to! I will get my money from your perfect rich little parents and you aren’t going anywhere till that happens! God, giving you away as a child was the best thing I ever did!”
            That was it, the statement she needed to go back to her parents, her best friend, her home. Kyla took off toward the door and ran outside, hearing the mother screaming something behind her. She ran until she reached the entrance to the police station, pulled the tape recorder out of her pocket, and walked inside. Kyla James confidently walked through the double doors, her parents on her mind, hoping that once again she might have everything figured out.

Scotch and a Colt 45
Mark Schoenhofer, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            It was a cold Tuesday, the time between afternoon and evening when only a glass of scotch can fix your problems. Seeing as my office closed in fifteen minutes, I was ready to call it a day when a broad tore into my office. Medium height, nice legs, of what I could see from the slit in her dress, in her late thirty’s. Divorced, freshly; she still had a tan line from the wedding ring.
            “What can I do you for, Miss?” I grumbled realizing she had disturbed my scotch break.
            Boarding on hysteria the broad gasped, “My cat has gone missing! I saw him this morning before I left for work, and when I got home he wasn’t there! I check all over the house and scoured the neighborhood for two hours before I gave up and came to you. Please help me? I’m desperate!”
            ‘Is this what famed CIA agent Harry Fellows has come to?’ I asked myself, ‘finding lost cats for recent divorcees who can’t stand being alone for more than two minutes.’
            “All right, Miss, just calm yourself down; Jesus Christ, you’d give a man of lesser health a heart attack bounding in here like that,” I said.
            “Well could you please hurry up and find her!” the dame demanded.
            Taking my time, I slowly sipped my scotch, enjoying the taste, slowly swallowing and savoring the warm route to my gut.
             “If I were you, I would check the elm on the corner of 5th and Jackson. Fluffy, Cuddles, or whatever ridiculous name you are sure to have given him is there hunting squirrels. Saw him there this afternoon,”  I replied. Only the slight slurring of my words gave away the volume of scotch I had consumed.
            “Oh thank you, Mr. Fellows! I’ll check there right away. I’ll mail you your check the second I get home!” she said as she almost fell out of her seat in joy.
            “Yeah, don’t mention it. On second thought, mention it.” I said. Business was slow. You can’t patronize me for trying to expand my customer base.
            After the broad went, I was left to my own thoughts again. The thundering chorus of the L train made me reminisce. All I could think about was Jimmy. Jimmy is all I can ever think about when I start to drink. He never leaves my mind. Always laughing that goofy laugh and smiling too damn much. I knew the kid was too good to be a part of the CIA. The CIA can ruin a kid like that, just like it ruined me. Jimmy deserved a better life than the one he got. His was cut short, and that is my burden to bear. See Jimmy and I were both real deep in a Columbian drug cartel. We only needed the last deal to bust the crooks and land them a nice piece of American justice.
            How am I responsible for Jimmy’s death? Well, there’s a story; Jimmy and I were in Venezuela ready to make the last deal. It was an hour before the deal was going down. I was on surveillance, and Jimmy was going to make the deal. As I taped the wire onto Jimmy, I looked him in the eye and said, “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo kid; I haven’t screwed up a case in my career, so let’s not make this the first.” Oh if I only knew then how bad this case would be screwed up.
            Jimmy flashed a smile and replied, “Don’t worry capt’n, I got this on under-raps.”
            I wished he did. The deal was going fine, until the point where things were the most tense. At that instant, Jimmy’s wire came untapped and slid down the inside of his pant leg and fell on the floor. The second the dealers saw the wire, they shot him. He didn’t stand a chance. I’ll never forget the sight of his lifeless body hitting the floor in a puddle of his own blood.
            When Jimmy lost his life, I lost a little bit of myself. I had to retire. I couldn’t stand seeing his empty cubical in the office or his coffee mug on the counter. I spent seven weeks going from bottle to bottle and never really waking up. Finally now, two years after he died, I’ve almost got my life back together. I became a private detective, got a dog, and began to move on.
            4:58. Grab my coat; it’s time to hit the road. All of the sudden a shadow appears outside my office door. Grunting, I sit back down. As I’m sitting, a man walks in. He is Caucasian, about 6’3”, well built, mid forties. His greased hair and strong cologne screamed danger to me, but I suppressed this thought.
            “Can I help you?” I asked. “But make it quick. I’m closing now.”
            “Ah yes, Mr. Fellows I assume?” the man asked.
            “That’s the name on the door isn’t it?” I returned.
            “Yes indeed. Well I am someone who has information you have been looking for,” the man said.
            “Oh yeah?” I asked, uninterested. “And what information do you have?”
            “Information about Jimmy’s killer,” the man replied.
            He had my attention. A cold sweat began in my palms; damn nervous habit. “You have my attention,” I said. “But how the hell do you know about Jimmy? Only he, some higher ups, and I knew about that operation.”
            “I was a lot deeper than you on the same case. I was there the night Jimmy died, but I couldn’t do anything or I would have blown my cover,” he said.
            “Well why the hell did it take you so long to come to me?” I asked. “And how the hell did you find me?”
             The man smiled and said, “I remember your face.”
            As he said this he began to reach for the gun hidden behind his back, but I was faster to the draw. The shot from my Colt 45 clipped him in the shoulder, sending him to the ground. I walked over to where he had fallen and kicked the gun away from his outstretched hand.
            “How did you know I came here to kill you?” the man gasped.
            “I saw the markings on your belt where a holster has been. Combined with the flecks of concrete on your shoe, you were either a concrete pouring business man or a member of a mob,” I replied; years of CIA work had finally paid off.
            “You were the last member of the team that was going to bring us down,” the man grunted, “but don’t you worry, Harry. More men will come. They will be better than me, and you will die.”
            “Good luck to them,” I said as I chuckled to myself. I left him there on my floor knowing one of his cronies would be up to get him. He wouldn’t die, and he would probably come after me again. I lived for the chase. I finally felt alive for the first time since Jimmy’s death. Life was going to be a lot harder for anyone who came chasing after me.
            I decided to hop on the L train and blow town. I hate trains. Cold, metallic; feel like a coffin. Today was different. I sat back. Saw the dame across from me holding a newspaper. The headline read ‘Bank Robberies Shock Abbyville, Kansas.’ Just what I need. A few cases to clear my head and put some cash in my pocket. Lose this tail; move to the Caribbean, find a nice gal and live out my years.
            Hell, who am I kidding; once I hit Kansas the cronies who are chasing me are going to meet their match. Jimmy will be avenged, and I’m going to be the one to deliver my own brand of justice; the butt end of my Colt 45. I knocked back the last of the scotch I had in my flask; looked out the window, and stared at the rising moon. Too bad Jimmy wasn’t here. He would have loved this.

The Photograph
Meagan France, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            “Grandma,” I heard Cole’s muffled voice say.
            I turned to look at him and saw his feet in the air and his head buried in a box of junk.
            “Oh my,” I thought to myself, “What’d that boy find now?”
            "Who's this?"
            Don’t get me wrong; I loved spending time with my grandson, but I was already beginning to regret the decision to have him help me clean out the attic. I’d never met such a curious boy. He had questions about absolutely everything that he found in that dirty, old attic. I helped get him out of the box and saw that he was holding a bent, black and white photograph. Right away I felt my heart drop. I snatched the photograph from him and sat down. I looked at it in silence for a couple minutes, remembering.
            “Grandma,” Cole’s voice interrupted my thoughts, “who’s in this picture with you?”
            “Well, Cole, that’s your great uncle, my brother, Hayden. He was a very brave man. The bravest man I’ve ever known.” Speaking his name brought a tear to my eye. I quickly wiped it away hoping Cole wouldn’t see.
            “Are you okay, Grandma?” Cole asked, concerned.
            I was far from it. Immediately everything came flooding back. I was back in 1967, standing in my room without a care in the world. I was only 17; what was there to worry about, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
            I can hear the voice of my mother telling me to get cleaned up, calling me down to the dinner table. I quickly ran downstairs. She had made my favorite, fried chicken.
            “Where in the world is your brother?” my mom asked frantically. “I told him we were going to have a nice family dinner tonight. He should have been home at least an hour ago.”
            “Mom, calm down, he probably just got held up at school,” I quickly responded, annoyed, but just as my mom was getting ready to fire back at me, my brother ran through the door.
            “Everyone get ready for dinner. I have awesome news.” He sprinted to his room. 
            My mom and I just looked at each other, puzzled, neither of us had a clue just what it was he was about to share with us. I anxiously set the table, thinking about what my brother could possibly have to tell everyone. We were sitting around the table when my mom yelled for my brother to get downstairs before the food got cold. He came downstairs holding a piece of paper in his hands.
            “What’s this all about?” I asked.
            “Isn’t it obvious?” Hayden said as he flashed the piece of paper around. We all looked at it, still a little puzzled. He’d drawn an American flag.
            “Hayden, I don’t understand,” my mom was still confused. It didn’t take me long to figure it out. He’d been drafted. Why was he so excited? I’d only known for a matter of seconds, and I was already scared. Not only was I scared for him, but for the first time I was scared for all the soldiers already fighting. I was scared for all their families who somehow had to manage their lives knowing their sons may never come back. Why had I never thought about this before? Why didn’t I already respect all the people already out there defending our country, defending me?
            My parents didn’t seem as upset as I was. Were they actually happy about this? No, they couldn’t be. My mom was hugging him, saying how proud of him she was. Was she honestly not afraid? Did she not understand what could happen to him out there? Was I really the only one who was thinking about this rationally? I couldn’t watch this anymore and ran upstairs to my room. Hayden quickly followed after me.
            “What’s wrong? I thought you’d be proud of me.” Hayden sounded disappointed in me.
            “I am proud of you. You’re incredibly brave to do this, but I’m scared. You don’t know what it’s gonna be like.”
            “You’re right, I don’t. But I do know that I can’t chicken out of this. I have to do this. If nothing else, I at least have to do this for myself.” Hayden sounded so confident.
            “Will you write to me, let me know you’re safe?” I said crying.
            “Of course, I’ll write to all of you. I’m gonna be just fine. I have faith.”
            “When do you leave?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
            “A week from today,” he said with a smile on his face.
            That week couldn’t have gone by faster. I felt like I barely got to spend any time with him, even though in reality I was with him every available moment of that week. I even tried skipping school so I could spend those few extra minutes with him, but Mom put a damper on that real quick.   Then came the day I'd been dreading that entire week. His bags were packed; his room never looked so empty. I never felt so empty. I knew I’d still have my parents, but he was my only brother, my only sibling period, and he was leaving. I locked myself in my room the entire day, waiting. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it, but for some reason I was still plotting. Then I heard my mom telling me it was time for Hayden to leave. I walked downstairs and saw him standing there, bags in hand, dying to get out of there. I hated him for leaving, but at the same time I’d never felt more proud of him. I knew he was doing the right thing, and I needed to stop being selfish. I ran over to him and gave him a hug that lasted forever but still not long enough. He reassured me it wouldn’t be long before I got his first letter and that he’d be sure to stay in touch as often as possible. We hugged again. My mom snapped a photo and then sent him on his way.
            The first couple days went by a lot faster than I had expected. My schoolwork kept me busy, and my friends were there for support. Before I knew it, everything was almost back to normal. Months had gone by and I was going about my old daily routines. But I was still waiting on that letter, a letter that never came. Instead we received another letter, a letter that was delivered to our door, a letter that made my mom cry for weeks and one that tore my world apart. A letter that told me my brother wasn’t coming home. It’s a day I remember more vividly than any other, but wish I could forget.
            I blinked, and I was back in that old, dusty attic, with my grandson sitting on my lap asking me if I was okay.
            “Yes, yes. I’m fine, dear,” I assured him.
            “Are you gonna tell me the story about that man or not?”
            “Like I said, that man is your great uncle Hayden, and he was very brave.”
            I went through every detail I could remember about Hayden. I emphasized how courageous he was and how he was so excited to be a part of the United States Army. I told Cole how grateful I was that he stumbled upon that picture.
            “Grandma, can I take this picture and keep it in my room? I want to be just like my great Uncle Hayden.”
            “Of course you can, dear,” I said with a smile.

A Night at the Lake
Devan Guagenti, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            Isabel closed her eyes and took in a deep breath as she wiggled her feet in the cool sand.  The light breeze wafted the familiar aroma of pine and smoke from the nearby bonfire, tingling her nose.  Crashing waves echoed in the background helping to muffle the constant buzzing of the cicadas.  This was her favorite part of the summer vacation that her family took up to Stoneyridge Lake every year, coming down to the beach to look up at the starry sky and be by herself in the peace and quiet.  The stars were particularly bright that evening as they scattered the night sky in their otherworldly brilliance.
            Everything was the way it normally was; she was even wearing her favorite sweatshirt, the red one with the holes on the ends of the sleeves big enough to stick her thumbs through.  Her long auburn hair brushed against the sides of her legs as she curled into a ball.  It was getting colder; she should have listened to her mom about changing into jeans instead of wearing her shorts.  A rustling noise startled her, and she jerked her head up to investigate as to what had made the noise, but there was nothing there.
            “Probably just the squirrels or the Feltz’s new puppy,” she muttered to herself.
            She heard the noise again, only this time it seemed to be closer.  Fear crept inside of her; Isabel’s senses heightened, a paranoid feeling came over her as if she were being watched.  The shadows around her grew darker and more mysterious.  Isabel squealed and cringed at every sound, frightened that something or someone was coming for her.  Sand flew in every direction as she jumped up trying to find what was making the noise. 
            Almost inaudibly Isabel said, “Whoever or whatever you are, I’m not afraid of you.”
            “See, I don’t believe you.”
            Isabel whirled around so fast that she almost saw stars.  The thing that had been making the noises was standing right in front of her.  The lack of light made it difficult to make out some of his facial features.  She could tell that he was younger, probably about twenty-four or twenty-five.  His jeans were old and grass stained and had a hole in the right knee.  The shirt that he was wearing was a light powder blue that stuck out against his suntanned skin.  He had wavy chestnut colored hair that swept along his thick eyebrows.  He smiled, not a normal or inviting smile, but one that gave her chills; a disconcerting, half-crooked smile that eerily gleamed in the dark.  Isabel stood there, frozen, not knowing what to do or say.  He took a few steps closer, stumbling as he did so; he was only about a foot away from her now. 
            “I saw you sitting over here, all alone.  Now why is a pretty girl like you by yourself?”
            Isabel’s nostrils were drowned by the overwhelming stench of whiskey.  She knew that he was drunk.  Her parents had always warned her about staying away from strangers when she was a little kid; that message was screaming inside her head now.
            “I’m actually about to go meet with some friends.  I shouldn’t be late,” Isabel lied.
            “I don’t think they’re going to mind if you’re a little late.”
            The stranger was starting to scare Isabel now; she knew that she should get away from him.  Isabel turned around towards the direction of the house where she was staying.  As she was starting to walk away, the man grabbed her firmly by the wrist and spun her around towards him.
            “Let go of me!” Isabel screamed.
            The man took the red bandana from his back pocket and stuffed it into her mouth and put his free hand over it, making sure to not let go of her wrist.  He swiftly moved behind her so her left arm was twisted behind her back.
            “Shhh shh shh, we don’t want the neighbors to hear you,” he whispered in her ear.
            Isabel was trying to scream, but the bandana was muffling all of her efforts.  He started dragging her into the area of trees nearby.  She had to get away and started to frantically kick and thrash to try and get loose, but it was no use.  He was too strong and only tightened his grip on her; she felt her wrist breaking under the immense pressure he had on it.  They had reached the area of trees; he pushed her up against one, she felt the rough bark rub against the right side of her face.   
            In the movies you always see the victim of rape seem to zone out, or go somewhere else.  Their eyes generally tend to gloss over; sometimes they fight back, and sometimes they don’t.  Isabel wasn’t in a movie; she didn’t go to a different place nor did her eyes gloss over.  She felt and would remember everything about what happened that night. 
            He ripped off her sweatshirt, her most favorite sweatshirt, and threw it aside.  Then he ran his gruff sweaty face up and down her back.  Isabel was spun around and shoved to the ground.  She tried to scramble away, but he caught her ankle and dragged her back towards him.  He pinned both of her arms above her head as he got on top of her.  She tried to get him off, but he was just too heavy, too strong for her.  Isabel knew that there was nothing she could do now but pray.  Pray someone would walk into the area of trees where they were and save her.  No such savior came for Isabel that night.
            He held both of her arms in place with only one of his hands while he took off her shorts and unzipped his pants.  She knew that he heard her helpless muffled screams.  It hurt so bad; she tried to squeeze her legs together; he hit her across the face for trying to stop him.  Pain seared from corner to corner on her left cheek and side of her nose where he had struck her.  She felt every inch of his sweaty body rub up against hers.  His breath was warm against her neck; she could still smell the alcohol emanating from it. 
            Isabel’s eyes welled up with warm tears that overflowed and ran down the sides of her face onto the soft summer’s green grass.  His body was so heavy on hers that she was struggling to breathe.  She prayed to God and asked him to stop this.  Why did it have to be her?  Why did she have to go through this?  She heard no answer.
            He stopped moving, ran his hand through her hair and then looked her straight in the eyes.  His eyes were a deep green with some brown around the edges.  He looked happy and pleased; the same crooked grin that she had seen before appeared on his face once again.  His dirt covered finger gently wiped the tears from Isabel’s face.  He pushed himself off her, stood up, fixed his appearance, and then nonchalantly walked away from her. 
            It was a cool autumn’s night.  Rain splattered against the bedroom windowpane in a rhythmic beat.  Isabel tossed and turned unable to get comfortable; sweat rolled down the sides of her hairline onto her pillow.  She sat up erect in her bed, screaming at the top of her lungs for mercy.
            “Please don’t! Let me go! NO PLEASE! Somebody HELP!”
            Her mom came rushing into Isabel’s room.  She tried to shake her daughter awake, but Isabel couldn’t wake up no matter how hard her mom tried.  Mrs. Jacobson knew that the night terror would have to pass on its own; there was nothing she could do.  A tear rolled down the side of her face as she watched her daughter in pain; she sat helplessly beside Isabel on the bed and whispered comforting words.
            “It’s okay Izzy.  I’m here, mommy’s here.  No one’s hurting you anymore.  You’re safe sweetie.  Izzy, please just wake up.  It’s all a bad dream.”  The rain started coming down harder, beating down upon the windowpane.  Thunder sounded and lightning lit up the night sky.  The wind howled throughout the night.  Isabel finally woke up from the night terror drenched in sweat, her hair in tangles and eyes filled with confusion.  She looked at her mother, relieved that Izzy had finally wakened from her nightmare. 
            Isabel didn’t have to ask why her mom was sitting beside her on the bed; she knew that she had the night terror again, the one that she had every night since she was raped.  He haunted her not only in her day life, but in her dreams as well.  She hoped that she would never see him again, but every time she closes her eyes, he’s there.  Every single night she relives the evening that she spent with the stranger from Stoneyridge Lake.


Coming Home
Aimee Lugibihl, Temple Christian
Sponsoring Teacher: Amanda Sutton

            Mary stared blankly at the brochure that Bryan had handed her as he had shoved her out the apartment door earlier that night.  Ohio’s Safe Havens for Newborns: An Alternative to Leaving Infants In Unsafe Places.  The words “medical worker in a hospital” were circled.  Bryan’s words echoed in her head.
            “The thirty days are up after tonight Mary; this is your last chance. This is our last chance.”
            The fire in his eyes had softened as he had edged closer and whispered the final words, roughly pressing his lips against hers as he pressed her to the hallway wall.  The moment had ended in a matter of seconds.  Violently pulling away, he had tossed Mary to the ground like a rag doll.  She had stayed in that crumpled heap, looking up in fear, unsure of what he would do next.
            “Now git!  I don’t want to see you until that baby’s gone.”
            Now she was on the streets, holding the brochure and crying as she trudged the five blocks down to the hospital in the snow, clumps sticking like paste to her jeans and tennis shoes. Salty tears dripped down from her eyes and mixed with frigid snowflakes.  She clasped a baby carrier away from the road, a tattered blanket draped over the sides and blowing in the wind.

à

December 5

Dear Diary,
            I’m not really sure about this whole diary thing, but I’m giving it a try for my only friend.  I guess that I should introduce myself before I spill out my guts on these pages. 
            I’m that freak case.  The child who was given up at birth, and who somehow stayed in the foster care system for 14 years.  It’s not typical, actually it’s pretty much non-existent, but no one wanted me.  I’m not really sure why, the various caseworkers that I’ve had aren’t even very sure.  But every time the possibility of adoption comes up, the parents meet me and are enthusiastic, but then report back that I’m not really the right “fit” for their family.  Even as a baby, I was never wanted.  I mean, for Pete’s sake, my own mom gave me up.  Maybe no one will ever want me.  They said that they have just never found the “right ones” for me, but I know better.
            There’s got to be something wrong with me.  I’m not sure what.  Maybe I’m just “too much” to handle.  I do have a temper.  That’s actually how I got this diary. My social worker, James, gave it to me as an early Christmas present.  He said something about journaling being good for anger management and depression.  Whatever…  But I thought that I’d give it a try.  I’ve got no one else in the world but James.  He probably wants to be done with me, but I’m like the leech that never leaves, sucking a little more lifeblood out of his veins every day.  Or at least that’s what I like to tell him.  He usually just rolls his eyes.
            Anyway, I should probably go.  School is almost done for the day.
            I don’t really know how to end this, but I guess I’ll be back to write more later.
            Isabelle

à

            Isabelle Elisabeth Montes walked down the stairs of her school building to the first floor.  It was the end of the day and she was tired--tired of sitting, invisible, in the back of a classroom full of people that she would never get to know.
            She looked up from her worn tennis shoes and straight ahead at the wall at the curve of the stairwell.  A bulletin board with at least half a dozen papers stared back at her.  Some were about classes and others about upcoming events. 
            Isabelle stopped in front of it and pretended like she was interested in the events and was deciding which ones to go to.  It made her feel like she belonged, like she actually could go to these things.  In the top left corner was a flyer about the area Operation Christmas Child shoebox collection week.  People always seemed to care for the kids in other places, but kids like Isabelle, orphans in America, never got noticed, not even at Christmas.

à

December 10

Dear Diary,
            I am one of the 3,382 orphans in Ohio waiting for a home.  I am among the neglected, misused, and forgotten.  My life is a breath that will quickly appear and then fade, leaving no visible impact.  My life is wasted.  My life is meaningless.  My life is worth nothing.  I will never amount to anything.  I will never reach my goals.  My dreams will never come true.  I am alone, and will die so.  And my memory will be reduced to a statistic on a page, and not a very good one either.
            Honestly, this is the kind of stuff that I get told every day.  Not always through words, but a lot of times through what people do.
            It’s in every move from home to home, and in all the sighs of the other caseworkers, every look that I get when I don’t perfectly “fit” into a new family’s mold.  It’s in every person that doesn’t care.
            But maybe that’s all about to change.  James told me today that I might have another meeting with a potential family soon.  I know that I shouldn’t hope, but maybe they could be the ones.  I don’t get the details until tomorrow.

Isabelle

à

            Isabelle traipsed up the gray stone slab steps to the door, also gray and trimmed in white.  Her hand brushed the cool, black railing as she lowered her brown, worn-out leather suitcase and judged her surroundings.  A classic white Cadillac sat in the middle of the paved driveway.  Old.  She observed three substantial bushes, green; two on the left of the porch and one to the right- all trimmed exactly in a spiky square.  Particular.  Two flowers rested in front of each bush, tulips- one yellow and one pink.  Beautiful?  Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.
            A shuffle and an “ahem” from James, reminded her of what they had practiced.  Oh yes, knocking and introducing, politeness and dullness, not too forward, not too shy.  Perfection was apparently necessary to land a good home.
            The family was an older couple, mid-sixties.  They had never had kids, but were in good health and were interested in adopting an older child.  Isabelle wondered why they had waited this long to adopt, but she held out hope she would fit the bill.
            “Unless I don’t like them.  No family is better than one that you don’t like,” she thought.
            The door squeaked open.
            “Come in.”
            An older lady with white hair and a round face peeked out from behind the gray door, gesturing for Isabelle and James to step inside.  Her smile beamed in fifty different directions, seemingly filling the dark hallway, and Isabelle’s heart, with light.

à

December 20

Dear Diary,
            I was reminded again today- that I don’t have a real family- in a big way.  We have a project due over Christmas break, for history class.  It’s about our heritage and lineage and stuff.  It’s going to be the shortest project I’ve ever done.  Then another kid at school laughed and asked if I was “sad” that I never got to know my parents.  I punched him.  He didn’t bother me anymore the rest of the day, but I had to stay after school in detention with him.  Not cool.
            I wonder if the reminders will ever stop.  I feel like I could enjoy life more if they weren’t always there, but they are.  People seem to always make a big deal about not having parents, and I don’t know why.  I mean, yeah I want a family a lot- more than anything, actually, but I’m not less of a person just because I don’t have one.  They act like I’m sub-human and a thing to be pitied.  I don’t want their pity.

Isabelle

à

            Isabelle sat in the back of James’s car, fidgeting nervously.  She had been meeting consistently with the Lewis couple for the past month, and now they were finally taking her into their home for a home trial.
            She had never made it this far, and she wasn’t sure what to do.
            “Hey James?”
            “Yeah?”  He responded, never taking his eyes off of the road.  Isabelle leaned forward.
            “Do you think they’ll like me?”
            They pulled up to a stoplight a few blocks from the house, and James whipped his head around to look at Isabelle.
            “They already do like you.  I’ve had nothing but good reports already.  You’re pretty much set at this point.”
            He looked back ahead as the light turned to green.
            Isabelle sank back into the seat as the car eased forward.  Her mind was reeling like a movie film. 
            “But James, what if…”
            “What if what Iz?”  James glanced at her over his shoulder.
            “What if… I screw things up?”
            James pulled the car over.   And looked straight into Isabelle’s eyes. 
            “Then we’ll be back to square one.  It’s okay,” James pulled back out onto the road, “Plus, I’ve been working with your case since I graduated from college seven years ago.  Life would be pretty different without you.”
            Isabelle smiled for the first time that day.
            “You will visit me sometimes… if I get adopted, right James?”
            “I promise Iz.  Between you and me, you’re like the little sister I never had.”
            Isabelle sank back into the seat, beaming.

à

February 1

Dear Diary,
            Things with the Lewis’s have been pretty great lately.  They’re older, but it’s kind of cool.  She used to be a teacher, so she helps me with school projects and stuff.  He took me hunting the other day.  I always thought that was a guy thing, but it was actually pretty interesting.  He doesn’t say much, but I think I’m getting him to talk more.  He told me about how he met Helen, how he proposed to her and stuff.  It was pretty mushy, but very cute.
            James is coming today and I’m pretty excited.  He’s taken to calling me “little sis” now that I’m going to be out of his care soon.  I guess I’m pretty happy.  I’ve got a family now, and a brother, sort of.  I guess I had him all along.
            Anyway, I should go.
            Much love,

Isabelle


Our Story
Rileigh Zickafoose, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            Walking through these dreary high school hallways again brings chills to my body. I don’t like this school, and all of the bad memories that still haunt me to this day. But I need to tell my story: for myself as well as the students that need to hear it. The kids probably all feel the same way I did when I knew a speaker was coming in to talk to us about bullying. The same monotone man telling us about hurt feelings, that kids’ self-esteems were being lowered and reminding us of the statistics of suicide attempts because of the bullying, etc. Now the tables have turned.  I will be speaking on the subject that affected my life so drastically.
            I hear my name spoken into the microphone as I was being introduced by the principal through cheap speakers. A slow applause begins as I step through the doorway into the humid gymnasium, and all eyes are on me. The ceiling lights buzz, and as I grab the microphone, my voice cracks when I begin to speak. Without hesitation I cut all of the boring introductions I had planned and begin to tell the story that changed my life forever.
            “My high school experience was like most I’d say. Although no student would admit there were cliques, they existed. There was the band group, obnoxious cheerleaders, quiet techies, emos that stared, and the weirdos. Then came the popular boys that consisted of mostly juniors and seniors: the basketball and football players that people enjoyed being around. Then there were the popular, pretty, upper-classmen girls that followed them. They would all hang out together and have parties on the weekends with only their closest friends  because they ‘didn’t want to get caught with too many cars at the house because it would be suspicious,’ when in reality, others didn’t go because they didn’t belong. Out of the popular crowd were five stunning, fashionable, flirty, and funny girls who demanded everyone’s attention. So, when I moved to this new town with my parents and sister, Becca, I knew immediately on the first day at my new school  that I wanted to meet and be associated with those five girls.
            I knew it would be difficult for me to adjust to new surroundings and to find friends that were like me, so I made sure I kept up with my reading of Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazines to stay trendy in hopes of being noticed by the girls. After a few weeks my dream came true in a very unlikely place- the school bathroom. I walked out of the stall, washed my hands, looked at my reflection in the smudged mirror and fluffed up my hair. Then I reached into my purse to reapply my strawberry flavored, rose-colored MAC lip gloss. One of the five girls I admired so much, Brooklyn, spoke to me: two words that made my day. When she said them, my scared face lit up with gladness. “Nice hair.” Thoughts streamed through my brain: ‘Was she being sarcastic? Was there something wrong with my hair? Or did she really like my brand new Sara Jessica Parker look from the latest episode of Sex and the City?’ When I finally came back to reality in the smelly, dimly lit bathroom, she was already gone. I didn’t even get the chance to tell her thank you. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to be just like her and the rest of her posse. I needed to find myself a way into their group.
            When I walked into the Spanish class the next day, it was my time to introduce myself. My hands were sweaty as I moved from the door to their side of the room, and since I didn’t want to look desperate and ask to sit down, I decided to be bold and just sit.
            Now all of you are probably thinking, ‘Wow. This speaker is crazy. She thinks she can get away with telling us the exact story from the movie Mean Girls to stop us from bullying. She’s going to sit down, the group of girls are going to talk to her, and they’ll invite her over, and then they’ll start hanging out until she realizes they’re actually mean.’ Well, in a way you might be a tad bit right.
            The girls asked me if I wanted to go to a coffee place after school to talk because I was the ‘new girl’ and needed girls to hang out with. I told them that would be fine, but I would meet them there because I first had to take my sister home.  One of the girls, Halle, offered to come along with me so she could give me directions to the coffee shop. I was really excited because I was finally being noticed, and I was fitting in with girls that I supposedly had a lot of things in common with. They were actually nice to me and weren’t shady. They didn’t gossip a lot and were pretty nice to everyone else. But, the biggest surprise was that they didn’t think of themselves as a ‘group’ at all. I thought they were genuine because they weren’t the stereotypical type of popular girls that one sees in the movies. I was really happy that I didn’t have to change anything about myself to fit in with them.
            Later in the year, all of us girls went to Amber’s house to watch a chick flick and spend the night. This was the point when my feelings toward them started to change a little. Halle needed help with her American Government homework so we started jotting down answers into her decorated notebook. Brooklyn asked me if she could borrow a piece of paper to write a note to some girl. She didn’t tell us who it was for, but she said it would be hilarious. As Halle and I continued with the homework, Brooklyn began to write. She asked for my colored pens from my purse to draw a picture so I handed over my Prada purse. When I was finished assisting Halle with her homework, we looked over at Brooklyn’s note she was composing. We couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous drawing of a girl who looked hideous with crossed eyes, a fat body, and stringy hair. We became a bit agitated when we noticed some of the writing around the picture.  Halle and I could not believe some of the awful things that had been written, but we thought the note was all in fun, and no one besides us would ever see it. As the other girls continued laughing hysterically, we went downstairs to make the popcorn before watching the movie. On our way down the winding staircase in Amber’s beautiful and expensive house, we talked about how we had never seen that side of Brooklyn before. We thought maybe she was having a bad day and venting about the girl that was now dating her ex-boyfriend. When we got back up to the bedroom, the note was put away (hopefully in the trashcan), and the DVD was put in. We watched the movie, stayed up late talking, and then went to sleep.
            The next morning some of us woke up early to go to church, while the others continued sleeping. After church I went home to my family, and we had our usual homemade lunch cooked by both of my parents. Then my sister Becca and I watched t.v. for a bit before going to our bedrooms to do homework. I figured she’d be screaming down the hall for me any minute to help her with her homework, but she said that she had finished it with one of her teachers on Friday. Then she told me that I wouldn’t have to take her to school tomorrow because she had a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  Dad would be taking her to the appointment after he went to work for just a little while in order to sign a few papers that needed to be filed.
            The next morning I went to school and picked up Halle on the way. Halle had become my closest friend, and my family liked her, especially Becca. She was the only one from my group of friends that took the effort to come to my house and meet my family. When we got to school, I pulled into my parking spot, got out of the car and picked up my backpack from the backseat. I realized that I had left my purse at home so I called Becca at home so she could bring it to me when she came to school later. She said she would get it from my room right then so she wouldn’t forget. We made arrangements for her to bring it to the lobby when she got to school, which would be right before my lunch. I told her thanks, hung up, and went to my first period class.
            A couple hours later, it was time for lunch so I went to the lobby to meet Becca. Halle came with me because she needed to borrow my calculator from my purse during lunch. Halle asked if Becca told me to meet her before or after lunch because we didn’t see her waiting for me. I told her that the appointment probably ran late so I apologized that she couldn’t use my calculator, and we went to lunch. When we finished eating, we came back upstairs to the lobby to see if she was at school yet, but then we she wasn’t there. I figured that I should go to the bathroom to call her but then realized that the bell would ring any minute and I couldn’t be late to Spanish again. I rushed to class with Halle, and we sat with Brooklyn, Amber, Jess, and Noelle like normal. We made our usual joke about our crazy teacher, Señor Battle, and started taking notes in class.
            Then the classroom phone rang. As Mr. Battle listened to the caller on the phone, his face took on a horrified look.  But that wasn’t the craziest part. He hung up, slowly turned on his heels, faced me and said, “You are wanted in the office.” I couldn’t believe my ears, and I was so confused. What was wrong? I thought, ‘I don’t think I can be in trouble, my scheduling for senior year was already taken care of, and I knew I had turned my car lights off this morning.’ But then my heart stopped. Becca.
            I ran to the office to meet the principal. His faced was stripped from all emotion, and he was slowly tapping his fingers on his smoothly polished oak desk. Then he began explaining to me why I was needed. All I could do was cry.
            You all probably want to know what he said to me, and if it really was about Becca. Well, it was about her, and it had nothing to do with her doctor’s appointment. He explained to me that my parents were waiting for me at the hospital. The explanation about why she was in the hospital broke my heart in half.
            That morning when I had called Becca to ask her to get my purse, my dad was still at his office. She was very curious, like always, so she had gone through my purse after I had asked her to bring it to me. What she found inside was the note that Brooklyn had written on Saturday night at Amber’s house. It never crossed my mind that the drawing or words could ever be about my sister. Halle was the only friend that had met Becca, and she hadn’t noticed that it could have been her either. Becca went to the same school as we did, but she wasn’t in any of our classes or even our part of the building, not because she was a freshman and we were juniors, but because she needed to be in her own special classroom. When Brooklyn drew the awful picture of the awkward-looking girl, she was directing it toward Becca, my little sister. What my friends didn’t know was that my sister, the girl who was the brunt of their joke, had been born with Fragile X Syndrome: a form of autism which can cause impulsive behaviors. And that is why my little sister is no longer with us. After reading the note directed at her, with the name Rebecca written at the bottom of the page, she acted impulsively and committed suicide.
            My feelings toward the girls, especially Brooklyn, completely changed, and I felt that Becca’s death could be blamed on no one but me. My parents and Halle tried to explain that her death was in no way my fault.  But I knew that if I wouldn’t have been so consumed with getting into the “popular group” of girls, I could have stood up to Brooklyn and told her that the horrible note she was writing was cruel and should have never been composed.  It didn’t matter that I had not seen Becca’s name scrawled at the bottom of it.
            That is our story. Each and every one of you has your own story and needs to be on the alert for your peers that are being bullied.  Be kind to everyone in your school even if they aren’t your close friends. When I am done speaking, I encourage all of you to find someone from an opposite or different ‘non-existing’ clique as the one you associate yourself with, and talk to that person. Learn more about the person and ask if something is bothering them, or if they need help. Just being a friend or a listener could help them. You never know, it could change, or even save, that person’s life. Thank you.”
            As I walk away from the center of the stage, I begin to acknowledge the weeping and smiling students clapping for me. I can’t help but hope that I did as much as I could to get through to the students and give them my message of the ever-present situation of bullying in schools all across the country. By telling my story, I wanted to help these students.   Now I realize I have helped someone even more important, myself. I look up with a tear streaming down my cheek and quietly mouth the words, “Thank you, Becca. I love you.”

Seeing Stars
Allyson Allman, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

Pain
            Pain. Everywhere, all I can feel is pain. My vision is blurred by the swelling of my bruises and the hot sticky blood dripping from my head. My arms and legs are motionless, and twisted at unnatural angles. Funny that this would be the first time I have broken any bone in my body, and I have broken several at once.
            I think back, how could I have been so unknowingly happy just this morning? Just twelve short hours ago I thought my life was over because my parents told me I couldn’t go to the under 21 club with my best friend, Casey.  They said there was no way I, a fifteen-year-old, was going to a club with 20-year-old guys “lurking” in the corners. I couldn’t believe them; I screamed at them until my throat was throbbing but they wouldn’t give in. How was I supposed to know they could be right? I thought this sort of thing only happened in horror films. I tried to remember just how I had gotten here, into my own, real-life horror film.
            I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I snuck out. Casey drove up with her lights off and I climbed right out my first-level bedroom window. It was almost too easy! I didn’t even worry about my parents noticing; they had already said they didn’t want to see me for the rest of the night. They don’t care enough to check up on me anyway. I paused for a moment before hopping in the car to gaze at the stars in the night sky, thinking about how perfect the night was going to be.
            It was exhilarating, and knowing that I was here without permission made the night even more exciting. I kept telling myself “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission right?”  Lying here now, I wish I would have known better.
            Casey and I were having the time of our lives, dancing and talking to so many people. Eventually we found ourselves paired off with two of the hottest guys I have ever met. Their names were Jason and Brandon and they said they went to the university in the next town over. I found myself drawn to Brandon by his very being. I couldn’t help but smile at everything that he said and when we danced it was perfect. He was perfect. I wondered if this was what love at first sight was all about.
            Casey and Jason weren’t exactly hitting it off as well as Brandon and I were but they were psyched about us together. They gave us every opportunity to be alone together and when he brought it up, they loved the idea of Brandon taking me home. I pulled Casey to the girl’s room before we left.
            We hardly let the door swing closed behind us before she burst out, “I can’t believe this is happening to you! He is so perfect for you, it’s like you guys are meant to be. I’m so jealous!”
            “I know! This has never happened to me before! What do I do when he takes me home? What if he tries to kiss me? What if my parents find out? They will kill me!” I panicked.
            “Calm down,” she laughed, “everything will work out, I promise.”
            “I don’t know how you can be so positive about all of this! My heart is going insane right now; I might have a heart attack!”
            “Just be yourself!” She smiled again, hugged me, sprayed some of her perfume on me, fluffed my hair, and pushed me out the door.
            I almost ran right into him. He just turned and smiled sweetly and asked if I was ready to leave yet. I nodded as he reached for my hand. We walked out into the cool summer night air and across the parking lot. I just about fainted when we stopped at a deep blue Mustang convertible, my dream car. This had to be a sign!
            He opened my door for me and helped me into the car, he was such a gentleman. As soon as he got the car onto the road, he grabbed my hand again, and set them both, intertwined, on my leg. I blushed and smiled at him, and wondered if he felt the same as I did when we touched. We drove around with the top down and I gazed at the stars. He caught me looking and said he knew the perfect place if I wanted to see some real stars.
            He pulled the car off the busy road onto an unpaved stretch of path that led away from the lights and the noise of the city. When he finally stopped the car, he told me to tip my seat back, so we could look up at the twinkling sky. We lay there for what seemed like ages, just talking and laughing about everything. I guess I wasn’t even surprised when he leaned in to kiss me, it felt so natural to be with him. I was practically screaming with happiness on the inside, but tried to act cool for this older, more mature guy.
            I was really enjoying myself when I started to feel his hands move in a direction I did not want them. I pulled away from him and tried to play it off as I returned his hands to a more comfortable spot. However, he didn’t like that I was telling him no. Pretty soon he started moving his hands again, and again I tried to move them back. This time, he wouldn’t let me. He grabbed my wrists and started yelling at me.
            I could feel his hot breath on my face as he said “Can’t you have a little fun? I know you want this just as bad as I do.” I tried to wiggle away but he was way too strong for me. His fingers were bruising my wrists and I tried to tell him he was hurting me but I could only whimper in fear. The more I struggled, the angrier he got.
            “This was going so well for us. You had to ruin it didn’t you? They always ruin it. A guy can’t have any fun,” he was speaking faster and faster and it began to sound like he was only talking to himself; as if I wasn’t even there anymore.  But he knew I was there, that’s why he kept holding me down as he tore at my clothes, scratching and bruising me in the process. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I tried to think of other things, of home, of Casey, of anything but him inside me.
            The pain was too much to block out. I knew I had to try to stop him so I felt around the car floor for anything that could help. My hand came across a compact umbrella and I knew it was unlikely to help, but I had to fight. I swung with everything I had left and hit him on the head. He cursed in pain; the umbrella had opened a gash above his eye and caused his nose to spurt blood. While he was dazed, grabbing his nose, I scrambled to get out from underneath him and out of the car. I started to run, feeling blood running down my legs. I didn’t get very far before he tackled me to the ground. I felt an indescribable pain shoot through my ankle as the weight of his body knocked me off my feet.
            “Now you have really pissed me off,” he growled. “You made this harder than it had to be.”
            I could feel sharp stones cutting my bare skin as he pressed me into the dirt. I don’t know what made me do it, but I then spat in his face. He glared at me and slapped me across the face. My head started to pound and I began seeing stars that I hadn’t planned on seeing here. He looked like he was enjoying himself as he continued to hit me over and over again. At one point the force of his fist against my arm was too much, and I heard a sickening crunch, followed by a pain that burned and traveled all the way through my body. I felt sick to my stomach.
            He began to drag me back to the car by my good arm; I couldn’t even try to walk. My ankle could bear no weight anymore. The sky was spinning and, strangely, I remember thinking how beautiful the stars looked swirling around on the vast expanse of sky.
            He dropped me beside the door to the car and told me to get in. When I didn’t move, he began to kick me in the stomach over and over. I couldn’t breathe anymore; every time I took air in, my chest burned as if there were a knife lodged between my ribs. He realized I couldn’t stand up by myself, so he picked me up and threw me in the car, muttering something about me being worthless.
            I felt the car moving but I could no longer see where we were going. I knew we had gotten back on the main road we took to get to our star gazing spot and I naively thought that he might take me home now, back to my parents who I hoped I would see again. I needed to apologize for the way I acted toward them. They were only trying to protect me from the dangers out there. The ones I was sure would not find me. I felt the car slow down and come to a stop. We must have been on the shoulder of the road, because I had not felt the car turn onto a new street, and I could still hear the other cars swishing past us.
            He got out of the car and walked to my side. I wished I could have ran right then, but I was in enough pain just slumped over in the seat. He opened my door and grabbed me by the ankle, my broken ankle. I wanted to cry out at the agony of him yanking at my leg, but my chest hurt so bad that I could only let out a small moan. He dragged me out of the car and I felt my head hit the pavement as I fell out of the vehicle. He pulled me into the small ditch overgrown with tall grasses and weeds. I caught the faintest glimpse of my dream guy driving away in my dream car, leaving me alone in this nightmare.
            I can feel the blood pooling under my head and the ache of my injuries. I wonder if my parents had gone to my room to check on me. Maybe they are looking for me now, and maybe they will find me. I just want to be home, happy and grounded to my room. Everything starts to fade away, like it is being erased from existence. I look to the stars for comfort and they make me smile, even though that small action hurts.
            Everything is black. I stay around long enough to just barely hear the wail of a siren. The siren belongs to the cop car that is out looking for me right now. The one that will not find me until it is too late.

Part of Your World: The Untold Story of the Little Mermaid
Jessica Kimball, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            Life was supposed to be great for Ariel. She found her one true love, saved her family, and lived her dream of becoming human; so what was wrong? She paced the floor of her room, her eyes welling up with tears
            “Ariel,” she said to herself “you can’t be so sensitive; of course Eric has to go out of town a lot. He’s a very important man! Don’t let it get you down; just because he’s gone for the weekend, that doesn’t mean he loves you any less than the day he married you.”
            She thought back to all of the events leading up to their wedding; how she had rescued him from the sea, how she nursed him back to health, how she risked her life defying her father’s wishes by making a deal with Ursula, the Sea Witch, and she thought about how she felt gazing into his eyes that morning on the beach. He had thought he was hallucinating, just imagining that a mermaid had rescued him from the sea, but he soon realized it was all true. But now he was out of town, again, and Ariel was left to fend for herself in the large hollow castle she now called home.  
            She and Eric fell in love almost instantly, and although Ursula’s evil plan caused a major snag in their happiness at the time, they foiled her plans to take over Ariel’s father’s kingdom and quickly overcame the biggest obstacle they would ever face…until now. Ariel thought it was ironic that, before, their biggest problems meant fighting for their lives together, and fighting to save their love. But now? Their biggest problem was her own discontent and boredom for this new life; her supposed “dream life.”
            She loved Eric more than anything, and she didn’t want to give him up, but her old life was full of adventure and excitement, something she had once lived for. Now her days were spent tending to housework and gardening and doing mundane tasks she’d never bothered with before.
            “Miss Ariel!” Lucinda, Ariel’s maid, interrupted her thoughts, “Dinner is ready in the dining room, dear.”
            “Thank you Lucinda” Ariel responded quietly.
            “Is something wrong Miss?” Lucinda asked gingerly. From the day Ariel came to the palace Lucinda had been her saving grace. Ariel didn’t know how to make friends with humans; she never was one before and she couldn’t find common ground to relate with them, but Lucinda was different. She understood that Ariel was new to her environment, and she was kind to her. Over the years Ariel had even begun to see her as more of a friend than a staff member.
            “Oh I’m fine, it’s just that with Eric out of town I’m not looking forward to another dinner by myself,” Ariel responded honestly
            “Master Eric is very involved in his work, Miss, but I’ve never seen him happier than when he’s with you.”
            “Eric makes me happy too,” Ariel said with a sigh “It’s just, I don’t feel comfortable here in this palace, or even in my own body with these feet. Sure I can dance now, and walk and run, but I miss swimming and playing in the sea with my sisters and my friends; living the carefree and fun life I grew up with. Why can’t there be a happy medium? Why can’t I have feet when I’m with Eric, but turn back into a mermaid when I miss my father and everyone else under the sea?”
            “Life’s all about choices Miss,” Lucinda replied solemnly as she left Ariel alone with her thoughts.
            She wasn’t going to dinner, she resolved with herself. Why face the humiliation in front of all of the staff members, and why waste their time? Besides, she wasn’t really that hungry. Ariel had thought long and hard about her future at the castle, and her stomach was doing somersaults inside her. She wasn’t sure yet what she wanted to do, but she had a pretty good idea in her mind as to what felt right.
            What felt right.
            What did feel right to her anymore? Being in the sea, that felt right. Being with her friends, that felt right.
            But being with Eric felt right too; so did walks on the beach and horsing around with the palace staff members; especially Lucinda. 
            For weeks Ariel had considered leaving the castle and ending her relationship with Eric, but something always stopped her. He understood her and loved her for who she was. What kind of person just up and leaves that? Ariel didn’t know, but sometimes she saw herself as that kind of person. The guilt ate away at her. When Eric was around she felt herself becoming secluded and cold, something she had never imagined being in the past. She was always so happy and full of life, and she knew Eric understood her feelings of homesickness, but she also felt him turning away, and almost resenting her.
            Some days Ariel just wanted to cut her losses, and on her darkest, most lonely days, she even saw herself finding someone new, back home. But every time she got close to acting on her feelings, Eric would come home early to surprise her, or bring her flowers and promise to work less. Ariel would feel relief and reassurance that she made the right choice in staying with him, but over time he would always start to work more again, and Ariel would start her emotional cycle all over again.
            “Mistress Ariel,” Jeffery, the palace butler, called into her room, “word has just been received from Master Eric, and he is to return a day late from his trip. He sends his apologies, and there is a fruit basket downstairs.”
            A fruit basket? A fruit basket?
            Ariel couldn’t believe her ears. She knew things had been distant between the two of them lately, but a fruit basket? That’s his apology for leaving her alone, yet again, for another day in this place where she wasn’t the least bit happy? She gave up everything for him, and all she had to show for it was a fruit basket. That was it. Ariel had never seen herself as a quitter, but she simply couldn’t go on living a façade, when in reality she was miserable. Maybe it was selfish, and Ariel recognized that, but she decided to make a decision for herself and only herself; something she hadn’t done in a very long time.
            She sobbed as she gathered some of her things. She knew it would take a day or so to reach her father before he could work his magic and turn her back into a mermaid, but she couldn’t face Eric when he got home, she simply wasn’t strong enough and she would rather sleep on the beach than face him.
            Over the years something had snapped in Ariel. She wasn’t brave or bubbly anymore. She used to skip around the castle playing pranks on the staff, inventing new games in her mind, and chatting with Lucinda, but over time her spark began to fade. She knew in her heart that she wasn’t completely giving up on Eric, she just needed a break. She wasn’t naïve enough to think he’d wait for her, and that saddened her deeply, but as she cried she sat down and wrote him a note explain her decision.
           

Eric,
            The time we’ve spent together has been some of the happiest times of my life. However, over the years I’ve lost sight of who I was, and I need to find myself again. I don’t expect you to wait for me, nor do I want you to. I want you to be happy, and I think time apart would do us both some good. Please know that I never stopped loving you, and I probably never will. Perhaps time in the sea will give me a new lease on life and we can be together again, but if not – just know how much you have impacted my life. Please apologize to Lucinda and the rest of the staff, and tell them I love them. I apologize whole heartedly
            Yours Forever,
            Ariel

            As Ariel snuck out in the middle of the night, she felt a heavy sadness she had never experienced before. She knew it was due to her ungraceful exit from the castle, and she felt like the biggest failure there ever was. She desperately wanted to find Eric, to tell him goodbye, and that she loved him, but she didn’t; she couldn’t. She turned toward the sea, head held high; sad, but hopeful. She prayed a silent prayer for Eric, and that perhaps someday they’d be together again, and as she saw the silhouette of her father arise from the water, she began to wade towards him, the cool water surrounding her and taking her breath away. She was home.

Through Her Eyes
Nicole Thomas, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            It’s not just a knock on the door.  It’s a pound.  They are coming for me.  What could I do? They are right outside the door, and there is nowhere for me to go.  Why is no one else freaking out? Can’t they hear it? The “nice ladies” in the white coats are probably on their side; that’s the only explanation as to why they aren’t scared too. They are casually walking around like nothing bad is happening, but I know life is turning for the worst. 
            Frantically, I scan the room and the scariest part is that I don’t see anyone doing anything about the bad men pounding on the door.  Bill is over there just praying, rocking back and forth, just praying.  He must have heard it too and figured it’s the end.  Is that what I should do, just pray to an unknown God? Pound Pound Pound. My thoughts are interrupted.  I’m locked in this wheel chair so getting up and running is out of the question for now.  Quickly I push the wheels and get moving. I have to get out of their sight. That way, if they do get in, I will not be first.  I can hear the door open, and I don’t even look to see who it is this time. I take off spinning these wheels as fast as I can to get into the next room.  I’ve made it to the cot room where we all sleep. 
            While I look through the crack of the door, my breathing starts to pick up.  I can see them stabbing everyone, but there is no blood; they must be good at what they do because it just does not make sense.  They are killing everyone! What do I do, tackle them and try to save the day? But there are too many.  Do I just hide and live to tell the story of it all? My mind starts to race and I think of my own life.  If I don’t stay focused, they will get me.  I cannot be confined, and with that thought I start to pull at the leather straps holding me in to this wheelchair.  The two across my thighs I yank at first.  They are not budging.  I just keep shaking my legs, trying to spread them apart, anything that will make these leather straps not so tight.  The ladies in the white coats put these on me today because they knew I would figure out what they were trying to do, kill us all, but most specifically me. 
            After about two minutes of struggling, I try the straps over my shins.  I keep peering out the crack of the door to see if they are coming, but they do not have any clue where I could be because no one is allowed in the cot room when it is not sleeping hours.  I turn the back of my chair against the door so that if they try to come in it will be even more of a struggle.  My palms are sweating. They just keep slipping off the straps.  The metal clasp is becoming looser so I can tell I’m making progress, but I’m still not sure how much time I actually have. 
            Finally I break through the strap from where the clasp has rubbed it so much that it ripped through.  Now it is just the two over my thighs that are still stuck.  I try to wiggle out of their tight grasp, and my breathing turns to wheezing.  I’m sweating, and I’m scared because I don’t know what is going to happen next.  All my body weight is in my wrists to push my body off the wheelchair to loosen the straps, and it’s working.  The straps aren’t coming undone, but they’ve become loose enough for me to slide my body down through them and escape the firm clutch of the wheelchair.
            My legs are weak from the lack of use they’ve had.  It’s only been ten minutes since I’ve gotten here, but it seems as if time just keeps speeding by, and I’m going in slow motion.  I try to move as fast as I can to the best escape, our window.  I slide my wet hands across my pants to get the sweat off before I try to lift the window up off the dirty sill.  It squeaks loudly as the rusty latches come apart because the window is hardly ever opened.
             With what’s left of my might I start to throw my body out the two-story high window.  I have one arm and one leg out while working on the rest of my body when I hear them barging in the room.  I know I should keep moving, but my body freezes so I can see if they make it into the room with my locked wheel chair pushed against the door.  I can see the door start to bend and crack open, and I am almost completely out the window now.  As I start to swing my leg over the dirty sill and out the opened window, the man with the gray hair, glasses, and beard, the one who comes every Wednesday, grabs me and starts to pull me back in.
            My head is slightly turned to see who are all here; but my body weight, although it may not be much, is leaning toward safety—the outside, so that way they have no advantage in this fight.  My knuckles are turning white from the tight grip I have on the wall to keep the man from pulling me in.  I kick to loosen his hold on me.  The other guy, the fat bald one, joins him and now they are both pulling me back in, but I am not giving up because I can tell that they will tire quickly.  Once I start to gain the advantage my hand slipped from sweat and all odds were against me.  They pulled me back into the cot room.  My hard work was going to waste; I couldn’t do anything and they were going to kill me for it. 
            The fat man with the bald head held down my arms as the leading man with the glasses and beard took hold of my legs.  There are two other men with them, one who has been coming regularly for awhile now and one whom I have never seen before, young with shaggy brown hair and a little facial hair.  He looks scared and the more I fight the more I think he is going to push them off me because he is afraid too.  The two men holding me aren’t wasting any time and start yelling at the familiar man, “Do it now! Go!”
            It’s the end; he stabs me in the thigh.  I quickly fade into what feels like overwhelming calmness; I swear it’s heaven, but I can see I never left, and I’m still exactly where I have been for all these years now.  I cannot speak due to the numbness that has taken over my body, but I can hear just fine. 
            The young new guy’s face is still frightened in awe until the leader with the gray hair explains, “This is Caroline, our patient who has been here since she was diagnosed and who will remain here until the day she passes because of the severity of her problem.” He takes a pause to get a deep breath because he is still tired from our battle.  “You see, Intern, Caroline has paranoid schizophrenia.”
            The intern interrupts, “A disease which makes her think innocent people and things are out to get her.”
            A grin appears across the old man with the gray hair and glasses face, “Ah! I can see you’ve been doing your homework.  I didn’t bring you to the psychiatric ward to scare you; I brought you to be aware.  Always expect the unexpected, then nothing can go wrong.  Be very careful when training to be a doctor.  Even a mere medicine needle can look like a lethal injection or even a knife to someone like Caroline who has severe paranoid schizophrenia.”


Operation Overlord
Michael Kahle, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            The men aboard the C-47 Skytrain were silent, consumed by their own thoughts and prayers. It was almost midnight on June 5th, 1944, and Private John Barsettee was sitting in a plane with seventeen other men that he had come to respect more than any men in the world. In another hour the 101st airborne division would be dropping behind the beaches of Normandy to enter their first combat mission - Operation Overlord. The men chosen for the 101st airborne were among the best in all of America’s armed forces. Only a small percentage were accepted into this elite group, and even fewer made it through the rigorous training. Even so, the men were scared. They were going to be behind enemy lines; their orders were vague because nobody knew how events would play out once they landed, and they were going to be alone.
            The next half hour passed mostly in silence. At this point the soldiers could see the beaches of Normandy in the distance. Lieutenant Jones interrupted the hum of the propellers to go over their objectives one last time.
            “We will be landing just west of Utah Beach,” he said, “Your first priority is to regroup with the unit; you do no good out there on your own. The unit is responsible for taking out any secondary defenses the Krauts got to make it easier on our guys comin’ up from the beaches. We don’t have much intelligence on what we might encounter, so once we regroup we’ll have to call the shots as we go. After we take out the secondary defenses, we’re responsible for securing the corps’ southern flank. Any questions?”
            “What if w-” one of the privates began to ask, but was interrupted by the sound of a flak shell exploding just beside the plane. Suddenly the entire sky was lit up with the explosions of German anti-aircraft guns.
            John Barsettee saw another plane not too far from them get hit and go down. “How much longer ‘til we jump?” he asked apprehensively.
            “Thirty seconds!” yelled back the lieutenant. When you’re being shot at, that thirty seconds might as well be an eternity. Private Barsettee could feel the G-forces from the pilot’s evasive maneuvers, and he knew that they would have to jump going much faster than they had prepared for. Explosions rocked the aircraft, yet the men remained silent, reflecting on the mission ahead of them.
            “Ten seconds until the drop zone!” yelled back the pilot. John had no idea how the pilot could tell where the drop zone was. Between the clouds of smoke, flashes of explosion and constant shifts in the planes direction, it was seemingly impossible to see what was ahead.
            The paratroopers were standing now, lined up and ready to jump. The plane door was open, and the noise of the war was so incredible it made conversation impossible. Lieutenant Jones was standing next to the open door; he would be the last to jump. He held up his hand, five fingers up. Then four. Then three. Then two. Then one. And as his last finger when down, the green light above the door went on, and the men began to jump, one every second.
            “Go! Go! Go!” you could see the Lieutenant yelling. Barsettee was the third to last to jump, and he was surprised to see how low they were to the ground. They couldn’t have been more than a football field in the air, and the plane was traveling well over 200 mph. For just a fraction of a second a doubt entered his mind, but he shoved it aside. This was what he had trained for. This was his service to his country. So he jumped. The training that he had gone through was intense, and they had tried to simulate real battle as much as possible, but nothing prepared you for the real thing. There is nothing that can simulate the feeling that you might die at any second. The paratroopers were completely open targets while they fell the few hundred feet from the planes to the ground, and a few times Barsettee could hear bullets fly inches away from him. When he was about halfway to the ground, over the sound of the war around him he heard a cry of pain from someone a couple hundred feet in front of him, and he immediately recognized the voice as that of Lieutenant Jones. Barsettee tried to yell to the lieutenant, but to no avail. After a few more seconds, the cries of pain ceased. John Barsettee assumed the worst.
            The first thing Private Barsettee realized when he landed was that he was nowhere near their objective. The next thing he realized was that he was completely alone. Adrenaline racing from the journey down, he immediately removed his parachute and then stood in place a few seconds taking in his surroundings. Minus the constant flashes of light from the explosions in the sky, it was completely dark. There were a few times he thought he saw movement in the distance, but he dared not find out who or what it was because he had no way of telling whether it was friend or foe. In the sky, countless silhouettes of paratroopers and aircraft were illuminated with every flash. It was an incredible sight, and John couldn’t help smiling when he thought of how the Germans might be reacting to the invasion.
             John knew that he had to decide on a course of action, but he was unsure what to do. He remembered Lieutenant Jones’ orders to regroup with the unit, but now that they had landed, the idea that they would all find each other seemed crazy. The area where he stood didn’t seem to fit the description of the drop zone, and he didn’t recognize any landmarks that were near him, so he figured that he was at least three miles off the target drop zone. Barsettee figured that since the plane was flying south, and he was one of the last to jump, his best bet would be to head north.
            While he was walking, he realized that he faced another major obstacle; if he did see another soldier, how would he know if the person was German or American? It would be impossible to tell for sure until dawn came, but that wasn’t for a good five hours, and he couldn’t just sit there for that long. He decided that he would determine a course of action if and when the situation came, but the thought never left his mind.
            The private’s thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a twig snapping in the distance, almost inaudible over the war raging around him. He immediately went prone and continued to listen. A few seconds later he picked up on the low rumble of men’s voices, not more than forty yards away. Stretching his hearing to its fullest potential, Barsettee was able to pick up a few syllables and determined the men were speaking German. He pushed off his gun’s safety. He stared in the direction of the voices, but couldn’t see anything. Then after half a minute of watching and listening, he picked out the silhouettes of three men just thirty yards away. Thoughts racing, Barsettee followed the men with the sight of his gun. Barsettee calculated that the men would pass just over ten yards in front of him, and knew that was plenty of distance for him to go unnoticed. He also knew that he had surprise on his side, and if he let them pass, there might be another soldier out there who wouldn’t be so lucky. He decided that he would engage them just after they passed him; this way their backs would be to him but they would still be close enough that he would be able to take out all three quickly. While he waited, he went over in his head exactly what he was going to. He imagined exactly what would happen. It didn’t take long before the soldiers were exactly where the private wanted them. He took a deep breath, and with all of his training flashing through his head, ignoring the fact that he would be taking a human life, he fired. One soldier fell. The next few moments happened very quickly, much faster than he had imagined. Yelling frantically in German, the other two soldiers reacted without hesitation and they dove for cover immediately. As one of the Germans was scrambling for safety behind a tree, Barsettee shot and killed him. He realized that the third soldier had found cover behind a tree and was about to return fire, and he frantically ran to find cover behind a fallen tree just to the left of him. As soon as he was behind the tree, the last German returned fire and woodchips began to fly.
            Barsettee wasn’t ready for this; he hadn’t prepared for a scenario in which one of the Germans survived. The two were in a deadlock, both shooting at the other with only their guns exposed. Neither was willing to free himself from cover for more than a fraction of a second. Barsettee was beginning to realize that, unless one of them made a move, the one who survived would be the one with more ammo. Then, just as the private began to reload for the second time, he heard shots being fired from his left flank. It was only a short burst, and he immediately fell to the ground and looked in the direction the shots came from. He couldn’t see anyone, but he realized that the German soldier had stopped shooting. John wasn’t sure if he was just confused by the gunfire or if the mysterious person had killed him. Then he saw the silhouette of the mysterious person walking towards him.
            “United States soldier, Charlie Company!” the mysterious figure yelled. Private Barsettee let out a heavy sigh of relief. The man was from his unit.
            “U.S. soldier, Charlie Company!” he replied. Once the man was closer, he recognized him as another private, Frank Thomas.
            “Good thing I showed up, huh?” Private Thomas said with a slight grin.
            “I would’ve got him one way or another,” Barsettee joked back.
            “Yeah, well we’d better get outta here before more Krauts come running, that was sure to draw some attention,” Thomas said.
            “Agreed. Do you have any idea where we are?” asked Barsettee
            “Not a clue. I was heading east until I heard your gunshots.”
            “All right. I was heading north, so northeast it is?”
            “Sounds good to me.”
            So they began to journey northeast. It was considerably quieter now, and German anti-air had almost completely quit firing, so they figured that the second wave of paratroopers must have all landed by now. Fortunately, after another hour of walking, dawn began to break. They gained confidence the more they could see, but were also aware they had to be more cautious because the enemy could also see more.
            After two more hours of walking without seeing anyone, the sun began to rise above the horizon. There was little conversation; they were too focused and making noise was an unnecessary risk. Then the two found themselves on top of a massive hill overlooking a valley. Looking across the valley was a magnificent sight; just on the other side of the valley they saw a large American force marching east. It was Charlie Company – their unit. Each of the privates let out a relieved smile and began to walk down the valley. Barsettee was relieved to have survived his first morning of combat and what he hoped would be the most dangerous part of their mission. He felt safe now that they had found their unit, at least as safe as one can feel when fighting a war in enemy territory.


Frozen Kidnap Treat
Richard Brodbeck, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

            The thumping pain of bruises and cuts on my face wake me up. I find myself in a dark abyss with the sounds of a speeding car skidding back and forth on the city streets. I feel the coarseness of burlap on my exposed skin. I notice the abrasions on my legs and arms sticking to the burlap when I try to move my limbs to get rid of the soreness throughout my body.  I must have been unconscious for some considerable time. The last thing I remember is that I was in my truck running my business as usual, but some shady guy wearing a three-piece suit with a fedora began to walk briskly towards my truck.
            I feel the car slowing down. This is not good at all. I do not know what is going on. What have I done to deserve being beaten and kidnapped? If they do kill me, will my family ever find out or will they just have the single, haunting piece of information that I went missing? What will happen to all my assets? Will my body ever be found? Is there really a God or heaven? Well, I’m about to find out. Hopefully, there is one because I would like some eternal peace, especially right now. Why can’t they just take me out now?
            The sound of a trunk opening sends a horrible flutter to the pit of my stomach. The cold fresh air rushes onto my bruised and bloody skin. The coldness sinks into the inner depths of my soul. Right now, the only thing I know is that the end of my life is near. My body is grabbed by four merciless arms with no consideration for the safety of my body as they lift me out of the trunk. At first, they throw me onto the ground. The pain of the landing runs through my whole body. The uneven and freezing pavement just adds to my suffering while I lie here. Suddenly, I am lifted to my feet, and the burlap bag is forcefully removed.
            I am directly facing a broad man about 6’4” wearing clothing similar to the shady guy walking towards my truck earlier. The scenery around him would make anyone hopeless. There was no means of escaping with his two henchmen standing behind me. We were in a dimly lit alley between two abandoned warehouses. Broken windows and brick fill the rest of my peripherals with only a sliver of the starry night sky above. After a few moments of silence, the man smiles at me and whispers, “You screwed up big time, buddy.”
            With that statement, his henchmen swing crowbars at the back of my knees, and I collapse immediately from the excruciating pain. Without anytime to recover, I am dragged across the alley pavement. Loose chips of the pavement gash the back of my legs. The fresh cuts bring on a whole new level of pain, and I start to scream. Immediately, the lackeys shut me up with a quick butt to the head with one of their pistols, which puts me into a daze as they drag me away from the only source of hope, a single lamppost.
            My haziness fades off when I finally enter a room with a single light above a wooden chair in the middle of the room. The wooden chair has four metal latches: two on the front legs and two on the arms. When will the suffering and pain end? The henchmen shove me into the forsaken chair like my body was a ragdoll. I hit the chair as if it were my own grave. They latch my ankles and wrists to the chair despite my best effort, which was most likely no challenge for them at the moment. My energy was so drained that I could not even keep my head up.
            Finally, I draw strength to lift my head and notice that I am alone in this sinister room. I wonder what is going on. What are they talking about? Is it about different torturing ways? I know they are going to torture me, but for what? I have done nothing wrong.
            After what felt like an eternity, all three men appear from the darkness with the leader slipping on brass knuckles as he gently says, “I’m really sorry about this, but you messed with us, so we got to mess with you.”
            He slowly walks toward me and gives me one more look before he hits me across the face. As my mouth is bleeding, and I notice I am missing five teeth, he asks, “Who are you?”
            There is too much pain to respond. I wish I could speak so I could just tell him I am a simple ice cream man whose business is booming lately. Actually, I had just started selling in a few new neighborhoods. Also, tell him I have a beautiful wife and brand new baby boy who need me. But it is too late. He punches me in the gut and yells, “Answer me!”
            I try to speak, but all I do is cough up blood. If he were to give me a few minutes, I would be able to speak. I do not know what to do. Should I try to handle his punches to see if he stops? Or should I scream in agony to see if he will be sympathetic? Before I could even think of another strategy, he punches me square in the chest. I’m positive that he broke a few ribs with that punch. I gasp for air, but there is no hope. I feel my chest to notice that there are missing ribs. I am sure I am slowly going to suffocate now with these shattered ribs. The pain is slowly decreasing as my body tolerates my extreme punishment, but now I feel my death is approaching soon just from injuries.
            The leader walks up to me and asks, “All right wise guy, what’s your motive?”
            He grabs me by the hair and repeats his question directly to my face, but in my confusion and pain I do not respond. Instead, I accidently cough up blood into his face. I knew exactly what was about to happen. He wipes the blood off his face and walks away from me. Suddenly, he quickly runs back and kicks me hard enough to send me to the ground. I hit my head on the concrete floor. He leaves me there for a minute or two but then orders his henchmen to sit me up straight. At this moment, I am able to recollect myself to mutter under heavy breathing, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
            That was a bad decision. He hit me even harder underneath the chin. I feel my jaw shatter on impact. I cannot imagine what my face looks like to these three maniacs. The blood is freely flowing from my mouth and practically my whole face is bruised and swollen. After he hits me, he yells, “You took our territory!”
            I spit a wad of blood out and yell back, “I’m a simple ice cream man!”
            He smiles and back-hands my face. Then, he says, “Exactly! You’re trying to run us out of business!”
            It takes me a few seconds to digest what he just said, but then I reply, “What the-“
            My response was too late. He jumps to his crazy conclusion and quickly asks, “You work for the cops, don’t you?”
            Before I can even speak a single syllable, he yells, “Boys, strip him!”
            I struggle to try to get out of my latches from the chair, but it is hopeless. His henchmen walk over with knives to cut and rip my clothes off. As I am sitting there naked, I start to weep, naked and bleeding. I have no hope of escaping this suffering, and I might not live to see my family ever again. As these thoughts run through my head, I come back to reality and notice that the leader has pulled out a gun and is yelling, “I will kill you! No one will know about my secret drug cartel!”
            As my confusion reaches its maximum, I just ask, “What?”
            From out of nowhere, I hear an explosion behind me and a cloud of dust sweeps over my vision as I faint.
            I wake up to find myself wrapped up in a blanket in the back of a police cruiser. Having no idea what happened, I open the car door to see paramedics carrying three body bags out of the abandoned warehouse. As what happened slowly comes to me, a young cop runs up to me and says, “Wow! You woke up already. That is amazing with how much blood you lost. Those guys really beat you up good. Oh yeah! You probably have no idea what happened. Well, those guys were about to kill you, but luckily someone gave us a lead to their hideout, and we ambushed them at the perfect time to save you!”
            I respond, “Wait. So this really just happened?”
            The cop replies, “Well, yeah.”
            Now, all I can think about is how do you find a safer job than being an ice cream man?

Love Before Money
Rachel Bryan, Lima Central Catholic
Sponsoring Teacher: Kent Krogman

Dear Amanda...
            The hardest words I’ve ever written were staring back at me in the dark depressing light filling the living room. Catching a glance of myself in the mirror above our antique wooden desk, I stopped right in my tracks. The man looking back at me was a different person, as if I were an outsider looking down on the situation playing out before me. My thirty-seven year old face had an aged appearance: dark half circles under my sleepy eyes, gray lifeless skin, and messy blonde hair matted to my head with sweat. Noticing the sweat, I became focused on the window air-conditioner. The usual humming sound was replaced with silence. Silence that screamed at me the fact that I tried so hard to forget, the fact that was ruining my family, the fact that our air-conditioner was broken and I couldn’t afford to fix it. A year ago I could have paid to fix it without even considering the cost. Even a few months ago I wouldn’t have really considered the cost, but today as a layed off husband a father I can’t help but think of the money we don’t have.

            Dear Amanda,

                        I’m writing this for you to read when you’re older and wondering why I’m gone. I’m not sure exactly what to write now that the pen is in my hand so I guess I should just start from the beginning. Four months ago in March the news no one ever expects or wants to hear was given to me. I lost my factory job and without much money in my savings account, things fell apart faster than I ever could have imagined. The lack of money in our lives had a greater impact than I thought it would. I feel the weight of wanting to give you everything you deserve and although I want to teach you that money isn’t everything, it is a growing necessity for me to take care of you.

                        Your mom is my best friend and the love of my life, but having the stress of no money put on our relationship, we’ve begun arguing often. Arguing can take over a relationship as it has with me and your mom and living with arguing all the time isn’t fair to anyone. Your mom should have a happy life and so should you. You shouldn’t have to hear people you love disrespect each other.

                        The struggle to support both you and your mom has become overwhelming and I feel like a failure without the money we need. Although I love you more than anything, I’ve grown greatly depressed and feel you’ll be better without me. I am so sorry.

                                                                                                            Love,

                                                                                                            Daddy

            Finishing the letter, I set the pen down. The paper with the flower border from my daughter’s stationary set was stained with tears. The ink with which I had written the “Daddy” signature started to run and became smeared. Getting up from the desk, I knew what the next action I needed to take was. I started towards the bedrooms down the picture frame-lined hallway and stopped in front of the last door on the right. The wooden door, painted white, was shut, but I could picture the scene inside perfectly. My shaking hand touched the doorknob, but instead of opening it right away, I looked up into the sparkling letters stretched across the face of the door. They were bright pink and covered in glitter that caused the sparkling. The large girly letters spelled out “Amanda.” I finally opened the door, being as quiet as an animal hunting its prey, but I wasn’t hunting any prey. I was looking into the sweet and peaceful face of an angel, of my daughter, of Amanda. Tears filled my brown eyes and started to fall over onto my warm rosy cheeks. I composed myself once again and bent down to gently kiss her cheek, but when I went to stand and straighten out, my hand bumped a picture on the nightstand and it toppled over onto the tan carpet. I froze and held my breath as I checked to see if my six year old daughter had awakened. She hadn’t moved an inch and still lay clutching her dark brown teddy bear, covered in her thick deep purple bed comforter. I resumed my steady breathing and grabbed the flipped over picture frame. For the first time, I stared into the eyes of the people in the picture. It hadn’t been taken long ago, but the coloring had already started to fade and towards the bottom was what appeared to be a coffee spot. Even so, I held Amanda high above my shoulders in the picture and she held up her right index finger portraying she was #1! We both grinned the same grin which now made me smile at the realization. I remember the day the photo was taken. Amanda had just won her championship tee ball game and the first thing she did when the game ended was run off the diamond and into my arms. Scooping her up gave the feeling that she was all that mattered. Focusing back on the picture in the silver frame, I soaked in the smiles and felt the emotions pouring out of the moment in time frozen by a camera flash. We were happy. Recalling the memory again, I flashed back to the events earlier in the day. It was the day I lost my job, but still with the knowledge of that, all that was important to my daughter was that I was at the game. I was there to cheer her on and praise her when it was all over. The film finally lifted from my eyes and although a light bulb didn’t flash on and a bell didn’t ring, my heart changed and it told me to start believing what I always taught my daughter. Money isn’t everything and being there for her would have to be enough.            

20 years later...

            Sweat beads had built up on my neck under the hot lights and pressure of a black tie, but nothing could wipe the smile off my face. After planning and waiting, my now twenty-six year old daughter’s wedding day was here. She stepped out of the bride’s preparation room and into view. The smile we both shared crept onto her glowing face and I returned the look. Grabbing my arm and waiting for the music to start, she became very serious and looked me right in the eyes. She spoke softly and clearly and made sure I was listening. The first words out of her mouth were “thank you.” She didn’t thank me for the new clothes or gifts I had gotten her over the years, although she was grateful for them, but she thanked me for the time I had spent with her throughout her life. She cherished the fact that even though her mom and I were divorced and we weren’t rich by any means, I had been there for every “first” of hers and never missed a birthday. She returned to her stance to look at her future husband and I reflected on the past twenty years. I went back to the night that I almost took my own life and replayed it. I silently thanked my amazing daughter because just seeing her gave me hope to believe that love conquers over material things. The music began and I walked Amanda down the isle which was an experience I never thought I would have the privilege of doing and, giving her away, I saw how she and the man in front of her looked at each other. I gave her away believing that love would always be enough between us and it would start to be enough between them.

Eyes Glittering Red
Taime Scheithauer, Spencerville
Sponsoring Teacher: Georgia McMichael

            On a dreary November day I was abruptly awakened by the most shrill scream I have ever heard.  There are many instances in which one finds themselves deathly afraid to continue their journey to the origin of the sound.  This was just such an occasion.  I was en route to the origin of this mysterious shriek.  I was soon to become aware that this mysterious noise was that of my wife and a dreaded raven.  This was starting to be possibly the most horrific day of my life.
            The raven was not just a bird in these parts.  The raven was an omen; a bearer of death.  This raven was the most vile creature, the most despised of animals.  This bird is the omen that once one receives its “blessing” there is a loved one that will die.  This is an irrevocable curse, a heart-breakingly painful sign. And just as my fortune would have, a curse was left upon my wife.  This meant that the one I loved the most was cursed to death and a painful one at that.  The Raven had always shown up as someone’s life was about to be snuffed out.  This raven is the most hated animal.  This animal must have found a fitting host, unlike the rest this one was different.  It had eyes glittering red like a blood soaked cloth.  This raven had bode the death of my wife.
            My life, my love, was ceasing to exist or as much as I knew at the time.  This had come as a surprise to me and the village as it has been many months since the mark had appeared.  This had been the best surprise since brother Stephen came back from the wilderness bearing news of other humans.  This meant that the curse was lifted, that the raven was no longer hated or deadly.  This finally meant that we could all rest easy knowing that our loved ones were safe and that we never had to fear for their lives again!  My love has been restored to life and to my surprise I am to become a father.  At first I believed that I had been the butt of a cruel joke as my wife is prone imagining.
            This was amazing and news had that I was soon to be a father!  This was not a ruse put on by wife.  Two months had passed and the mark had faded as her belly began to rise!  The day had been an amazing one thus far.  There were soon to be gatherings all over the village, feasts everywhere celebrating the breaking of the curse and the banishing of the bird.  There were hunting parties that went out into the wilderness to insure the birds were gone, and sure enough they had disappeared!
            Today is possibly the worst day in my life.  As it all happened I was in a daze as I still am.  Today started like most others with the exception of one event, it was the day my child was to be born.  Today was to be the most joyous day of my life, but instead it was determined to bring about my downfall.  This day will go down as the day that the curse returned.  In the morning I went to gather items for the birthing process.  Upon my return I had been informed that the labor was very harsh and was expected to be hours.  This was no problem as I was a patient man.  It had been several hours, and I had this nagging feeling that there was something very wrong in the making.  I had seen ravens all over town. I had felt a horrid presence of evil over my household.  This is when I had learned of my wife and son’s death.  The day had started on the most joyous note one man could ever wish for, but now it is ending on the most ugly discord anyone could have imagined.  There was that bird: that evil bird with its evil mark upon my son and wife!  This was to be the worst day of my life.
            That bird—damnation—that bird ruined everything!  It was to be my day, mine!  It was to be the happiest day in my life.  I was to become a father and earn my inheritance!  I killed the bird in some form of hope that it would lift the curse.  This bird had embodied everything that I have grown to hate.  My life had been ruined by this little black bird, my plans utterly disrupted, and my life put on hold!  These birds had been the problem all along!  This was only a ruse put on by some cruel spirit to ruin my life and sanity.  Thus far it has worked.