OneDay-A Recipe for Magic at The Hutong

It is has always been my dream to create art. It doesn’t matter what type of art; art that is cut and molded from my two bare hands, from letters and words that are strung together into sentences, from a simmering glow of magic that inspires stars to climb up on the sky or a smile to crawl onto faces. Art: a kind of magic that breaks down the walls and redefines the fundamental laws of mankind.

Art is many things; from paintings to sculptures, literature and photography. The boundaries are endless, the end unknown. Last year, I took up the challenge of combining my two favorite things: books and art to create magic. This year,  I am going to mix up colorful and rich flavors, chopping and mixing, to create magic once again.

I have always loved baking (not so much cooking) along with a magic called art and a treasure called books. Baking is a warm kind of magic, the kind that inspires a smile to crawl onto faces, eyes to gleam of happiness. This type of culinary magic is beautiful, beautiful like the sun falling into the ocean and a spark kindling into flames. It is a kind of magic that units people and worlds, universes and hearts. It is a kind of magic that is kept and held, cupped in the curved plans of our hands, passed on from generations and generations, spoken for the world to hear; a recipe. A recipe for magic.

Below are some pictures of my experience at The Hutong:

Sichuan Style Boiled Beef

Sichuan Noodle Salad with Chicken

Stir-Fried Cauliflower with Black Beans

While nested in the cozy rooms of The Hutong, we mixed up fragrant spices and flavors, learned the history and culture of Sichuan food, and how to use Chinese cleavers, then took a bite of our hard work. Although there were some sanitary concerns a lot of people were sick, blowing their noses and then touching the food, or carelessly throwing the uncooked vegetables into the pot, that posed as a challenge to eat the food without overthinking, the food offered an unexpected glimpse into exceptional Chinese cuisine. It was spicy, citrusy, sweet, and delicious; it was magic.

Personalized Tea

After the spontaneous ride of different Sichuan flavors, we settled down to make our own personalized traditional Chinese tea. We choose different flavors to add in our tea like floral scents and bitter berries. However, the price of the tea was a little unrealistic, as tea from local Chinese Teashops sold in for a much larger amount is a lot cheaper.

After this delightful experience that was way overpriced that OneDay offered, it has has once again reminded me of my dream and the importance of OneDay–a day where students can express themselves from using their voices to their hands and mind, and create the one thing that breaks down the walls and redefines the fundamental laws of mankind; art. Or magic.

Current Events-A deadly virus

<> on October 5, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia.

Some Questions to Consider:

What would you do if you had the power to help the people suffering from this outbreak? Do you agree with what the U.S. is doing right now, to keep back the CDC disease specialists because of the civil unrest in Congo? Or could it be the fear of spreading the virus further, possibly to the U.S.? Imagine if the Ebola virus had spread to China, or across the entire world. What would happen? Would we easily back down to a virus and let it destroy civilization and eat away humanity?

The stink of disease. The chaos of war. The millions of tears dropped on tombstones. The grieving hearts of broken families. A deadly virus, terrifying and remorseless, twisting its way back to Northern Congo, West Africa, destroying life once again for the 10th time since 1976. Global news platforms like CNN, BBC, and Newsela, are bursting with the newest updates and information about the most recent Ebola outbreak in Congo that erupted in August 2018. It is the second time this year where the Ebola virus is endemic. Right now, Congo is also in the middle of a long-term conflict with 50 armed groups causing violence and chaos, pausing important Ebola containment work for days. Because of concerns regarding the safety and security of the area, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are banned from helping treat and contain the outbreak, so global health experts are urging the Trump administration to allow them, “some of the world’s most experienced disease specialists” (Anna, 2018, Newsela), to return to northeastern Congo to help fight the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. At this moment, there are 471 probable cases of the virus and 273 deaths. However, many new cases of the outbreak are not caused by known infections, and “alarming evidence that gaps in tracking the disease remain” (Anna, 2018, Newsela). WHO emergencies chief Dr. Peter Salama has predicted that this Ebola outbreak will last at least another six months before it can be contained because it is dangerous and unpredictable, with a high risk of spreading to neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda, taking more lives with it. Despite the dire situations, doctors are trying their best to find a solution to the problem fast. 41,000 people have been given an experimental vaccine that has been proved to be highly protective against the deadly virus and 149 people have recovered from the outbreak! Nonetheless, 44 health workers have been infected with the virus, 12 of which have died.

The 273 deaths and 471 probable cases can also be seen as 237 daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, wives or husbands snatched away by the plague, or the 471 daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, lovers, wives or husbands lying at the edge of consciousness, awaiting their fate that has been decided by a virus. Again. These 273 corpses and 471 probable cases are not just numbers, but real people with real lives, real lives that are being taken by a disease outbreak. It is almost unbelievable and uttermost surprising, to the point where it is likely that this outbreak would be predicted in the past, that this is the second Ebola outbreak in Congo this year, and the risks of it spreading is even higher than before. With a deep, dreadful sense of hypochondria, the Ebola virus is also escalating fast, not in a good way, as there have been 18 more cases of Ebola in Congo and five more deaths reported in just two days. Although everyone is trying their best to contain the disease, the outbreak is predicted to last at least another six months before it can be contained, so there is plenty of time for the virus to spread. WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that more than a million refugees are traveling near the border of Congo, which is a potential risk factor for the spread of Ebola.

The U.S. was urged by global health experts to send disease specialists over to contain the outbreak, but because of the violence, they were put on hold. A dangerous rebel attack in Congo “forced health workers to halt vaccinations and the tracing of people who have been in contact with suspected Ebola patients” (Scutti, 2018, BBC). Because of safety issues, it is understandable why the U.S. is permitting disease specialists from entering Congo because it is an unsafe environment. Kathy Harben, a CDC spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We remain hopeful that the security situation improves so we can return to the affected communities.” The U.S.’s hesitance may also be explained by the fear of further spreading the virus. In the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the virus had been present in the U.S., but luckily didn’t erupt into an outbreak, however, the risk of spreading the disease further is still the silent death sentence looming over the horizon. Nevertheless, various medical magazines are stressing that because of the worsening of the outbreak, it is crucial that the security concerns need to be addressed as soon as possible so the CDC staff can do return to Congo. Dr. Stacey Mearns, who worked closely with the CDC during the outbreak, said: “If the (U.S.) ban were not in place, the CDC would have a big and growing presence here.” At the moment, U.S. is sending thousands of responders to West Africa from the CDC and even the military to control the outbreak and ensure safety among everyone there.

While people are trying to contain the Ebola virus, why aren’t they also working on curing the root of the disease so there won’t ever be an outbreak in the future, so people won’t have to worry about the virus spreading across the world? A huge part of why Africa is the home to many of the largest disease outbreaks in history is because of the living conditions in some places. So why don’t specialists start there? World Health Organization’s Deputy Director-General for Emergency Preparedness and Response said: “[We] will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Congolese health ministry to do whatever it takes to bring the outbreak to an end.” But the Ebola virus still might resurface again in the future, so the people of Congo, the doctors and nurses, CDC staff, and the rest of society—their futures are written by a virus. All the government propaganda, political debates, the shiny new plans to discover more of our universe, to launch new spaceships onto the moon, can be demolished by a single virus, that had sprouted outbreak after outbreak, ruining the lives of 471, murdering 273. The stink of disease hangs in the air as a dying girl takes her last shuddering breaths. The stink of death. The chaos of war and the pop, pop, pop, of bullets whistling through the disease stained air. The millions of tears dropped on tombstones, dripping on the flowers and wetting the cold stone. The grieving hearts of broken families, already familiar to the impending fear and pain of another dreadful outbreak. A deadly virus, terrifying and remorseless, twisting its way back into the crowd of beating hearts.

Walking through the Legation Quarter where the Boxer Rebellion took place more than 100 years later…

Before:

The Stink of Death. The chaos of War. The sharp metallic tang of Blood. The silent yet deadly inferno of Bombs. A battle for Land. A war for Independence.

Now:

The sound of busy streets. Traffic. People. Street vendors. The swoosh of golden leaves ruffling in the wind, clinging onto trees for dear life. The shuffle of students through the sidewalk. Their complaints of cold, and bursts of laughter. The thump of their shoes on the ground where people once fought, of two different lands, where people died, of the same color blood. A battle for Land. A war for Independence.

*          *           *

I think the Boxers do not deserve a bad rap, because their motives were understandable, however, their responses to what was happening revealed a darker side, as their responses went a bit overboard. Nevertheless, the Boxers were only fighting for their rights, to take back their land and to preserve their country’s culture. They didn’t want the ‘intruders’ on their land, so they will take back what they rightfully own, with terrifying persistence and brutality as revenge. When some other more technologically advanced country storms in and claims your country, thinking that they are the superior race with the almighty Lord, it is understandable to want to hit back harder, callously, to show that they will not back down without a fight, and they they will not surrender before taking back what belongs to them. The Chinese did nothing wrong, as the foreigners and the ethnocentric Christian missionaries marched in and wanted to colonize China or make it a better nation by converting it to Christianity. The government didn’t do anything in response, so the ordinary Chinese villagers decided to take action. They were very courages to do this, to stand up for their country, knowing that they were fighting against distinguished foreign forces, even if they ultimately failed at the end. Another thing is, the Chinese acted the way they did, aggressively, because most of the Boxer War was based off of a hideous language barrier; a terribly deceiving misconception. To summarize, I the Boxers do not deserve a bad rap, because their motives were understandable, and that their actions (that went a bit overboard) could be justified by the misconceptions the language barrier caused, and in their perspective, they are just the ordinary villagers trying to fight for their rights, that became heroes that fought the war for independence. 

My Avatar-Inner Monster

“The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell more truths than those with open faces.”-Marie Lu

We all have our inner monsters.

The ones that roar and claw,

back us up in our most furious moments,

only to vanish in the burning fire it appeared in just moments go.

There are the ones that are silent and stay,

leaving a dark shadow that never seems to go away;

a constant companion standing in the corner of every picture,

a snapshot of the secrets we try so hard to hide,

hide behind angels and demons, monsters and beasts,

smears of blood on our cheeks, empty eyes and forced smiles–

so many secretes that we forget that maybe the monster inside of us are us,

are the secrets we try to hide,

I is the hardest word to define.

We all have are our inner monsters.

So let’s let them out of their cages and tell the truth,

Roar it. Scream it. Sew our mouths shut and show it.

Smear it on our cheeks the same way we used to hide behind them.

Tell them through our empty eyes the same way we used them to hide.

But no matter what, let’s step back and let our inner monsters

tell the truth.

Design: Robot Petting Zoo-Jellyfish of the Deep Sea


In Design class, we were asked to make a robot animal to create a robot petting zoo for our first-grade guests who will be visiting our zoo at the end of the trimester. Me and my partner decided to create a jellyfish, since it is unique and different from the other animals made out of regular cardboard boxes. Below, I will be answering these three questions/prompts in the perspective of the jellyfish I made: What my biggest obstacle was… Skills that I learned or developed…​Whether I thought this product was successful or not because…​

*     *     *

The water feels cold today. It chills my new, tender skin, my fragile body, the delicate tentacles swaying softly behind me. I stay still, not because I don’t want to move, but because they haven’t told me so. The water is still, the darkness around be silent, a creature waiting to be awoken. My new energy flow through my veins, or the wires that connect the program to me. A thick blue wire connected to my center snakes into the darkness of the water around me. I am told that it is my life support, without it I am powerless, I am an empty carcass waiting to be brought back to life  is the main transporter of instructions. Instructions: little letters and numbers called code, glue me into place. I am not activated, not yet, so I stay still in the dark. Today will not be the first time I will be activated. Before, they have tested me, smiling and laughing in triumph that I had moved. They started laughing when I started creaking. The wooden beams suspended through my center strains in my weight, sweat glistening on their smooth wooden backs and squeaking and screaming and threatening to break. My creators have been through many odds to create me, leaping through obstacles like the wobbly wooden support beams, screwing them into place, reinforcing with more material so it does nothing more then creak. They learnt how to connect my veins and send me instructions, the sweet touch of power bringing me alive…

In the cold silence, a heart starts beating. A strange yet anticipated warmth stretches through my veins–a small fire just burning. The ember turns into a flame, pumping adrenaline into my center. I look down, a small pudgy hand is wrapped around one of my tentacles, activating the censor. The fire burns brighter and brighter warming the cold around me, reaching to the exploding climax where my body turns once, creak, turns the second time, creak. The hand lets go. I stop moving, all is still in the cold waters, my tentacles disturbing the peace, cutting through the moment of stillness.

The children laugh, jumping in happiness (or horror?), smiles of joy (or screams of fear?) crinkling their young faces, and now I know that I had served my purpose, and I hear it in my creator’s words of success that I had been an triumph. Later, another ember sparks, another fire burns, until I’m worn out (I’ve never been used this much before), until the wooden support beams at my center are almost collapsing in exhaustion, panting and quivering to hold on any longer.

Later, the children’s laughter fade away. My sudden euphoric, fiery moment is lost, snatched away by the resuming silence. My heart thumps fast, and adrenaline creeps away. Where are they going? I wonder, Did they lose interest in me? I can move again for them, if the’d just touch my tentacle then—The thick blue wire is yanked away from my center, and the strange, not yet familiar thumping of my heart stops, the claws of deactivation pull me back into that dark, silent void. The lights are out. The power cut. I settle back into eternal slumber.

The Island of the Thrown-Away by Christina

They float on the dead sea;

Bits and pieces of vibrant confetti

sprinkled on the fading sea,

the dull gray waters frothing like a rabid beast,

staring up at the light scarlet sky,

straining to stay alive,

weak waves swirling and releasing,

constantly amending,

yet remaining unchanged.

Trying to heal new wounds,

but sighing in fair dismay.

Bobbing not far away are they;

a miscellany of the thrown-away,

the long forgotten, the leftovers of they:

A gathering of buoys, waiting to be saved.

A lifeboat drifting not far away.

A broken constellation of abandoned toys—

All the wafting remnants of the ancient ruins;

Specks of rectangular-shaped paper

straying aimlessly on the waning sea,

with numbers and faces to show a history.

Shattered boxes with chips and wires,

a cracked screen, fractured keys,

nothing but a worthless disease.

 

Undersea, billowing sheets of color sway in the current,

like jellyfish from the myths before,

with dangerous stings, long and flowing like ribbons,

wrapping around beating hearts and

squeezing, until bruises bloom and skin tears,

venom find its way into bones, like a silent executioner

hiding in the shadows of night,

tricked by the light

into thinking it’s not there.

The “jellyfish” disappears with the waves and

floats on the dead sea.

 

Up on the light scarlet sky, the sun wavers,

struggling to penetrate the veil of red smoke,

struggling to light up the fading sea—

Struggling, fighting, losing. A

frail seabird flies over the wavering sun, a

Northern Gannet, probably the last, it seems.

The gannet’s white feathers are

coated with dust and grime, the

oil and toxins in the sea and air.

It’s head, once a rich golden, now seems gray.

It’s wings, half white half black, are quivering;

an ancient machine not up to date,

the gears and tires squealing,

toiling and pushing to stay alive.

The bird swoops down and plunges into the

expiring ocean. A blizzard of bubbles

wrap around the gannet, tangling it in an

newfound thrill, until the water distills,

leaving the starving bird alone in the

dead sea. It paddles around,

trying to find food, ignoring it’s failing body,

pushing through an ocean full of the leftovers of they,

an ocean where bodies are dying, stomachs starving,

brains misfunctioning, hearts stopping.

The seabird pushes through, deeper and deeper,

Farther and farther, straining its eyes and nose to look and smell for prey

in the inky gray. But…

Nothing. Just bits and pieces of colorful confetti.

Until: A billowing sheet of white.

 

It’s heart lurches in surprise. A

jellyfish? It thinks, Oh how lucky am I!

The gannet uses the last of its strength to paddle

Forward, clamping its’ beak on the jellyfish tight,

desperate not to lose the fight,

clinging on to its precious food, its

savior, its treasure, the only driftwood in a rushing river, the

lifeboat on a stormy sea. With its jellyfish,

the gannet breaks out of the inky darkness,

into a world where the leftovers of they

fill the sea, where the sky is a light scarlet,

the sun barely seen. The seabird takes flight,

spreading its’ wings in delight,

and with sharp blue eyes it picks out a landing;

a deflated, abandoned lifeboat not far away.

The gannet sets the jellyfish down;

a limp, sheer gray sheet, with bits of algae clinging to on,

committing a crime, helping to disguise an imposter.

The gannet breathes in the mouth-watering scent,

And gobbles it up, savoring the first taste of food in a lifetime of starvation.

The seabird, now greedy for more, plunges back into the sea,

Blinded by hands of gluttony, every one of the floating garbage on the dead sea

seems to turn into precious food; a

tiny heart beating, tiny mouths screaming:

Eat me! Eat me! I’m a fleshy fish! I’m a plump squid!

I’m a succulent, big jellyfish!

The gannet grins, huge and great, filled with hunger,

thinking, this will all be mine, I will be stronger, I can finally fly, away from this red sky—

I can survive one other day,

or perhaps one other week…

And the seabird eats all the garbage

on the dead sea.

 

A few weeks later…

 

The sun is hidden by a veil of red smoke.

The sky is still, no birds with golden heads

and black and white wings, this time,

just still. Just…

dying.

The even weaker waves swirl and release,

So pathetic in attempt,

Trying to amend, the

new wounds, but sighing in fair dismay.

 

At night, the air is still, but for the

sickly waves that beat against the

jagged rocks with crushing force,

the sound like drums of death

in the dead of night, pounding against a

miscellany of the thrown-away,

pieces of the leftovers of they,

remnants of another better time,

bobbing up and down to the rhythm of

music, a dark, deep, beat. Ahead, a

looming figure approaches, menacing and gray

against the red smoke, with shadowy silhouettes

clashing and swaying on top.

The figure draws close, revealing the garbage that makes it up:

algae bearing Styrofoam, plastic bags, bottles, to bottle caps,

straws and wrappers—all the leftovers of they. A

plastic island, it is, inhabiting human bodies

and their often parties,

blasting music and throwing beer bottles into the ocean.

A “save our world” sign from before,

bobs near the mayhem of noise,

forgotten forevermore.

The humans sway blindly on their feet,

Plastic sunglasses on their faces,

moving their bodies to the sync of music,

laughing and chatting with voices of a delusion.

 

A girl, Cara, sits at the edge, on a plastic chair,

where the weak waves softly lap at the shore,

staring out at the infinite sea, the endless sky,

deep in the thralls of a delusion.

She wears her sunglasses like she should,

Humming softly to the wind,

Alone, in this moment, on the

dead sea, sitting on an island of the

leftovers of her kind. Behind her, the

music thumps loudly, sleek bodies sweating and swaying,

drinking and laughing,

living life in their own little delusion,

oblivious to their dying ocean,

or maybe not; one, two, three—

bodies dances with an item of the thrown-away;

an algae covered bottle, an billowing sheet of white, a broken buoy—

raising them in the air and shouting jumbled up words,

laughing and throwing it back into the dying sea,

as if nothing is wrong,

as if the world isn’t already gone,

as if they have nothing to do with the

red smoke in the air and the garbage like confetti in the fading sea,

as if they can pretend nothing is happening because

at least they have a heart breathing, lungs working, a stomach not starving…

The partygoers dance and chat, wrapped up in a delusion.

The girl, Cara, sits alone at the edge, with her own thoughts.

The remnants of another time float on the gray sea.

Somewhere, the last Northern Gannet realizes it’s mistake,

And another heart stops, another object floats on the sea,

Another life snatched away by the leftovers of they.

The night continues on.

 

The reflection of the morning sun flickers and rolls on the

gray surface of the sickly ocean, sifting with the weak waves.

The sun reluctantly peeks out of the horizon,

a wavering circle of light rising up to meet the day,

taking laborious steps one by one,

to reach the light scarlet sky and maybe beyond,

to light up an expiring world and hope for it to respond.

 

The world is quiet this morning,

no thumping music, or swaying bodies,

just stillness, until: Thud, thud, thud.

Something bumps into the island of the thrown-away,

rippling the sickly waters, disturbing the new ring of garbage—

bits of colorful confetti, strewn across the dying sea.

The bodies on the island lay still, snoring softly, sleeping soundly,

collapsed onto the ground, exhausted, from last night’s party,

their glasses still on their faces,

half empties beer bottle still clutched in their hands.

 

Cara is asleep in her chair, her mouth slightly apart,

a drop of drool on the corner of her mouth.

The faint bumping sound,

now an insistent thawk, rocks the island,

causing the girl’s plastic chair to tip,

and she falls off and onto the floor with a thump,

her plastic glasses falling off from her face and bounces

one the plastic ground, once, twice, for the third time,

before bouncing into the dying ocean with a plop.

The thudding stops.

 

The fall cuts through the fabric of a lifelong delusion,

and Cara blinks, jumps up, her mouth wide, shaped in surprise,

her heart beating fast, her brain whirring quickly at last,

she thinks: Why was I on the floor? Why did my chair tip over?

And then: Wait. What is this monstrous place?

She tries rubbing her eyes,

trying in vain to rub away the blur of sleep, the

horrible scene before her;

of plastic and trash everywhere, of the

gray and sickly sea, more like a soup of waste, she thinks, and

Oh! The sky! The red, horrid sky!

The repugnant air clogs her nostrils, and oh she

hopes to reenter that world of delusions,

Which brings her to realize,

to take away her hands from her eyes, that her

sunglasses are missing, and she searches on hands and knees,

frantically turning her head around,

searching for sunglasses that are not there.

Panic seizes her throat, and her breaths turn into pants, she thinks:

I am going to get in trouble, I can’t lose it,

they won’t allow it, they won’t allow it!

Her breaths fog the air around her,

and suddenly it seems impossibly cold.

She shivers in her clothes,

blinded by the grayness around her,

convincing herself that this is all a dream.

Cara starts to calm down, breathing in and out,

Waiting for the moment to reveal itself,

to open up the fog curtains and scream that this is all a dream.

Because then everything would be alright. Alright.

When the fog disperses, the scene around her stays the same,

but the Thud, thud, thud, resumes,

slicing through the atmosphere like a blade.

 

Her heart is a dead weight,

plagued by the realization that this is not a dream.

She notices the strange noise, and

it rips her out of the moment of hysteria, and a

false, worthless hope.

What is this noise? She wonders,

face scrunching up in confusion and fear.

She turns her head and looks around,

seeing the sleeping figures everywhere,

and the realization hits her deep:

Why am I the only one able to hear this strange noise?

Overcome by wonder,

Cara walks around yonder,

looking for the source of the noise,

thud, thud, thud, it echoes,

bringing her up to the side of the island,

and there it is, a big black thing, hulking, half submerged in the water,

dead, it seems. But what makes Cara shout in terror, is the

rainbow eruption of garbage,

the thrown-away, the long forgotten—

bursting out of the creature’s mouth; an

explosion of color in this dying world.

 

Horror. Absolute horror and disgust. It is an

inky black hand grasping her heart; a

cold, slick snake nesting in the pit of her stomach.

Tears had sprung into her eyes without her permission,

threatening to burst out. She forces them back,

because what good will crying do?

Cara takes a deep breath and peers closely at the carcass:

It’s a whale! A baby whale! She realizes.

It’s one of the creatures she had heard

stories about, exploring the deep oceans and flying through moons,

back to a time when the sky was blue and the water pure,

when the world needed no cure,

where birds soared overhead and fish swam underneath,

the fantasy of a better world

swift as a shadow, short as a blink,

never to be linked,

to the realities of life, and the

dirty truth they try so desperately to hide.

 

Rage, hot fury, burns through her;

a white hot poker scorching through her chest.

Who did this!? She thinks, Who did this!?

In her mind, questions spring out,

so many that she can’t think straight.

But deep down, she knows the truth, even if it’s too late:

She did this. Along with her people.

They have poisoned the sea, and turned the sky red.

They have created this mess of a world,

and now they dwell, in a lifetime of delusions,

on an island of their own mistakes.

Ignorance is bliss,

knowledge is a burden no one wants to carry. The sleeping

bodies around her are still, lifeless but for the snoring,

oblivious to the damage they’d caused. It is then that the girl realizes:

she is alone in this mess. And she knows what she has to do.

When she is ready, she whispers those scared words:

“If this is life, then I do not want to live as I had. I want to make a difference.”

And she jumps into the dying ocean,

to her victory or to her grave, but nevertheless,

the dull gray waters froth like a rabid beast,

the strong waves swirling and churning, to swallow her whole.

 

A few weeks later…

 

A powerful wave splashes on the plastic island,

showering the sleeping bodies near the edge

with water colder than ice.

They wake with a start, their glasses taken by the wave,

promising a certain sacrifice. A women was first to

recover in the small group of the awake.

Her eyes dart around frantically, and she starts crying:

“Cara! Where’s my baby Cara?”

The father joins her, and soon

they are both like mamma and papa

birds crying over an empty nest,

the others looking around in horror and wonder at their dying world,

trapped in the shocking truth, until:

Thud, thud, thud, something bumps into the island of the thrown-away.

 

The awake jolt up in surprise.

They follow the noise, like Cara did before them,

to the edge of the island, and they see:

The body of a young girl.

 

Her eyes are closed, but her mouth is opened wide,

and exploding out is a rainbow eruption of garbage,

the thrown-away, the long forgotten—

They gasp in horror. The mother bursts into tears at her daughter’s body,

and in her shock, she jumps into the raging waters, the

waves claiming her, dragging her under,

until she is nothing but a feather in the current,

submerged until she’s all gone.

 

In the future…

 

Once upon a time,

A little girl called Cara,

jumped into the frothing sea,

in attempt to cleanse the sea of the thrown-away

the long forgotten, the leftovers of they.

But one person can never save the world alone;

After her body washed ashore, and the main uproar—

a group of people called The Awake

continued her foolish dream,

flying into the water like heroes of another delusion,

jumping to their death or to another time,

not sure if there is another mountain to climb.

Off they go armored with their will and dreams,

into an forest, an stormy ocean, a wobbly future,

the red sky above, into a fate unknown.

 

Far away, on a distant land, past the gathering of

Broken, sinking buoys, waiting to be saved,

A deflated lifeboat drifting not far away,

A complete constellation of abandoned toys,

a porcelain doll, called Cara, with shattered remains,

it’s tiny plastic sunglass floating far far away—

All the wafting remnants of the ancient ruins,

now a flame kindled from one dying ember,

illuminating a sky tinted red, where a

seabird—a Northern Gannet, it seems,

was spotted flying high above,

over the wavering sun and over the great dying seas;

a flash of a white-gold ghost in the light scarlet sky.

 

 

The Brightest Star in the Sky by Christina-Book Cover Design-The Midnight Star Resolution/Theme Analysis

PDF Version: The Midnight Star Book Cover by Christina

Some things to know:

Full moon: The moon represents one’s true self, the feelings, and the unconscious mind.

Crescent Moon: The word “crescent” comes from the Latin term ceres meaning to “bring forth, create”, and crescere, is the Latin term for “grow, thrive”. The Crescent Moon symbolizes the removal of negative energy in your life, people or habits that you don’t need and that is harming you. The Crescent Moon also symbolizes growth and creativity.

204: My birthday

For my resolution blog post, I decided to design a book cover for Marie Lu’s The Midnight Star, the breathtaking conclusion to The Young Elites trilogy. You can click here to go to The Midnight Star’s Goodreads page, and here to read some quotes from the book. For the book cover, I painted the background of my design using watercolor, and then I scanned it into my laptop and put it in Canva so I can add text to my book cover. The theme of this book that love conquers all; It could be your end or your beginning, but it will take over your life. It is also realizing what one’s true desires are, and what one would want others to say about them. I have also written an in-depth explanation/analysis about the theme as well as the whole story behind the book cover. Like my previous blog posts, I will be introducing the topic through a short story (the story behind the book cover I designed). I have also included elements from my previous posts in this one, so it is best to have read the first two posts and then this. To understand the theme of the book, and grasp the message behind my words and the book cover, the reader also has to analyze my writing, and think about my choices (E.g.: What does a rose/swan symbolize? Try to look beyond the words). Enjoy!

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Glittering pinpricks of light reflect on the glassy surface of the water, a whole night of stars hanging on the pitch-black curtain draped over the sky. A luminous full silver moon hangs low on the sky, its round bottom a breath away from touching the dark waters, that stretch as far as the eye can see, to infinity, and beyond. A lute sounds in the distance, the notes drifting in the air, flying up and down and colliding into each other, strung together to create a tender harmony. A brilliant white swan glides through the waters, rippling the glassy surface, cutting through the smooth top, creating swirls in the water that spiral in in in. The water was thick and warm, black like liquid obsidian, the air light and breezy. From the water, the white swan looks black, with glowing red eyes instead of soft brown. But on the surface on the water, the swan, with its sleek long neck and its silky white feathers, lovely as ever, drifts towards a vivid red rose that grows from a blanket of stars. Thorns sprout from the steam, viciously sharp under the moonlight. The petals of the rose are a delicate velvet, releasing their grasp on the bud, letting go of each other, falling back into the promising blanket of stars. The petals float for a moment, balancing on the thin line of oxygen and water, before the blanket eventually claims it, wrapping the petals in its cold embrace. The swan bends its long neck and plucks the flower from the water before all the petals fall off, and pushes off from the water. It stretches its’ wings wide and takes flight, cutting through the still atmosphere of night, sailing above a sea of dazzling stars. The swan carries the fading rose in its beak, the last petals already weak, the life draining without the power of the cold embrace from the blanket of stars. The swan flies to the moon, a shadow of a bird carrying a rose, up up and higher, until the swan and its’ rose is nothing but a distant light, shining the brightest in a whole sky of stars.

Back at the rippling sea of light, a stray white feather drifts lazily down, perhaps from the swan, swayed gently to the side by the soft currents in the air, past the bright, luminous moon, until it finally settles on the water, so light it merely perches on the surface, before a gust of wind blows, making water that flows, and the feather is lost in the current, submerged until it’s all gone.

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Moonlight hits the smooth surface of the water, the stars shining bright overhead. The light hardly penetrates the surface of the water, a sea of inky darkness. 204 meters down the smooth surface, amidst the opaque darkness, a rusty shark cage drifts aimlessly like a carcass. Inside the cage, a rotting wooden coffin bumps into the corroded bars, the loose nails almost falling out, the tiny, seemingly insignificant forms of life that cling to the wood, are shaken awake from their slumber. They start milling about, swimming away or climbing into the cracks of the wood, disturbing whatever is within. The question still remains unanswered, as to what lies within. A thick steel chain is attached to the cage, to shackle it in place, the chain stretching deeper into the darkness.

The cage and the coffin settle down again, the creatures returning to sleep, surrendering to the reassuring hug of darkness. Up above, bright red circles seem to drift down, a pop of color cutting through the black. It drops closer to the cage, revealing itself to be rose petals, and then they rain on top of it, tumbling-head-over-heels into it, then it falls right through the cage, deep into the darkness.

With the petals still raining down, the lid of the coffin shifts, a thud sounds, and it is pushed aside. Inside is shadows, until it steps away to reveal a girl, with corpse-white skin, blue lips, and raven black hair. She wears nothing but a thin white hospital gown, that billows in the water, like ghosts raised from the dead. She remains still. Her hands are clasped to the side, with no sign of her opening the coffin. And then she opens her eyes; Bloodshot and faded. The girl opens her mouth, to scream, perhaps, and bubbles come out. She strains to breathe, the veins on her neck popping out.  She rises up and kicks away the rotting coffin, only to find that she is in another prison. She almost shouts out in frustration and panic, for she doesn’t have much air left in her lungs, but she catches herself and notices the shower of rose petals outside her prison. Instantly, her bloodshot eyes clear, the brightness and life returning to it, as if the petals has cast a spell over her, hypnotizing her in its’ fragile beauty. The rose petals don’t fall into the cage though, not with the girl inside—Such beauty will not touch the monster in the cage. Instead, they follow a route outside the cage, falling anywhere but inside, a thing of beauty too afraid to touch the monster in the cage.

The girl’s eyes widen in astonishment, never seeing something as strange (and beautiful?) as this ever before. She reaches out in wonder to touch the petals, to stroke the delicate velvet, aiming to squeeze her hand through the rusted bars, but then the world jerks and her hand hits the metal bars, but goes through.

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 In Marie Lu’s The Young Elites trilogy, the main character, Adelina Amouteru, also known as the white wolf, has stalked into the dark waters in a cloak of false courage, hypnotized by her anger and hatred, only to be claimed by the vicious darkness, to be dragged under, locked in a coffin, then thrown into a cage, chained to the ominous black, falling for the illusion of something more. But then glimmers of hope rain down, slicing through the armor of darkness, and she discovers something else, something better, something more. Rose petals rain down, but they avoid her and her cage, the monster in the prison. But then she reaches out to touch the petals, overcome by desire and wonder, allured by the promise of a new beginning. But then the world jerks and her hand hits the rusted metal bars of her prison, and then goes through.

In The Midnight Star, Adelina succumbs to the treacherous dark waters, ruling her empire with fear, precariously balancing a crown of jewels on her head. She was becoming  “…a wicked queen,”( p135), known as “…a worker of illusions, a girl who brought darkness across the lands.”(p135) The whispers in her head aren’t helping either, planting themselves into her brain, they take root and grow. They flourish and find homes in hearts. They build branches around her bones, steadying her when she’s feeling unsure, planting her feet to the ground when she stares at doubt in the face. The whispers tell her that she wants power and darkness and nothing else, telling her to squash any compassion, any human emotions, so she won’t be hurt, used, and cast aside ever again. So she can rule, and rule alone.

Throughout the book, Adelina has let herself feel for Magiano, the boy who opened her heart and let the birds fly. However, the main type of love in this book is not a romance, but rather the power of sisterhood, the relationship between family, the memories and whispered promises shared in those precious moments. The theme is about sisterhood and the power of love binding family back together. The Rose Society, the second book of The Young Elites trilogy, ended with a conflict between Adelina and her sister, which impacted a huge part of the third and last book. [Spoiler alert!] Adelina’s love for her sister ultimately led to her death. Adelina sacrificed her life to the gods to give it to her sister, so her sister can live. “ ‘Sisters forever,’ Until Death, even in death, even beyond.” (p296)

At the beginning of the book, Adelina was introduced as this evil queen, ruling amidst the shroud of darkness: “She was ice personified. There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen. -A witness’s account of Queen Adelina’s siege on the nation of Dumor, The Village of Pon-de-Terre, 28 Marzien, 1402” (p 3) The theme felt dark and powerful, unlike most themes in most novels. It was the same message delivered in the previous books; to hurt first, to strike first, to use fear as a sword, to let the vicious darkness within evade your being. To embrace it. To become the demon inside all of us, the black swan with glaring red eyes. The message was to surrender to the darkness when it fights to claim you. It was to reinforce the iron surrounding your heart. To be selfish and take all before others do before you. To be the nightmare that haunts everyone’s dreams. Seize power, seize it quick, cold, brutally. Do anything. Take it. Power is gold, so become the most terrifying monster to keep it.

However now, at the end of this book, when Adelina gave up her own life for her sister’s, the theme switched from one of darkness to one of light. Through Adelina’s actions, it is certain that there is always a light shining through our darkest moments, but only if we peel back the curtain covering it up, if only we let ourselves see the brightest of stars that are born on the darkest of nights, pick out the constellations that tell a story. When the sun sets, lighting fire to the horizon, a watercolor of flames running into each other, lighting hearts and making new shades of the same color; it is the whispered promise of another day, another beginning, another sunrise. When the moon kisses the night sky, shining its’ light on the water, where a swan glides gracefully, to the music of a lute, the perfect representation of grace, beauty, elegance and pure, true love. And when it plucks the rose out of the water, saving it before all the petals let go, it promises the rose of a new beginning, a new hope, before it takes off and flies farther and farther, until the swan and its’ rose is nothing but a distant star. The theme of this book is that love conquers all, being the end or the beginning, it stretches far beyond the stars, taking over one universe after another. When the rose petals let go of each other and drift towards the realm of the dark waters, when the swan takes flight but a stray feather is left behind, caught in the ripples, then submerged into the water until it’s all gone—when all those events happen, like the tiny, insignificant ripples on the smooth glassy surface of water, it can alter a whole world. Change an entire story. Reveal the truth; Open one’s eyes to see what they really want. Create a legacy. Make you ask the question: What do you want others to say about you? What story do you want them to tell? “Someday, when I am nothing but dust and wind, what tale will they tell about me?” (Adelina Amouteru p298)

Love, I think, is a strange sort of thing. It is a black feather on the shore of midnight, the single shriveled rose petal that falls off and drifts down, closing eyes and weaving lies. It is a whispered threat, fingers taunting, a cold hand gripping at the heart. It smashes walls down, crushes iron cages, stomps on what lays within, and then leaves. Disappears. Allowing sunlight to exist in the deepest caves of the ocean, granting hope when none exists. Love is a bitter, vicious darkness, the scattered embers of a dying fire winking out of existence, and sometimes, it just won’t let go.

Love, I think, is a strange sort of thing. It’s a white feather on the shore of midnight, the single rose petal that falls off and drifts down, opening eyes and weaving lies. It is a whispered promise, soft fingers brushing skin, the twinkling stars in the sky, the full moon illuminating the darkness. It unlocks the doors, smashes away the walls to save whatever is left, leaving room sunlight in the deepest caves of the ocean, granting hope when none exists. Even in the darkest times, even when the currents threaten to pull the feather under, love is the warrior fighting, the rose sacrificing, the scattered embers of a dying fire battling to ignite…And at the end, love conquers all.

“After a lifetime of darkness, I want to leave something behind that is made out of light.” (Adelina Amouteru p297) Adelina chose light at the end, refusing to succumb to the treacherous dark waters. This action itself shows how much bravery it must take, to leave a lifetime of the whispers who held her close, protecting her in an armor of thorns, to smash down those iron walls, break free of the rusty metal 204 meters down, and let the falling rose petals save her from the dark. To willingly hand over that small box containing her life to someone else, to the sister she hated not so long ago, so that her sister can live, live a better life than Adelina herself ever could. At the beginning, when Adelina was still wrapped up in the chaos of the whisper’s taunts, and the churning darkness inside of her, her main goal was to save herself no matter what, embracing the selfishness and the demon within. Throughout the book, Adelina kept telling herself that she hated her sister, because she had betrayed her like everyone else, used her, hurt her, betrayed her, and then thrown her aside. Adelina drills it into herself that she does not care for Violetta (her sister) anymore. But then she realizes, at the last second, that she does not want to live as she had, ruling with fear and drowning in darkness, precariously balancing the crown of jewels on her head. “[I’d] come here for myself. That was [my] goal from the beginning, to save [myself] under the guise of saving the world. I spent my entire life fighting for [my] welfare and power, destroying in order to make it happen. [I] wanted to live. [I] still want to live. But [I] don’t want to live as [I] had.” (Adelina Amouteru p294)

In her mind, the tendrils of darkness gradually disperse, vanishing little by little to reveal the clean white tiles of the hallway underneath. The whispers fade until there is silence for the first time in forever. The hallway is empty, silent. Nothing. Nothing to cloud her mind and manipulate her decisions. For once, the hallway is clear. And she can think. And she can start asking questions. Dangerous questions. What would a life without power (her Elite ability and her crown) be like? Her trained response tugs her towards darkness, telling her that life without power is dark and meaningless, nothing but an endless oblivion of black. But then she shakes away those thoughts. And really thinks. And then realizes the truth: “[My] life without power will be one of walking through a crowd without darkness tugging at [my] heart. It will be seeing Violetta in the living world, smiling again. It will be riding on the back of a horse with Magiano as we crest another mountain, searching for adventure. It will be a life without these whispers in [my] head. It will be life without [my] father’s ghost. It will be a life.” (Adelina Amouteru, p290)

The problem with Adelina is that behind the ice and darkness, the cold, unfeeling glare, she actually feels, cares, loves, and when she does, she does it too much. Loves too much. To the point it will conquer her life, take the reins to it and steer it towards the edge of a cliff, blinded by the illusion of saving a life. Adelina acknowledges this too; how love makes her vulnerable. “Without [her], I am less afraid of dying.” (p289) So isn’t it better just to put up iron walls so no one can ever break them down? To shoot the flying swan with its rose using an arrow so that it can sink into the dark waters and become nothing but a limp body with a dying rose, a feather in the current, submerged until it’s all gone? But then she realizes that “without [her], the world is that much darker.”(p289) Adelina has let fear rule her life and pushed away the love, it’s anonymous whispers urging her towards the edge of the cliff, into the dark waters. Adelina makes her people fear her, so they will obey her, thinking that she is wielding their fear, balancing it on the palm of her hand, just out of their reach, feeding the crown of jewels on her head, making the gems glitter even more. However, she forgets that fear is wielding her in that too-comforting embrace. She forgets that she is still bleeding from fresh wounds. She forgets that “ ‘You cannot harden your heart to the future just because of your past. You cannot use cruelty against yourself to justify cruelty to others.’ ” (Magiano, p 225) For so long has she used fear as her sword (p295), forgetting that love is her shield.

Adelina realizes that she has “I have killed and hurt. I have conquered and pillaged. I have done all of this in the name of my own desires, have done everything in life because of my own selfishness. I have always taken what I wanted, and it has never given me happiness. If I return to the surface, alone, I will forever remember this moment, the moment I decided to choose my own life over my sister’s. It will haunt me, even with Magiano at my side, until my death. What I saw for myself in my future is a future I cannot have, not with the past that I have already created. It is an illusion. Nothing more. Perhaps, after all the lives I have taken, my atonement is to restore life to one.” (Adelina Amouteru, p292-293)

In the book, the concept of love and light, the battle it fights, was introduced through an ancient folktale about the angel Compaisa (one of the god/angels in the book) and her story: “…the god Amare created a kingdom of people, who ungratefully turned their backs on him. Hurt and furious, Amare called on the lightning and thunder, and pushed up the seas to drown the kingdom beneath the waves. But he did not know that his daughter, Compasia, the angel of Empathy, had fallen in love with Eratosthenes, a boy in the kingdom. Only Compasia dared to defy Holy Amare. Even as her father drowned mankind in his floods, Compasia reached down to her mortal lover and transformed him into a swan. He flew high above the floodwaters, above the moons, and then higher still, until his feathers turned to stardust. Every night, when the world was quiet and only the stars were awake, Compasia would descend from the heavens to the earth, and the constellation of Compasia’s Swan would transform back into Eratosthenes; and together, the two would walk the world until the dawn separated them again.” -Marie Lu, The Midnight Star (p300)

The story I created based off of the theme was inspired by the tale of Compasia’s swan, except in the form of the myth/folktale I created, called The Swan and its Rose. “After she was gone, I sheathed her sword at my belt, draped her cloak over my shoulders, carried her heart in my arms, and, somehow, went on.” -Marie Lu, The Midnight Star (p303) Will Adelina and her loved ones unit like Compasia and Eratosthenes? The angel and her swan? Will the course of love bring them back together? Will they walk on the lands of earth and travel on the seas as one, meet in the cosmos and connect as a constellation?

In The Brightest Star in the Sky and A Vicious Darkness Within (my last blog post), the moon has always been a looming presence, shining their light on the blackness underneath. In A Vicious Darkness Within, the moon was described as full, round, and bright. In The Brightest Star in the Sky, the moon was also full. I choose to use the moon as a symbol because the moon shows transformation. The moon can be shy and bashful, hiding in the shadows, only showing a sliver of its true self, and we are is tricked by the light into thinking the other hidden half is not there, forgetting that the darkness is not a blanket, that the sun will soon rise, so the moon can retreat back to its darkness, taking the truth with it. But in the moment at least, the fleeting moment before the sun rises, the moon can lie to us, using the trick of light as a mask, to hide the craters and mountains of imperfections on its surface. And somedays, when the moon is feeling confident, it will show it’s whole self, all of its feelings and the unconscious mind, illuminating all the craters and mountains of imperfections, blinding us with all the light, so we can’t see its flaws. “The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell more truths than those with open faces.”-Marie Lu, The Rose Society

When the swan glides on the waters—a whirl of white feathers—its’ reflection on the waters tell another story. The dark and elegant black swan, with glowing vermillion eyes, star up at its’ counterpart, sneering with envy and hatred, vanishing as soon as the crescent moonlight shines on the white swan, hiding in the shadows just as the moon hide beside the dark, using the trick of light as a mask, deceiving us into thinking it’s not there, leaving only the half of light visible; the side detectable out in the open. However, in Adelina’s case, it is the other way around. She leaves the dark side out, the love and light in, stuffing it away into the shadows, tricked by the light into thinking it’s not there. But soon it will step out, like a moon revealing it’s whole self, shining brightly in the darkness.

I sometimes tend to stuff my confidence in the dark, into a room at the end of the hallway, lock it tight as the whispers fight for release, thinking it is modesty, while it may be self-destruction. Sometimes, if a person is confident, then they would be deemed as arrogant, cocky or egotistical. If a person is humble, they will be deemed as a-person-who-thinks-too-low-of-oneself. The hidden: I am not flawed. I am perfect. There are mountains and rivers on my surface, glaciers, and deserts that shields my heart, oceans and skies of dreams. Out of the 100 billion stars in the galaxy, what makes me shine the brightest?  The shown: I am not perfect. I am flawed. There are mountains and rivers on my surface, craters, and caves that go deep into the darkness, oceans and skies of questions. Out of the 100 billion stars in the galaxy, what makes me shine brighter?

If the moon shone bright, so bright we cannot see its flaws, so it is like another star in the galaxy, then what’s the point of being me, special, unique, if people can’t see it? If trying to shine will only make me normal? Sometimes, I want to give up on my passions. Why am I working so hard if no one appreciates my hard work? Why am I trying so hard if people don’t even care? Why am I trying to make myself visible, shine brighter, if no one will ever see me? Why am I working so hard to prepare a show, spending a lifetime of hard work, to create the perfect performance on a stage when my audience is nothing but holograms? “ ‘We exist because this world exists. It’s a responsibility of ours, whether or not anyone will remember it.’ He nods at me. ‘And they will. Because we will return and make sure of it.’ ” (Magiano, p250) When the sun sets and the moon rises, I will be a new me, I will break out of my prison, I will rise to the stars and beyond.

“Tragedy follows those who cannot accept their true destiny.”-Marie Lu, The Midnight Star

A force destroyed the chain linking the rusty metal shark cage to the deep darkness, leaving a jerk that rattles the earth, causing the girl inside to miss the space between the bars, her hand hitting the cage, and passes through. Now, the girl from the coffin kicks away from the cage, passing through as if nothing was there in the first place, and she swims up, free, with her prison floating up beside her, floating up instead of sinking, floating fast, passing the girl, to meet the stars and the moon above first, bobbing on the waters and waiting for the girl to see the world, the whole sky of possibilities in front of her, a million pinpricks of dreams, shining brighter every day, waiting to change the world or the small universe within. “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”-Harriet Tubman

“The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”-Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Perhaps we are all stars. We are all moons, too. And there are planets, that orbit a much larger star, while the rest of us just sit back and watch. But perhaps stars aren’t stars but rather openings of heaven to allow the dead to gaze down at the universe, an opening in the darkness of space so that glittering luster can fall down, drifting and flying, carried by the wind the promises, rippling the water that never moves. It’s fine for a little while. We can drink from it and it’ll keep us alive. But if it sits too long, undisturbed, it grows stale. It becomes toxic. When a swan glides in, when a rose blooms, when luster drifts down, and the crescent touches the surface, a thing called love blows in, rippling the air and water, creating waves. Waterfalls. Rushing currents. Life.

The luster that falls from the stars is a showering of love from our loved ones who have passed on. To everyone who has joined the cosmos, who have left a story to be told, you will only be a lost star in the universe, a star that has lost its gleam. But your shine will only be somewhere in the universe. And to Adelina, the queen who ruled with darkness, and sacrificed her life for her sister, and to Kiki, my beloved cat who had passed on, who was there for me when people were not, who was suffering from a silent pain, so deep and great, it had slowly seeped the life away. Both of you, who have joined the stars above, became luster and stardust, will just be another star in the galaxy, perhaps one that has lost its gleam, but will continue to shine brightly in the constellation of our hearts. And to Kiki: I love you. Remember. Forever and always, to the stars and beyond.

“After she was gone, I sheathed her sword at my belt, draped her cloak over my shoulders, carried her heart in my arms, and, somehow, went on.”-Marie Lu, The Midnight Star

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 The girl climbs up to the crescent moon, and rises up to the heavens, to the brightest star in the sky. She has sacrificed and lost, but does that mean ultimate redemption? She has let the rose petals save her from a lifetime in that prison cell, she has hoped and wished, dreamed as big as the whole sky of stars, the constellations above, the sun, the moon, and whole universes in every heart…But is that enough? To let love conquer her life, let it take the reins for once, steer her towards a future of freedom?

Meanwhile, back at the water, red dots start rising up from the dark, slowly unraveling itself from the protective arms of black. The red dots surface, popping out of the water and revealing itself to be red petals, delicate rose petals, rose petals that were dying and fading fast, sinking to the bottom, gone at last. They resurface; dots of red on a sea of stars. The petals drift aimlessly on the water, wandering around and looking for each other, with tiny hands searching and grasping, finding each other but then slipping from each other’s desperate clutches. Up above, the stars glitter and shine. White lustrous swirls appear on the night sky, twisting in in in. The luster slowly fades from the sky, releasing their hold on the dark curtain of night, letting go and flowing down like angels of heaven, ready to bless the world with their kisses underneath. The stardust falls onto the water, sinks down into the darkness, lighting up the world on the other side, only for an instant, before it fades into the darkness. The luster lands on the rose petals, exploding with a white glow and leading the petals towards each other. They take the reins of the petals and draw them together, forming a rose shape on the water. The luster rushes to the center of the rose, growing brighter and brighter until it is a bud of light illuminating the soft velvet petals. The petals glow radiant with the stardust, rising and holding hands, once again blooming into a rose, with delicate petals protecting the bud of light, of the sacred angels from the heavens, the pockets of stardust in the sky.

Adelina gave up her life for her sister. She flew up to the heavens, to join the stars, with the knowledge of doing something good, something full of light, in a lifetime of darkness. She had brought so much love with her when she climbed aboard the moon, leaving a life of darkness behind. When the swan saved the dying rose, whose petals were letting go one by one, the swan saved the last petals of a love, cold and fading, it holds dear. The rose and the petals could be the love for a sister or a lover, but it is the kind of love that will conquer all, the kind that is a warrior fighting, a rose sacrificing, the scattered embers of a dying fire battling to ignite.

Every action. Every choice. Every second of every day is another part of a much larger tale. When we become stardust, when it rises to the heavens, when it rains back down to the living world—twirling and whirling and lustrous swirls—are our stories still being told? In the tale of The Swan with the Rose, the swan was remembered for saving the dying rose, flying up to the heavens to join the stars. In Maire Lu’s The Young Elites trilogy, the story is about Adelina Amouteru, or the White Wolf, and her journey towards darkness, or the ultimate light that may have saved her at the end. It is about “…the immortal story of the White Wolf, who may have been a courageous hero or a cruel villain. Depending on which version of the story you’ve heard.” -Marie Lu, The Midnight Star

The story of the White Wolf:

“The tale is told by royalty and vagabonds alike, nobles and peasants, hunters and farmers, the old and the young. The tale comes from every corner of the world, but no matter where it is told, it is always the same story. A boy on horseback, wandering at night, in the woods or on the plains or along the shores. The sound of a lute drifts in the evening air. Overhead are stars in the sky, a sheet of light so bright that he reaches up, trying to touch them. He stops and descends from his horse. Ten he waits. He waits until exactly midnight, when the newest constellations in the sky blinks into existence. If you are very quiet and do not look away, you may see the brightest star in the constellation glow steadily brighter. It brightens until it overwhelms every other star in the sky, brightens until it seems to touch the ground, and then the glow is gone, and in its place is a girl. Her hair and lashes are painted a shifting silver, and a scar crosses one side of her face. She is dressed in Sealand silk and a necklace of sapphire. Some say that, once upon a time, she had a prince, a father, a society of friends. Others say that she was once a wicked queen ,a worker of illusions, a girl who brought darkness across the lands. Still others say that she once had a sister, and that she loved her dearly. Perhaps all of these are true. She walks to the boy, tilts her head up at him, and smiles. He bends down to kiss her. Then he helps her onto the horse, and she rides away with him to a faraway place, until they can no longer be seen. These are only rumors, of course, and make little more than a story to tell round a fire. But it is told. And thus they live on. –“The Midnight Star,” a folktale” (The Midnight Star by Marie Lu, p 315)

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The story of Christina:

The crescent moon sits high in the sky, its pale outline barely visible against the watercolor shades. The sun falls slowly towards the horizon, setting fire to the twilight sky, casting shades of orange, pink, purple and blue, reluctantly retiring for the night. A soft lullaby hums in the distance, the soft plucks of chords dancing in the air, swirling and overlapping, rolling and receding, building a song of freedom. The sun’s rays cast pulsating shadows across the glassy surface of the water, smooth and clear, reflecting the sky, orange, pink, purple and blue, merging into one. A bubble pops up on the water, capturing sunlight in its little transparent dome. A tiny person sits in the middle of the bubble. She gets up and starts banging on her cage, her minuscule fists creating webs on the surface. She kicks and punches until she shatters the bubble. Then she sprouts wings and disappears in the sky. More bubbles pop up, with tiny people sitting in the center. Then one by one, they start standing up and banging and kicking, until the cage shatters and they sprout wings and fly free. Then, a rusty metal cage breaks through the smooth surface plagued by popping bubbles, through of the dark waters and into the land of oxygen, shattering the glassy surface of the water, rippling the reflection, creating swirls in the water that spiral out out out. The metal cage is covered in bronze rust, with algae and coral here and there. Strange, inside the cage is a rotting wooden coffin, the lid askew, all the nails loose where the soggy wood was melting. A little away from the cage, two more bubbles form on the surface of the water. Something splashes out, not just rippling the water but creating waves, hundreds of bubbles and white foam—what monstrosity could cause so much destruction? The thing shakes it head, and black scraggly strings fan out, raining water into the wreckage it has made. The creature then uses its claws to wipe away the strings sticking on its face, to expose a creature with two eyes, one nose, one mouth—a girl. Not a creature but a girl. Not an it but an she. Not claws but hands. Not black scraggly strings but hair. She opens her eyes wide in wonder, taking in the world around her, a miscellany of colors that coalesce into one sky, on future laid out in front of her. The glorious golden sun setting in the west, the moon creeping up in the east. The crescent moon rises higher and higher, brighter and brighter, until it smiles down at her, offering to scoop her up in that perfect crescent, gifting her a hope that has been gone for so long…

The sun slowly dips below the horizon, the last rays of sunlight finally disappear, the scattered embers of a dying fire winking out of existence, and then: “Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star.” -Lucy Maud Montgomery

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I look up to see a sea of stars, a hundred billion sprinkled glimmers of hope pierced through a veil of darkness, like the eyes of angels in the distant night. Constellations sparkle in the sky, but one, in particular, takes my breath away: it’s the story of “The Swan with the Rose”, an enchanting folktale from before. Once upon a time, a snow-white swan glided on the smooth oblivion of water, to the music of a lute, and the stars and moon above. One day, she finds a vivid red rose, with petals like velvet, a delicate relic, growing from the water. The swan bends it’s elegant, long neck plucks it out and flies away, farther and farther, higher and higher, until it becomes the brightest star the sky, another constellation in a galaxy of wonders.

I sigh at the story, looking up at the constellation of the swan and its’ rose glittering above me. The lukewarm water catches the reflection of the stars above, protecting me in a soft, warm blanket of darkness. Purple and dark blue ignite the horizon, the colors like a blossoming bruise on a backdrop of glittering darkness. The metal cage that has trapped me before floats farther and farther away, the rotting wooden coffin going with it. A flash streaks across the sky, a perfect arc of shimmer; a shooting star. I lift my hand up and pinch my arm, twisting the flesh until the pain drives a soft whimper to my lips. I realized it is the only sound I’ve made in 204 years. I open my mouth to test out my voice; forming silent shapes with my lips. “Am I real?” I croak out. I clear my throat. “I am real.” “My name is…” What is my name again? Oh yes, it’s…Christina? I test out the words: “My name is Christina.” Christina. That is my name. The corners of my lips tug up, and it takes a while for me realize that I just smiled. It grows wider and wider, out of my control, a monster let out of its cage after 204 years of slumber. In that moment, my mind makes a decision without my permission; it makes a wish, a whispered promise, with a tiny tiny voice. I look up to the crescent moon, hanging precariously in the sky. It seems to grow larger and larger, until I can see the mountains and craters of imperfections of its surface, until I realize that the crescent shape of the moon is actually a crescent, with a perfect, smooth slope. The crescent lands on the water in front of me, softly sinking 5 cm into the water, sending rings of ripples on the smooth blanket of inky darkness. The crescent is about 6 meters high and across, the surface rough and the slope smooth. It reaches out with invisible hands and beckons me towards it, nodding and smiling, welcoming me to climb aboard and take flight. I paddle towards the crescent without hesitation, hopeful for the promises it brings, eagerly pulling myself up and sitting back on the slope. I dangle my legs over the crescent, and the moon rises back up to where it belongs, the sea of stars underneath me shrinking or expanding, merging into the sky until all around me is the magnificent vacuum of space, filled with darkness punctured by light, glittering jewels pinned on the blackness of the universe shining so bright.

Up above and all around, constellations dance and twinkle. The swan with the rose calls to me, with a voice soft, yet alluring, gentle and enthralling. She says that she has reserved a place for me, up on the stars above, with the gods and the moons, the galaxies and the heavens. And now I soar up up up, carried by the crescent moon, ready to join the constellation of The Swan with the Rose, ready to join the brightest star in the sky.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Magazine Cover-Characterization-Helena-A Lamb in the Storm, traitor or victim?

PDF Version: Helena- A Midsummer’s Night Dream-Chracterization Magazine Cover

For the A Midsummer’s Night Dream: Magazine Cover task, I decided to analyze Helena as a character. My magazine is called Athenian, which has topic ranging from the lastest gossip to juicy articles about life. In this season of the Athenian magazine, our main focus will be Helena, Demetrius’ former secret affair and Hermia’s loyal friend or traitor-to-be?

Before Helena was introduced, Lysander argued that Demetrius had courted Helena, and made her fall in love with him: “Demetrius, [I’ll] avouch it to his head, made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena, and won her soul.”(lines 106-108) He also stated that Helena loves devoutly, that she is loyal and committed to her love: “And [she], sweet lady, dotes, devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry upon this spotted and inconsistent man.” (lines 108-110) When Helena was introduced, she made it clear that she does not want to be called beautiful because apparently, Demetrius doesn’t think so, when Hermia greets her and calls her beautiful: “Call you me fair? that fair again unsay. Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair!” (lines 181-182) This shows how Helena has a sour undercurrent of envy behind everything else because she is jealous of how Demetrius, the one she loves, loves her friend Hermia instead. But jealousy is just another name for insecurity. Desperate for love, Helena goes on to say that she would give up everything to be like Hermia: “Were the world mine. Demetrius being bated, the rest I’d give to you translated.” (lines 191-192) She also pleads Hermia to teach her how to look and be like her: “O, teach me how [you] look, with what art you sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart.” (line 194) All this just so Demetrius would love her, how desperate must she be? Through this, it is shown how Helena is willing to give up everything, even herself, just so one man would love her. She is willing to paint an illusion of true love, willing to allude herself with that lie, just so she won’t be alone anymore. She even said it herself, how love destroys perspective and can make one blind to reason: “Love can transpose to form and dignity: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is wing’d cupid painted blind:” (lines 233-235)

When Hermia and Lysander tell Helena about their plan to escape, Helena plans on betraying her friend, to maybe win back Demetrius: “I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight…If I have thanks, it is a dear expense: But herein mean I to enrich my pain, to have his sight thither and back again.” (line 246-251) If she tells Demetrius of Hermia’s plan, then maybe he might be grateful to her and fall back in love with her, even though the love isn’t true.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”-Harold Coffin

Why can’t Helena accept that “Through Athens [I] am thought as fair as she.”(line 227), and that Helena thinks her fair? Why does she need Demetrius’ love? “But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;” (line 228). Because love blinds you. Because it makes you selfish. “The more I love the more [he] hateth me.” (line 199) This is what Helena says of her love to Demetrius. Perhaps Demetrius never loved her in the first place, and now is moving on to other young women, and poor Helena is simply swept up in an illusion of something more. And now when Demetrius has moved on, Helena is confused and hurt, thinking that it is because of the way she looks that Demetrius doesn’t “love” her anymore. Desolate and forlorn, Helena is like a lost lamb wandering alone in a snowy forest, confused and hurt, seeking answers but finding none, thrown into a blizzard of hatred and jealousy of the warmth it does not have.

“Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies.”-Elizabeth Bowen

A lamb lost in the forest is meek and fragile, self- conscious about everything, from the all-too-vulnerable skin of its neck to the to the trial of footprints it leaves in the snow. Helena, like a lamb, is confused and alone, seeking love, from anyone, so she wouldn’t be the one left out against friends blinded by love. Instead of turning to others for advice and comfort, the lamb starts questioning, asking why others are loved and it isn’t, why no matter how hard it tries it never succeeds (“The more I love the more [he] hateth me.” [line 199]). The lamb starts developing jealousy of the other animals, hatred of itself and others. But underneath it all, lies the most dangerous thing; loneliness and pain. Because of all the loneliness and jealousy, a person can turn desperate, can do reckless things, like betraying a friend.

In the dark forest, Helena is like a lost little lamb wandering alone, plagued by loneliness, swept up in a blizzard of jealousy and hatred. Fast, her self-esteem drops like the temperature during a snowstorm, battering her heart, blinding her eyes. It is desperation behind the reckless green eye monster, pain, and loneliness that made Helena an envious traitor. Like Lysander and Hermia, she too is falling for the illusion of something more, the promise of feeling wanted. So is she a traitor or a victim? Or both? But: “Loneliness is a bitter, wretched companion. Sometimes it just won’t let go.” -Tahereh Mafi

“Love can transpose to form and dignity: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is wing’d cupid painted blind:” (lines 233-235). Through this quote, hidden under the layers of desperation and recklessness, the green eyed monster called envy, is the master puppeteer called love. Like many of Shakespeare’s works, love is portrayed as a manipulative, twisted supernatural “thing”, that controls the host, it being a parasite. Sometimes, his works can also explores the thin line between love and obsession. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, love is compared to lightning and Cupid, a flash of light in the darkness and a blindfolded baby.”…war, death, or sickness did lay siege to it, making it momentary as a sound, swift as a shadow, short as any dream; brief as the lighting in the collied night…the jaws of darkness do devour it up: so quick bright things come to confusion.” (Lysander, lines 142-149) and “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is wing’d cupid painted blind…wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste: And therefore is love said to be a child,” (Helena, lines 234-238) Love, like lightning, passionate and intense, can only be seen for an instant before it vanishes with a flash, the thunder sounding in the distance, like the tragic heartbreak and fury that follows a breakup. It is also like a blindfolded child, who does not have good judgement, lies and makes bad choices, breaks promises before he can make them. Love destroys perspective, love is a lie, a trick of light, the fleeting moment of darkness before down, a deception of flames that with smother into ashes when one realizes the truth. Even when love is described as a cruel, twisted, blind thing, we cannot deny that there is a certain beauty to it too, a magic spell that runs to the stars…and beyond.

Another theme in A Midsummer Night’s Dream the journey of finding true love and happiness is never smooth: “The course of true love never did run smooth:” (Lysander, line 134). This just shows us how love is not perfect. It is dark and light at the same time, a demon and an angel trying to be one. It can be frustrating and inconsistent, built on lies and broken promises. In the story, the two lovers Hermia and Lysander cannot marry and be together, because her father, Egeus, does not agree. And Helena, who loves Demetrius (but doesn’t love her and loves Hermia instead), is blinded by envy and pain, desperation to just be loved back by the man who stole her heart. These characters are walking through hallways, hallways that always end with an lock door. They are trying to reach the end, trying to get what they want and live the happily ever after they dream of everyday. But life, the search of true love and happiness never runs smooth. Some may run into a raging ocean when they open a door, in their path, some may wander alone in an cold forest during a blizzard, searching for something that does not exist. And sometimes, their paths might collide. They might meet each other, greet one another with hugs and kisses or knives of steel. And eventually, they might meet their happy ending, fall into it with a smile as bright as the sun. But only after a lifetime of fighting, of living through hardships may they find the happy ending to their story, the light at the end of the road.

The Vicious Darkness Within-By Christina-The Rose Society Rising Action and Climax Analysis

Some key terms: 

Blood Fever: A plague that swept over Adelina’s nation, killing many and leaving the cursed (marked) behind.

Young Elites: Children (teenagers) who discovered that they have dangerous powers (some also bear marks) after the blood fever.

The Dagger Society: A secret group of Young Elites who seeks out others like them.

Raffaele Laurent Bessette: Leader of the Dagger Society.

Enzo: Former leader of the Dagger Society.

The Inquisition Axis: A group of people who works for the king to capture and kill the Young Elites.

Inquisitor: Member of the Inquisitor Axis, people who capture and kill malfettos.

Malfetto: A survivor of the blood fever with hideous distinctive marks that separates them from the rest of society.

The Rose Society: A group of Young Elites lead and recruited by Adelina Amouteru.

White Wolf: Adelina Amouteru’s Elite name.

Merroutas: A city-state in the Sealands connecting Kenettra and the Tamouran Empire (p1).

204: My birthday

For my rising action and climax blog post task, I decided to connect with the conflict in Marie Lu’s The Rose Society. The Rose Society is the sequel to The Young Elites, but I will treat this book as a standalone for this task. The conflict of this book is man vs self and man vs society, as well as a little bit of man vs man. Like my previous blog post, I made up a story that runs throughout the written response. In this post, the story is about the white wolf succumbing to darkness, of Adelina Amouteru (the main character, also known as the White Wolf) discovering a vicious darkness within. She is a white wolf, cold, hungry, and alone, trying to fit in. What would she do to survive? Turn to the comfort of family or surrender to the tendrils of darkness beckoning her from the ocean? To write about and introduce the rising action and climax of the book, I will be telling the story in mine and the White Wolf’s POV. There will also be parts where the narrator (me) talks about the book. There is also a little part regarding an ancient folktale that I made up, which is part of the overall storytelling. Many sentence/words/phrases are intentionally crossed out to add to my writing’s overall mood. It shows how I need to be more positive and stop thinking things negative. Some crossed out parts just expose the truth (or the lie). To analyze the rising action/climax and the conflicts presented, the reader also has to analyze my writing. Enjoy!

White Wolf:

Once upon a time, a white wolf had a family, a lover, and a pack of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all. 

The snow crunches beneath her paws as she laboriously pushes forward in the storm. Forest trees surround her in the dark, her silver fur glints under the crescent moon, her eye sharp and gray, cunning like the edge of a blade, cruel, like the taunting glint of a diamond. Scars and marred flesh cover the spot where her other eye used to be, a reminder of the past that never seems to go away. She stumbles in the snow, her stick-thin limbs unable to hold her own weight. She looks forward, the village where she is headed towards is a brightly glowing dot in the distance. She turns her to look back at where she came from, her pawprints already disappearing in the snow. Once again, she starts to doubt her decision, glancing at the empty spaces beside her. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up, lend her a hand and lead her to safety. If her wolf pack were here then they would help her up, only to push her back down, harder, lend her a hand with a gentle smile and lead her to the edge of a cliff, befriending her only to give her the final push towards the cliff’s edge. They would watch with a wicked smile as she topples over, falls down and down and down until her body hits the jagged rocks below, her bones shattered into a million pieces, her scarlet blood splattered onto the slick rocks. And then the ocean would do its work and the waves would wash her away, cleaning up the mess, already forgotten—At least this is what she would do. Push yourself up so you can push others down. Rise before they rise before you. Rise, and to rise alone.

The white wolf grits her teeth and pushes herself up. The whispers are the only voices she has heard in days, their invisible presence a burden that lifts her up instead of weighing her down. Nearby, a frozen bush rustles. The white wolf swivels her head in that direction. She hears the sound of snow crunching under paw or feet, and she slowly and silently stalks towards the bush. She could hear the soft, panicked breaths from her victim, or are there more than one? Her sharp gray eye twitches, her hind legs bend, ready for action. A blur of animal skin darts away from the bush. The sudden rush of adrenaline gives her energy, and the wolf strikes, aiming for the neck, her sharp claws piercing through the layers of leather and into its soft skin. It takes a moment for the wolf to realized that it was a young girl hiding behind the bush, now skewered by her claws, her screams echoing through the dark, silent night. Her shining silver hair shines under the moonlight, shifting like the shadows. But what surprises the white wolf the most are the angry red scars covering the skin where her left eye used to be. She looks just like me, the wolf thinks. Her friend, the other noise from the bush, manages to get away, desperately running and screaming back towards the village, already forgetting his dying friend. This is what friends do, leaving you behind and casting you out when you need them the most, the whispers say. Go on, finish the job, the whispers giggle excitedly. The white wolf looks into the girl’s dull gray eye, already draining of life, filled with terror and hope, hope that she will survive. The wolf steels her heart, flicking away the silver of vulnerability that had claimed her earlier, then sinks her fangs in the soft flesh of the girl’s neck. She feels the veins and arteries burst as she bites, the sweet, warm trickle of blood running into her mouth. She can’t deny the satisfaction, the delicious smell of blood on a cold winter day.  Mmmmm. You are enjoying this, aren’t you? The whispers taunt. The white wolf watches as the girl’s bright blue eyes went vacant, their luster dimmed. She could feel the girl’s heartbeat slowing until there is nothing but silence once again in the dark night. She is once again alone. The white wolf then drags the body out of the woods, towards the village. Yessss, you did it. Now you can show them who is in control. The wolf grins, the vengeful darkness in her heart churns, the chittering of the whispers louder, pushing her forward, as she takes step after step, each one closer to ultimate justice revenge.

Once upon a time, a white wolf had a family, a lover, and a pack of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all. The white wolf stopped before the village, let go of the body I her mouth, tilted her head back and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know. Know she is the enemy, the beast let out of its cage. She is the White Wolf, and she is not afraid. It is her turn to use, her turn to hurt. Her turn.

“In this moment, I am a god.” (Adelina Amouteru p182)

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In Marie Lu’s The Rose Society, the story starts off with Adelina Amouteru (an Elite) and her younger sister, Violetta (also an Elite), in the busy streets of Merroutas. Adelina has the power of casting illusions, manipulating other’s mind and what they see. Violetta has the power to take away any other Elite’s powers, as well as sensing energy in the air. Adelina was cast out of the Dagger Society, blamed for their leader’s death. Now, the whispers in her head are getting stronger, the tornado of rage and hurt swirling and tightening, threatening to consume everything around her. Adelina is now set on a journey to recruit others like her, and her first target is Magiano, a mysterious Elite whose power remains a secret (p4). “When you are all alone in a world that hates and fears you, you want to find others like yourself. New friends. Elite friends.” (Adelina Amouteru p5) During their search, Adelina and her sister are swept up in a Kenettran gambling game. One of the players is a young malfetto boy, who ends up winning the game. Violetta senses something different about him, so she and Adelina decided to follow him into the dark streets. The other players have now set their sights on the boy, chasing him down and beating him up, not believing that they lost to a malfetto, convinced that the boy had cheated. Adelina steps in the fight and unleashes the fury in her heart on how malfettos were treated. Her own rage and power surprises her, the pleasure of breathing in someone else’s pain and fear irresistibly delicious. “[My] voice comes out cold. It’s a voice [I’m] still getting used to.” (Adelina Amouteru p14) Adelina is already after the crown, planning to take the throne. But what if she becomes queen? What would she do? “…[I] could make the act of hurting malfettos a crime.” (p12) But what else? How would she satisfy the whispers in her head? This is the first conflict in the book (man vs. society).

Violetta finds out that the malfetto wasn’t the Elite she sensed, but the operator who ran the gambling game was no ordinary Elite. The operator turns out to be the renowned Magiano. At first, Magiano was reluctant to join them, not convinced that Adelina was worth following. They make a deal, to play a little game: Adelina has to beat Magiano in a race to steal the Night King’s prized diamond pin he wears on his collar (p66). This is the second conflict (man vs. man). The Night King rules the city of Merroutas, with an abundance of soldiers and secret army of ten thousand mercenaries at his back. Adelina plans to win over his mercenaries to build an army of her own (p77) by showing off the darkness pooling at the bottom of her heart. Adelina and Violetta finds a way in using Adelina’s illusions by disguising themselves as the Night Kings dancers. When it is time they reveal themselves, Adelina wraps the Night King’s mercenaries in assortment of terrifying illusions. However, whenever Adelina uses her illusions to harm, it is one more step down the road of darkness, one more turn in the lock to free the demonic whispers in her head: “The whispers in [my] head burst from their cages, roaring, filling [me] with their hisses.” (p96) Adelina uses her opponent’s fear and confusion to fuel her powers, and ends up killing the knight king with his own sword. The whispers chitter in delight. On page 97, where Adelina has reached the first resting spot in the depths of the waters, a point where she realized that she wants to be evil. To strike first. To kill first. To destroy everyone before they can even think of turning their backs on her. It is her turn to use, her turn to hurt.

After Adelina killed the Night King, some of his men has decided to join Adelina! They send her a message, telling her that they have a ship (p116) headed to Campagnia. On their way there, Adelina’s powers spirals out of control (p121), and she hallucinates, seeing her father’s ghost, and Enzo, her dead prince. They follow her, and in Adelina’s panicking state, she thinks that they are going to kill her: “[My] father has come back from the dead. When he catches up to [me], he is going to kill [me].” (p122) and “[He] is hunting me.” (p123) Under the influence of her own illusions, Adelina thinks she is burning, on fire, that Enzo is trying to kill her with his powers. She jumps in water, “The next moment, I feel the sudden splash of cold water and the fire on[my] skin extinguishes.”(p123) In the water, Adelina sinks, thinking she is in the underworld: “[I’m] in the underworld. The angel of Fear is calling me.” (p124) Magiano pulls her out, snapping her out of the illusion, but it is already too late, the Inquisitors on patrol have already noticed, knowing something is wrong, they start their chase. This is the third conflict (Man vs. self and the whispers, darkness/a bit of supernatural, the battle between Caldora, the angel of Fury). Adelina, Violetta, and Magiano safely make it to the ship, pretending to be common traders. One of the mercenaries, the leader of the ship, happens to be Sergio, the boy who could control the rain (p134), a former Dagger who was kicked out because he couldn’t control his powers soon enough. By using this information, Adelina convinces Sergio to join her to strike back at the inquisition and seize the throne, “[We] could be a team that far outpaces the Daggers.” (p143) That night, the darkness that plagues Adelina resurfaces, hunting her dreams and taking her down to the underworld, where she meets Caldora, the angel of Fury. She struggles to get away, but she is stuck, never able to run to the stairs that lead to freedom, that lead to light, the living world. “[I] struggle towards the stairs, but it is no use. Hissing fills [my] ears. When [I] look behind me again, Caldora’s hands reach for me, fingers curled into claws.” (p155) Hope is the light in the deepest part of the ocean. The vicious darkness inside of her keeps her afloat in the flooded hallway, the waves slamming her back to the night Enzo first kissed her: “This is the night after the Spring Moons, after [we] attacked Estenzia’s harbor.” (p151)

During their journey to Campagnia, some Inquisitors had found out that they weren’t common traders (p164). The leader of the group of Inquisitors says, “A good story. But we have a description of the ship that the Night King’s soldiers believe their fugitives sailed away on. It’s undoubtedly yours. Congratulations.” (p164) Here, Adelina sinks deeper in the ocean of darkness: “At first, [I] think I’ll spare them.” (p168) But then, Adelina realizes that she needs to strike first. So with the whispers encouragement “…a dark cloud starts to fill [my] insides again, and [my] heart hardens.”(p168-69) Adelina tells Sergio and his men to “…kill them. Make it quick and clean. Let the youngest one live. When the inquisition finds him, he can tell them who did this, and how [I] made them feel.” (p169)

Once they docked, Violetta senses a strange power in the air; the Daggers are here! Adelina sees Gemma in the crowd, an Elite who can control animal’s minds, and starts following her. She ends up hearing about the Dagger’s plans to bring Enzo back to life so he will be the king of Kenettra, and the Queen of Bedlain (another nation) would be able to gain control over Kenettra as well (p177). “ ‘The Queen had counted on him to be the one to bring trade and prosperity flowing again between [our] two nations…She can place him on the throne, where he belongs, as her Kenettran ambassador,’”(p177) The Queen of Bedlain is an Elite too, with powers to bring back the dead. To bring Enzo back, they have to be at the exact place that he died: “[She] needs to be in the exact place where [he] died.” (p176) Also, “The dead cannot exist in this world on their own. Enzo must be bound to someone in order to have the strength to live again…[She] will bind Enzo to Raffaele.” (p176) Not only this, the Beldish navy is coming, Beldish soldiers, Elites, are already in Kenettra, “pieces moving into place to force the Queen of Kenettra from her throne.” (p179) However, Adelina wants the throne, and she will do anything to get it. The whispers in her mind urge her on, “They shouldn’t be on your throne, that is why you are angry. The Daggers don’t deserve to rule, not after what they did to you. Don’t let them have something that is yours. Don’t let them take that revenge from you.” (p180) This is another roadblock in her plan, another conflict (man vs. society/person) she has to fix. This is the inciting incident part of the book. “ ‘[My] revenge is against the Inquisition Axis,’ I whisper, [my] voice so quiet that even I can’t hear it. It should be against the Daggers, too, for throwing you into the wild. For putting their own prince in Bedlain’s hands.” (Adelina Amouteru p180)

Adelina decided to form her own group of Elites, where she is the leader, instead of someone else, where she gets to cast people aside, to throw them out into the wild (p196). “ ‘I pledge myself to the Rose society,’ [I] begin. ‘Until the end of my days.’” (p196) Together, Adelina and her Roses start to form a plan so Adelina ends up on the throne. First, they cannot let Enzo be bound to Raffaele. Adelina will create an illusion to look and sound like Raffaele, so she can be bound to Enzo instead of the real Raffaele (p191). “Violetta’s  eyes open wider as she starts to understand [my] plan. She starts to smile. ‘How will the Queen of Bedlain tell the difference between the real Raffaele and a false one?’” (p191) Now, they have a plan, and they are ready to strike: “Right now, what [I] want is the throne. Enzo’s power. A perfect revenge. And all the Inquisitors, queens, and Daggers in the world won’t be able to stop me.” (p196)

On page 207-15, Adelina has finally let the iron walls surrounding her heart down. She allows herself to feel, to open the binds and let the sunshine filter in after one hundred years of ice. She allows herself to relax under the stars, enjoy the constellations in the sky, and open her heart up, and let the birds fly. She gets to know Magiano, beginning to dip her toes in the pool of attraction she has felt for so long. She finds herself yearning his touch, perhaps because she misses her prince? “Enzo, who had saved [me] from certain death, who brought [my] powers out with a mere touch of his hand on [my] back, whose own fire awakened [my] ambitions—thrills me. So why am [I] here, this close to a boy who is not [my] prince? Why am [I] reacting in this way to his touch?” (Adelina Amouteru p213)

Now, the plan is put into action. On Adelina and her Roses way to the arena (where Enzo was killed), they come across some Inquisitors. Adelina and her Roses are forced into action, and Adelina kills a man, adding on to the already growing darkness in her chest, sinking deeper in the ocean. When she killed the man, she was “…not horrified.” “[I] look at [it], indulging in the darkness around [me], feeding [me], strengthening [me], and [I] realize that [I’m] happy [I] killed him. Truly happy (Adelina Amouteru p223).” Every moment of darkness feeds the whispers in her mind: “…the darkness it had brought lingers, feeding the tiny whispers in my head that have suddenly become deafening.” (p224) But all of this doesn’t matter anymore; not the man she killed or the father or lover she stole away, because she has already started to forget the face of the man she killed (p225).

Water splashes down on the arena. The raindrops fall like daggers, piercing through the tense atmosphere, shimmers of fear glittering in the air. The climax takes place on page 253-54, where the Queen of Bedlain binds Enzo to “Raffaele”. By pretending to be Raffaele so Adelina can be tied to Enzo, Adelina has finally set the final brick in the wall that separates her from the Daggers, officially becoming the enemy (p191). Adelina couldn’t bring herself to kill Raffaele, “But [I] couldn’t kill [him]. [I] couldn’t bear to do it.” (Adelina Amouteru p246) meaning that she still has a soft spot for him and the Daggers. When they opened up the portal to the underworld, it’s energy felt as if it belongs to Adelina: “This energy feels like…it belongs to a part of [me].” (p250) When Enzo was brought back, a black figure rising from the waters of death, his eyes two pools of blackness, the heat from his power overwhelming, “I can’t believe how much [I’ve] missed it.”(p253) Their energies connect, the strands of their powers intertwine to become one. “A net of threads whips around [my] heart, ice cold, linking [me] to Enzo.” (p252) and, “The threads twist, growing tighter and tighter until they seem like they will suffocate me.” (p252). Enzo, a figure from the past, is brought back to life, cling on to the life strings of Adelina. He also brings life into Adelina, stripping her of her metal armor, leaving her vulnerable in the center of an arena surrounded by her enemies. “Enzo steps a foot away from [me]. Fire loops around us, closing in and rising higher until it forms a funnel up into the air, so  that it seems like we are the only two people in a world of flames. He looks down at me. It takes a moment for me to realize that the water running down on my face is no longer from the rain, but from my tears.” (p253) When she looks in his eyes, which are now the familiar “…dark irises and scarlet slashes,”(p253), which are all it takes to “undo [me]”(p254). She finally lets go of the illusion of Raffaele, and reveals the “…silver and scars.” (p254); her true self.

Enzo lighted up Adelina’s universe with fire and flames, although only for an instant. But Enzo was from the underworld, and the moment when his eyes were clouded with darkness shows what he really is; a false shell of love and light holding a vicious darkness within. The strands of darkness grabs at her, sinking their little teeth into her heart, anchoring her to the underworld and it him. Their voices haunt her mind, louder than the whispers, stronger, darker, pulling her towards the void.

I am dangerous. I am a pervasive virus. I am the master manipulator. I am slippery and agile, twisting through life, through you. I am the voices in your head. I am the shadow to the light—

I am the vicious darkness within.

*          *          *

Once upon a time, there was a little girl and a little boy who were best friends forever. The little girl has once had golden hair and blue eyes before the blood fever gave her silver hair and stole her left eye. The little boy was unmarked, smooth and beautiful and normal. They grew up together in a cozy village surrounded by the great forest in the South, and the unfathomable ocean in the North. They would always pretend to be magical hunters in the woods, running around, giggling with their sticks as swords and arrows, their stones as fireballs. On one unfortunate night, the girl and the boy were playing in the woods, but this time it was different, a colder chill in the air. Something was wrong. The girl and the boy hid behind a bush, hoping whatever it was, it would go away soon. For a second, it seems as if their hoping had worked, but then the beast strikes, sinking its claws into the girl’s chest, her screams piercing through the night. The attacker was a huge white wolf with a shining silver coat and one eye, it’s vicious fangs gleaming under the moonlight. Out of terror and disbelief, the little boy got up and ran, too afraid to meet his friend’s dying gaze. Later that night, the wolf emerged from the forest, with the dead girl with silver hair and one eye in its jaws, its eyes two veiled storms of hatred and fury—a vision of terror and darkness. The wolf drops the girl carelessly to the ground before the village, tilts it’s head up and howled, long and great and filled with hatred and fury. Now the villagers know, know the white wolf who killed the monster marked girl. Now they will build a wall around the village, to keep the monsters out, and the children in.

-The Wall Around the Village, an ancient folktale

*          *          *

“Dear Father, did you receive my gift? Please let me come home. I no longer recognize this place, and my friends have become my enemies.”-Maire Lu, The Rose Society

When I was little, I ventured out into the deep dark forest and was attacked by a big bad, white wolf. I am the girl with the blue eyes, who was said to be dead. And the wolf is the monster hiding in the shadows of selfishness, greed, hatred and fury. It has pierced my heart and infected my being, clouded my pure blue eyes until it turned black. One eye was infected with too much darkness, so the doctor had to remove it. Where my left eye once was is a mass of scarred flesh. Where the wolf once pierced my heart is nothing but scars; 4 holes for each claw on each paw. 8 scars in total on my chest. Now, I wear my scars proudly, I am not covering the scars that make me beautiful. But, when the wolf sunk its claws into me, she has also given me her darkness, the selfishness, greed, envy, hatred and fury. And the of course whispers, the tiny little pests that plague my being, that scratches into my bones.

The main conflict in this story is man vs self, the battle against darkness and doubt, the harsh reality of life: selfishness and ugly manipulations hatred and fury. How can Adelina be good if her very existence depends on darkness and power? “[I] have never known the mind of a wolf hunting a deer, but [I] imagine it must feel a little like this. The twisted excitement of seeing the weak and wounded cowering before you. The knowledge that, in this instant, you have the power to end its life or grant it mercy. In this moment, [I] am a god.” (Adelina Amouteru p182) Adelina’s goal was to become queen so she could free the malfettos being abused and hurt. Ever since she was little, she wanted to seize power and hold it in her hands, to balance a crown of jewels and gold on her head. “[I’m sitting on the stairs, pretending from [my] perch that [I] am queen on a balcony…The power of that desire rushes through me like a wild wind (p62).” “The memory returns to [me] of the child sitting along the stairs, fantasizing about the crown of jewels on her head.”(Adelina Amouteru p180) When she finally got a taste of power, it was addictively delicious and she wanted more: “It’s nice, being powerful. Seeing others bend at your will. [I] imagine this must be how kings and queens feel—that with just a few words, they can ignite a war or enslave an entire population. This is what [I] fantasized about as a little girl, crouching on the stairs of [my] old home, pretending to wear a heavy crown on [my] head and look out at a sea of kneeling figures.” (Adelina Amouteru p16)

Because of this vicious desire for power and darkness, Adelina has scared pushed away her friends and loved ones, distancing herself from them because of distrust. This shows another conflict in the book, man vs man. Adelina was on the run with her sister after she was cost out of the Dagger Society. As they were together, Adelina was left with the time to think and to be reminded of the hate and fury. As time went on, Adelina’s darkness began to grow with it. Violetta’s powers to take away other’s abilities have also begun to grow as well (p7). This frightens Adelina because she is afraid that Violetta will take away her powers: “…because I am afraid of her, because her power is the one that I can never defeat.” (p80) Violetta was always the prettier one. The sweeter one. The pure and innocent one. The good one. When Adelina faced off with the Night King and his mercenaries, she took another step down the road leading to darkness, using her illusions to fight and kill. And Violetta’s response was: “ ‘What are you doing? This isn’t part of—’ “(p96) Also, on page 137, they argue over the death of the Night King, and how killing him has caused Adelina’s powers to “flare out of control”. When Adelina said she has mastered her powers already, Violetta argued back and said that “ ‘[You] couldn’t have mastered [them] as much as [you] think.’ ”(p137) This shows that Violetta doesn’t believe in her sister enough, worrying and “trying to help”. Later on in the book, the sisters overcome is conflict, Violetta trying to accept her sister. For example, on page 169, when Adelina orders to kill all the inquisitors expect for the youngest one, all the reaction she gets from her sister is a “sharp glance” and a nod to show that she agrees (p169). Also, on page 196, when Adelina creates her own society of Elites, Violetta only hesitated a little bit before pledging. “Violetta hesitates—only for a moment.” (p196)

The point is, in the beginning, Violetta found it hard to accept her sister, therefore limiting Adelina, trapping her in a cage because they are a team and Adelina doesn’t want to upset her. Magiano, a renowned Elite who can mimic other’s powers encourages Adelina to be herself and makes her free and happy. “[He] is not Enzo, [I] remind myself. But [I] don’t want him to be. With Enzo, [my] energy yearned for his power and ambition, all too happy to let him take me into darkness, But with Magiano…[I] am able to smile, even to laugh. [I] am able to sit here and lean back and point out the constellations.” (p214) With Magiano, Adelina was able to let the walls surrounding her heart down. On page 210-15, Adelina lets herself enjoy the constellations in the sky, opening her heart up and letting the birds fly. She faced the attraction she has felt for him and asked one thing that had bothered her: “ ‘Do [I] frighten you?’ [I] ask softly. He seems to think about that. After a while, he leans back and looks skyward. ‘I don’t know,’ he replies.”(p214)

In my life, I need to find friends who bring me happiness, true happiness, not the fake laughs they coax out of me once in an eternity. I need people who can unlock the cages in my heart, and let the birds fly free. I cannot have people in my life who limit be and put dents in my self-esteem, who ties me up just as I am unraveling my life. Right now, I am not living. Floating on the ocean is not the same was swimming. But I can’t swim. Because they have bound my wrists and ankles together, threw me in the ocean to drown. Because I am trapped in a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, and I can’t break out. I’m plummeting into a dark place, an empty world. I’m a feature in the current, submerged until I’m all gone.

I cannot have people in my life who limit me. So isn’t it better to be by myself? To be alone? To live a life of solitude, sinking in the ocean because they will never let me up.

White Wolf:

The reflection of a whole moon flickers and rolls on the glassy surface of the ocean, sifting with the gentle waves. The night is without stars, the utter blackness of night overwhelming. Dreary clouds drift lazily over the moon, leaving only the outline visible. Muffled ribbons of light manage to penetrate through the cloud, coloring the night a hazy gray. A lone wolf sits still on the rocky seashore, her glazed eye fixed on the hidden moon. Her silver coat gleams under the light, ever shifting in a million shades of gray. Deep inside her mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the floor. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. The darkness slowly rises, the puddle quickly turning into a river, flooding the hallway. Rings of water expand on the surface as the whispers pound on the doors, their hushed voices taunting: Let us out! Don’t let them in! The doors quiver. The whispers chitter excitedly, waiting for the moment of release. They keep going. Why do you care about them? Do you really think they will accept you again, and that they will let you in? Fool. We were here for you when they were not. We encouraged you when they pushed you down. So let us out! Let us out! The door splinters, the whispers are almost free. Their screaming overlap one another, the noise bounces off of the walls, every door in the hallway splintering and cracking, giving in to the whispers’ demand. Meanwhile, the darkness flooding the hallway still rises, threatening to drown their screaming. The hallways are now filled with screeches, a mix of wailing and moaning and the anguished sound of suffering. The soundtrack of old memories meant buried deep in the hallways, lost with the turns and dead ends, sealed up tight with 3 doors and 13 locks, now reverberate off of the walls, roaming free in the hallways that were meant to keep them in. The whispers claw at their doors, screaming, crying, almost begging to come out. With a final crack, the doors burst and the whispers finally break free from their rooms, plunging into the cold darkness, free at last.

Back on the seashore, the white wolf stays still. The waves crept slowly towards the rocky shoreline before running away, the water beats peacefully against the jagged rocks. The clouds pass over the moon, no longer obscuring it. The full moonlight shines on the water, awaking something deep inside. A low rumble shakes the shoreline, the waves beat against the jagged rocks with crushing force, the rhythmic sound like drums of war pounding against the slick rocks in the dead of night. A soft breeze shakes the white wolf’s fur, and a long, low whistle travels through the wind. Whispers start drifting from the wind, voices rising from the black ocean. Tears fill the white wolf’s glazed eye, still fixed on the moon. The pupils are hidden beneath a veil of milky white, the tears not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. Tendrils of darkness swirl inside the teardrop, soft hisses vibrate from it. The tears drip from her snout and fall onto the rocks. The teardrops burst when they hit the ground, turning into a small puddle that has its own voice. They hiss and chitter, speaking nonsense or order, but whatever they are saying, it had caused the wolf to stir. She moves. Gets up and leaves her perch. She walks towards the ocean, closer and closer still. The voices and whispers grow louder and louder, cheering her on. Her paws touch the water. The coldness seeps into her fur, leeching onto her bones, it’s small claws gripping and stabbing, never planning to let go. The white wolf steps deeper into the ocean, eye still fixed on the luminous moon. The water rises to her chest, the voices and whispers screaming, hissing for her to go on. The water rises to her snout, to her unblinking eye. She goes under. And stays. The voices and whispers stop, the waves once again gentle, the moon less bright, the air still. The night resumes back to its hazy gray.

But wolves can’t breathe in the water.

*          *          *

Me:

Inside my mind, darkness rises and pools on the clean white tiles of the hallway. It is a dark liquid, not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray. The darkness slowly rises, the puddle turning into a river, flooding the hallway. I try to push on the doors, but they are locked, every single one of them in a hallway with no end. The darkness touches my bare foot. It is cold, cold like the whispers that haunt you in your sleep, like the monsters hiding under your bed, like the vicious darkness within that waits to swallow you whole. It rises to my ankle, my knees, my waist, my shoulders, and finally it pushes me under. I try to swim up, but already I am drowning. The walls of the hallway disappear, replaced by an infinite blackness. I realized I am in the ocean and the waves are pushing me down, and hands of darkness claiming me and all the life boats are deflating and all the life preservers are sinking and I can’t swim and I won’t swim I am sinking… I am dying in the never-ending hallway of my own mind, swept up in the chaos of darkness. I will not die I will die. Because they have bound my wrists and ankles together, threw me in the ocean to drown. Because I am trapped in a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, and I can’t break out. I’m plummeting into a dark place, an empty world. I’m a feature in the current, submerged until I’m all gone.

*          *          *

“And so they huddled together, waiting, hoping for a savior that would never come.”-Marie Lu, The Rose Society

When will I be free? I often wonder this, sitting in the middle of my glass cage bubble with a porcelain mask over my face. People walk around my bubble, ignoring it because I am invisible because they have other things to attend too. Occasionally, a person or two would stop by and peer into my glass bubble, smiling or just simply curious at what is inside. For most of the time, I am left alone with my thoughts, with the doubt and hatred creeping up on me, stepping out of the shadows when the sun goes down. No, The whispers respond to outsiders peeking in, they are mocking you, whispering to each other, making fun of how pathetic you are. I often wonder, Why am I such a coward? Why can I shatter this glass cage? Why do I always live in the fear of hurting myself when I break out? That the glass will slice my skin and I will bleed and die? Not living long enough to enjoy a life without boundaries? Every time I stand up and smile at a new outsider, to make friends so they can help me break out, the whispers attack, why didn’t you do something else? Do something obnoxious, the people won’t come back anyways. You have lost your ability to make friends, loser. The whispers giggle. What if one day I die, if I fail to show up at school, once absence turned into another until I never return, will people miss me? Will they care? No, they wouldn’t, no one cares about you, the whispers hiss, You are so stupid, a pathetic idiot, so sit and do homework every day all day. Other people do nothing. They copy off of other people’s work and they still pass. And you? You work so hard you are insane. And your hard work will never pay off, because there is always a thief, a thief who will steal all the stars that light up your sky, until you are surrounded by darkness, forever alone. The whispers battle with their words, stabbing and hurting, waging war with the bit of light in my being. “No gun, no sword, no army or king will ever be more powerful than a sentence. Swords may cut and kill, but words will stab and stay, burying themselves in our bones to become corpses we carry into the future, all the time digging and failing to rip their skeletons from our flesh.” – Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Throughout the rising action to the climax of the book, Adelina was fighting the prospering army of the whispers inside of her. This is the overarching conflict in the story. Very little of the internal dialogue was Adelina talking to herself, most are whispers. And they start increasing as the story progresses. Why didn’t you kill him?”(p18) “What if he’s betraying you?” (p121) “This was a trick all along. All of this is a ruse.”(p121) “You shouldn’t be the one to fear them anymore.”(p168) “They should fear you.”(p168) “Strike first.”(p168) “Dead men below-decks, sightless eyes, bloody chests (p171).” “Dead men, dead men (p171)!” “They shouldn’t be on your throne,”(p180) “Why do you care?”(p246) The whispers see the worst in people, attracted to the darkest shade of gray. The whispers poke and prod at a person, giving them a push now and then, trying to make them cross the in-between realm of good and evil: “You are a monster, a monster,”(p190) “You are so stupid,”(p191) “You want the crown. It will be your ultimate revenge…So why do you keep protecting the Daggers, Adelina? Do you really think they will accept you again, and that they will let you have their throne?”(p192) “The Daggers don’t deserve to rule, not after what they did to you. Don’t let them have something that is yours. Don’t let them take that revenge from you.”(p180) One specific example from the book is when Magiano saved Adelina and Violetta from being killed, the whispers go on to accusing: “All of this is a ruse. What if he’s betraying you, mimicking your illusions so that he can hand you over to the Night King’s men? To the inquisition? This was a trick all along.”(121) The whispers will not let a person accept the good in people. Like how the whispers responded to how people from the outside was peeking into my glass bubble, smiling and saying hi to me. No, The whispers say, they are mocking you, whispering to each other, making fun of how pathetic you are. When someone finally pays attention to me, I think that they are lying, mocking me and talking behind my back. Maybe my friends are being paid to hang out with me. Maybe they only talk to me because they pity me. This is just a poignant reminder of my life. The whispers cling to my/her bones, refusing to let go until I/she surrender(s), until I/she submerges in darkness.

However, darkness cannot exist without light, the stars cannot shine without darkness. One could only stay hidden for so long. The clouds can never completely obscure the moonlight, the wispy smoke of the whispers can never destroy the silver of light. The filtered moonlight gives the world a hazy gray tone, that is in the in-between realm of good and evil. Adelina’s cause, her motivation to fight and kill, was always strike down the Inquisition Axis who preys on malfettos. She wants to fight for equality between the unmarked and the marked, and to seek justice, to punish the unmarked the way they did the malfettos. “…think of the millions of other malfettos in Kenettra, all whom will die in the next few months if no one saves themIs there a place in your heart where you would mourn for the deaths of all who are like us?”( p64) But then, the whispers come and remind you of the hurt, rejection and pain. “None of it was your fault, the whispers in my head argue. You didn’t kill him, after all — it was not your blade that ended his life. So why are you the one cast out? You didn’t have to return to the Daggers — you didn’t need to help them rescue Raffaele. And still they turned on you. Why does everyone forget your good intentions, Adelina?” (p185) Sometimes, when I am helping other people, the whispers in my head stir, rushing to the spark of kindness in my heart to extinguish it, scolding me for being too nice. Why are you helping them!? All they will do is woo you with their pleading eyes and kind smile, only to go back to ignoring you after they got what they want. They would help you up, make you feel worthy, a nice friend, only to push you back down, not glancing at your direction, pretending you are invisible. They would lend you a hand with a gentle smile and lead you to the edge of a cliff, befriending you only to give you the final push towards the cliff’s edge. They would watch with a wicked smile as you topple over, falling down and down and down until your body hits the jagged rocks below, your bones shattered into a million pieces, scarlet blood splattered onto the slick rocks. And then the ocean would do its job and the waves would wash your remains away, cleaning up the mess, already forgotten. So you have to push yourself up so you can push others down. Rise before they rise before you. Rise, and to rise alone. I try to ignore these whispers, but sometimes, the only friends you have are the whispers in your head.

The whispers tell me to be colder stronger, to learn to say no. Sometimes I wonder why can’t I be the one to use other people, to be the puppeteer instead of the puppet? Because if I do, the guilt will kill me. I am too nice. Too weak. Because I will not sink to that level, and I will not succumb to the whispers. Adelina also thinks this: “Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I be the father who just shrugs off the love of his daughter? Why can’t I be the Lead Inquisitor who enjoys watching his pleading victims burn at the stake? Why can’t I be the one who befriends a lonely, lost girl and then casts her out? Why can’t I be the one to strike first, to hit so early and with such fury that my enemies cower before they can ever think of turning on me? What is so great about being good?” (Adelina Amouteru p97) Exactly. “What is so great about being good?” For example, on page 168, the whispers say to Adelina, “Why worry about the Inquisition’s wrath? You came back to this country to exact your revenge on them. You shouldn’t be the one to fear them anymore. They should fear you.” (p168) Everyone has had a moment of darkness in their lives, where we learn that mercy is a choice and that we have to strike first, where the first sprouts of the darkness within us has started to grow.

Sometimes, I hate a friend so much I want to see them cower at my feet, feeling “The twisted excitement of seeing the weak and wounded cowering before you. The knowledge that, in this instant, you have the power to end its life or grant it mercy. In this moment, [I] am a god.” (Adelina Amouteru p182). I want to push them off the cliff, watch their bones shatter and their remains washed away, because I am tired of being used, hurt, then cast aside. But sometimes, at that moment, I still want to be friends with her, to laugh and share jokes and help each other. On page 182-83, Adelina was hiding in a secret alley eavesdropping on the Daggers to find out their plan. She wanted to reveal herself to Gemma, a Dagger, a former friend, hoping that they will accept her again. “[I] have the sudden desire to lift [my] illusion of invisibility. [I] imagine myself getting up and calling out her name. Perhaps she’ll look at [me], startled, and then break into a smile…The thought leaves [me] warm, rosy with the feeling of a friendship that once was.” (p182) But then she remembers what happened. “What a fantasy. If [I] were to show my face to her, she’d back away from [me]. Her expression of confusion would slowly change into one of fear…[I] am not her friend anymore. The truth brings a surge of darkness up in [my] stomach, a smattering of the whispers that call for [me] to lash out at her. [I] could kill her right here, if [I] wanted.” (p182) “…wishing [I] could talk to her and wishing [I] could hurt her, suspended between light and dark.” (p183) What would happen if she chose to walk on the path of light for once? Will it be an act of stupidity or bravery? Will the whispers lash out and pull her back? Or will they disperse in the light?

On page 191, when Adelina and her Roses decide to disguise Adelina as Raffaele so Enzo could be bound to her, instead of the real Raffaele. By doing this, Adelina will be setting the final brick in the wall that separates her and the Daggers. At this moment, Adelina hesitates to betray them like that: “ ‘You are still loyal to the Daggers,’ Magiano murmurs as he studies me, joy subdued. ‘You miss the way things used to be. You’re hesitant to break them apart like this.’ ”(p191) Despite her dark thoughts about hurting and destroying back, harder, Adelina is still hesitant to do it. We are all assassins and murderers in our minds, but cowards on the outside. I often think about one day not doing my homework, or not responding to someone’s homework question, but I can never actually do it. When I think of ignoring a friend because of how I was treated in the past, used, hurt, then cast aside, I can never truly forget how she comforted me when I was feeling alone, pulled out a chair for me when there was no place to sit, abandon her other friends just to sit with me so I won’t be alone. But what about the times she hurt me? When she abused me with her words and manipulated me? Where was she when I needed her the most? Unlike Adelina, I cannot will not betray her, because “There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”-Bryant H. McGill. “[I] am the White wolf, not a Dagger, and they are no longer [my] friends. But then [I] saw Gemma, and the old pull returned.  [I] hadn’t felt it since [I] left them. No matter how they betrayed [me], [I] still remember Gemma offering me her necklace in friendship. No matter how often [my] father abused me, [I] still remember the day he showed me the ships at the harbor. No matter how Violetta abandoned [me] in childhood, [I] still protect her. [I] don’t know why.” (p191) The thing about us that we often gravitate towards good, towards kindness and light. But it is those afterthoughts that pull us towards the void, towards darkness. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell more truths than those with open faces.”-Marie Lu, The Rose Society

 I constantly try to tell my peers and teachers that I am not who you think I am or what you see on the surface. I keep trying to prove myself to be worthy. By doing this, I am telling the truth, whereas some people laugh and smile and are normal. In most teen drama books and movies, these people are usually the popular people, who are very fake, and actually, have more to them than the goth girl at school. At the beginning of the book, Adelina keeps trying to suppress the real her, because, for all her life, she was taught that she was a malfetto, an abomination, a demon. This shows another conflict in the story, the battle against identity. When she meets with Magiano, a renowned Elite, she wears a mask, as always to meet him. When he saw her, this was that he said: “ ‘Take off your mask,’ He whispers. ‘I do not judge a malfetto’s markings, Adelina, nor do I work with someone who hides her face from me.” (Magiano p63) In this case, Adelina would be the goth girl, who wears a mask because she is insecure, and Magiano, who we know little about, laughs and smiles and seems normal. Magiano could be telling lies with his easy smile. Later on in the book, this is what Magiano says: “ ‘Hiding it makes you more beautiful,’ Magiano says. Then he takes his hand away, exposing my scar again. “But revealing it makes you-you.” He nods at me. ‘So wear it proudly.’ (Magiano p213).” I am not hiding the scars that make me beautiful. I will not change myself to fit in. Everyone was born an original, so don’t die a copy. Due to the development of pop culture and music, trends start to form. Many people are obsessed with those things and they forget about their original hobbies, to the extent that some “fangirls” are like a brainwashed minion. Same with writing or art. When creating, how can you infuse what you create/write with a scent that is so distinctly you? Some people change to fit in, and they lose their former self. People change, but don’t change into a minion. “People laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at them because they are all the same.”

“When I was a little girl, I wanted to believe that my father would love me if I could just do the right thing. I tried and tried, but he didn’t care. Then, after he died, the Inquisition Axis came and arrested me. I tried to tell them of my innocence, but they still weighed and dragged me off to burn at the stake. When I joined the Dagger Society in search of Young Elites like myself, I did everything in my power to become one of them…I made mistakes. I trusted both too little and too much. But, by the gods, I tried so hard. I gave everything I had. I have always done the best I could, and yet, somehow, it has never been enough. No one cared what I did. They always turned their backs on me.”(Adelina Amouteru, p97) This is a quote from the quote that I feel with my heart. In life, it seems as if no matter how hard I try, no one seems to care, every small victory only I can feel. The whispers tell me, No one cares about you, the whispers hiss, You are so stupid, a pathetic idiot, so sit and do homework every day all day. Other people do nothing. They copy off of other people’s work and they still pass. And you? You work so hard you are insane. And your hard work will never pay off, because there is always a thief, a thief who will steal all the stars that light up your sky, until you are surrounded by darkness, forever alone. And I wonder if it is true.

When will I be free? I wonder, sitting in the middle of my glass cage bubble with a porcelain mask over my face. I stand up from my seat in my cage. Today is the day, where I will not back and I will not let the whispers empower me ever again. I walk towards the glass and pound on it with my bare hands. Each blow creating web-like cracks on the glass. It’s stupid really, to think this 1 cm piece of glass is separating me from a life. I pound and scream and kick for days, until I lose track, until my hands are red and bruised, my feet are swollen and cut…But I will not give up; I will break free.

At last, the prison shatters, the glass that seemed so menacing and sharp, now a glittering confetti shower, reflecting the setting sun. I breathe in and out, close my eyes and step over the threshold. Outside is an unfiltered world. I don’t see it through the glass, not ever again, but I see the truth. And it’s breathtaking. Beautiful. I try to take another step forward, to savor the precious moments of freedom, but I can’t.

It starts with a tingling in my heart. Then a numbing cold seizes my body, captures me in its frozen embrace. I can’t move, my feet stuck on the ground just outside of my prison. My heart feels like it’s turning into stone, hardening and cracking before finally splitting in half. Then sensations come flooding in. A whole river. An ocean, bursting into my body. Pain grips my throat, choking me, strangling me until I can’t breathe. My body turns colder. I’m so frigid that I’m afraid I’ll never feel warmth again. I claw to stay in the warmth of my conscious mind, my nails digging and scratching and finding purchase, but I lose my grip and plunge into the depths of my callous heart…And then a burst of a blackness so dark and vicious jolts me awake, blowing up from my chest, and into the approaching night beyond.

It was the darkness that saved me at the end. The darkness that is now part of the night, the shadows, the darkest corners of the universe. I take a deep breath, and my mask shatters, it falls from my face and shatters into a million pieces. They catch on fire as the sun disappears, the last bit of warmth fading away. I stand alone, with my mask a million pieces on the floor, the fire burning brightly, then softly, darkly, going cold, the last embers winking out of existence. I look back at the prison that once held me in fear, now shattered, the glass now a harmless pile of confetti at my feet. For once I am maybe free. I am not afraid to break out of my glass prison. I am alone I am an individual. I need help to break free  I am strong, and I will rise. Alone.

*          *          *

Somewhere in the night, a white wolf howls, long and great and filled with joy. She is alone in the night, silver fur shifting with the shadows. She is alone, and free.

Somewhere in the shadows, a darkness not quite black, but in-between the shades of gray, slithers down the rocky beach. Whispers call at its wake, a trail of moaning and suffering waiting to infect someone else. The darkness slithers to meets the wailing ocean, calling for its lost child. It gingerly sinks in, finally, ultimately, returning home.

Somewhere in one of the rooms in her mind, or a rusty metal cage 204 meters down, she is writing, reading, continuing to fill her paper with breathings of her heart. She is still fighting the whispers coming from the other rooms, banging on the doors to be let out, still trying to swim when the hallways are flooded. She is trying to be oblivious to her peer’s protests about her writing. But she is trying. Trying to not hide the scars that make her beautiful, the vicious darkness within. And sometimes, trying is all that matters in this bleak world. She could be the weak little girl with silver hair and a lost eye, or the ferocious white wolf—but she still doesn’t know. “One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.”- Gilbert K. Chesterton

*          *          *

[Unidentified]:

I wind my way through this person. I slither through his veins. I infect his mind, his brain. I fill his heart with dark power, with evil desire. I find something. Something that radiated such light that I am blinded by such force I have to stop. I move forewords despite the pain. I carefully poke it. White hot sparks dances around my touch. It burns. But I keep going. I move to tie a knot in its center, strangling it until it can’t move. I tie more knots around the light. I watch it struggle. It’s fun. The light is barely visible now under my dark touch. Suddenly, the light is gone with a pop. Where the light once was is an insufferable darkness that envelopes me. That is me. I smile. My work is done with this person. He is truly, utterly infected with me.

I am dangerous. I am a pervasive virus. I am the master manipulator. I am slippery and agile, twisting through life, through you. I am the voices in your head. I am the shadow to the light—

I am the vicious darkness within.

 

Illusion-By Christina-The Young Elites Exposition Written Response

Some key terms:

Young Elites: Children (teenagers) who discovered that they have dangerous powers (some also bear marks) after the blood fever.

The Dagger Society: A secret group of Young Elites who seeks out others like them.

The Inquisition Axis: A group of people who works for the king to capture and kill the Young Elites.

Inquisitor: Member of the Inquisitor Axis, people who capture and kill malfettos.

For my exposition blog post task, I decided to analyze characterization in Marie Lu’s The Young Elites. The first chapter/exposition of the story is written in an before/after and now format. I decided to use that format as well because it also corresponds to my work. To analyze the character and connect aspects of her life to my own, I used the setting as a metaphor. I made up the story of the girl in the prison to do so, because in the first chapter of the book, the main character is in a cell, shivering and weak. I wanted to use this to tell my story. There is also the description of a storm to symbolize danger. These raindrops then create a flood, a sea, and I’m drowning in it. To analyze the exposition/, the reader also has to analyze my writing. Enjoy!

After: 

“I’m going to die tomorrow morning.”-Adelina Amouteru, The Young Elites, Marie Lu

 Iron bars surround her, steel shackles bounding her wrists tight. She sits straight in her prison cell, rocking back and forth, humming the old lullaby her mother used to sing. Her voice comes out cracked and hoarse, nothing like her mother’s sweet and delicate voice. She has been here for weeks, counting the number of times her meals come to keep track of the days, reality a blurred line that never seems to come into focus. Her matted silver hair conceals the broken side of her face, covering the scarred skin where her eye used to be. Her sliver lashes catch the fading sunlight as it filters through her cell, casting fragmented shadows at its wake. Her crooked ring finger rests awkwardly on the floor, one of the many marks her father had left her before he died was murdered. The disjointed whispers of her thoughts rise from the ground like ghosts, taunting her, screaming at her in silence: She is a murderer. A monster. An abomination. A bringer of evil. She is a malfetto. These whispers prod at her when she is at her weakest, banging on the iron that shields her heart, putting dents on its polished surface. The phantoms claw at her insides, leaving long trails of scratch marks on its already damaged surface. The ghosts leave an army of chants following her into every dark corner, stepping on her heels as she walks to the stake where she will be burned for all to see. The chains replace the shackles, tying her wrists and ankles together, the cell replaced by the noose around her neck. She reaches desperately in vain for the power deep inside that might save her, but even the taunting phantoms dance away, dissolving into thin air. The sun has finally set, the shadows replaced by darkness. There is nothing left, but how can there be nothing when there was nothing in the beginning? How can there be nothing when things were merely an illusion? She stands up in her cell, her hair gleaming under the moonlight, and takes tentative steps towards the iron bars. Her heart fills with excitement as the cell door wavers for an instant—an illusion threatening to collapse. She takes step after step towards the gate, reaching out to touch the rusted metal, expecting to feel coldness beneath her fingers, confirming the truth—but her hand passes through.

Malfetto: A survivor of the blood fever with hideous distinctive marks that separates them from the rest of society (p4).

*          *          *

In Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, the main character, Adelina Amouteru is a sixteen year- old girl, or a malfetto, an abomination, plagued with a deep, dark vengeance, a blackening hole in her heart. But she is also a survivor of the blood fever that swept over her nation, killing many and leaving the cursed behind. Most of the children who survived were left with strange markings, while others were rumored to possess dangerous powers. These people are known as the blight on society, the demons, the bringers of evil; The Young Elites (p7). Like many, Adelina was a culmination of the curse, her black hair and lashes turned silver, and an eye, lost (p4). After years of suffering her cruel father’s wraith, Adelina has finally snapped, deciding to escape her prison. Blinded by her hatred and hurt, she accidentally unleashed an illusion darkness that takes her father’s life. And the truth finally steps out from the shadows, seeing light for the very first time: Adelina is a Young Elite, with the power of creating illusions (p17), and a crazed vengeful blackness in her heart, the desire to destroy anyone who dares to cross her: “I felt a pang of guilt, even the sight of [Violetta, Adelina’s sister] sent a flash of resentment through my heart. Fool. Why should I have felt sorry for someone who had watched me suffer so many times before? (Adelina Amouteru (p11)”

The story begins when Adelina in captured, in a prison cell, a bleak place where all hope is gone. She has been here for weeks, and she knows this because “[I’ve] been counting the number of times [my] meals come(p1).” Until she stopped, because it is worthless anyway, especially when you are staring at the path to your own death. The Inquisitors tell her that she is going to die tomorrow morning, that a crowd has already begun to gather outside, waiting for evil to be burned into nothing but smoke and ashes.

Adelina describes her time in the prison as “..an endless train of nothingness, filled with different slants of light and the shiver of cold, wet stone, the pieces of [my] sanity, and disjointed whispers of my thoughts (p1)”. Adelina then attempts to hum the lullaby her mother used to sing, the lullaby that is her touchstone, her keepsake, the only thing she has left of her mother, but her voice comes out hoarse and cracked (p2). This image the author paints shows how devoid of life it is in this cell, how the faintest rays of sunlight struggle to strain through the bars and into the prison, casting fragmented shadows on the cold floor. The lullaby that used to hold such love and nostalgia, now just sounding wrong and horrifying. How did she end up here? What was the atrocious story behind the ultimate defeat? A freakish girl cowering helplessly behind the bars, an audience of hungry villagers eager to see evil diminished. This is the result of what happened before, before captivity. And it all started on a stormy night at the monster’s father’s villa.

Before:

Raindrops sliced through the air like daggers falling from the sky, burrowing itself into the rooftops, or clattering onto the ground. Thunder is a light streak across the sky, a bolt of rage and fury striking at the clouds, but passing through and hitting the horizon instead.

Deep inside of her, the darkness uncoils itself from the iron of her heart and prepares to let go, tonight.

*          *          *

It starts with a storm. Knives are falling from the sky, plummeting through the atmosphere and stabbing into other people’s houses, slicing through the bubble of warmth, disrupting the safe haven of laughter and love, or the prison of hatred and abuse.

The daggers pose as a metaphor, how the raindrops, something so innocent and harmless at first glance, can actually be the poison worming its way into someone’s life, like how too many raindrops can easily turn into a flood, washing away countless of lives, dumping them into the sea, already forgotten.

As the daggers plummet down, one blade with a jeweled handle catches the locks and shatters it, a million pieces of glinting metal bouncing off of the street and into the drains, washing away into the ocean, already forgotten.

Already forgotten, or so she wishes.

We can never forget the things we want to stay buried. The lock that prevented her from escaping can never be completely forgotten, since it will always be the monster under her bed, a ghost in the shadows, waiting to step out and haunt her at night.

“[My] father’s ghost keeps me company. (Adelina Amouteru p22)”. Every time she wakes up from a feverish dream, she sees him standing in the corner of her cell, taunting her, “You tried to escape from me, but I found you. You have lost and I have won (p22).” Adelina’s father has tortured her ever since she was a little girl; the guard outside of her cell, dangling the key just out of her grasp. Now, after he is dead, his ghost is still with Adelina, telling her that she has failed, that she will always be nothing, left to rot in the dungeon. She tries to forget about him, force his death away, bury it in the darkest corner of the universe. But it never goes away, a ghost in the shadows, coming out to taunt you when you are at your weakest. Loneliness is the invisible friend standing beside you in every picture, reminding you that you are always alone.

Adelina has the gift of illusions, so what if the ghost is one too? Adelina sees so much of her worst self in her father, “Me, me, me. Perhaps I am as selfish as my father (p22),” So maybe the ghost is actually Adelina’s conscience, herself telling herself that she is worthless, that she is trapped. Adelina thinks herself as a monster, and she tries to be worth it, to be the daughter that she isn’t. Every day, I stay after school until the security guard forces me to leave. People think I’m crazy working so hard and staying after school to finish my homework. What they don’t know is that I have a voice in my head beating myself up because I’m not good enough, that I have to push myself to my absolute limit to succeed. I have a voice in my head telling me every day that I am a failure, that I do not deserve to live in this world. So every day, I have to prove myself wrong. These whispers bang on the iron wall I put up, shielding my heart from the pain of my own words. They knock on every door in the hallway, never giving up until they strike true. Why do we have to be so cruel to ourselves? Why do we have to be so insecure? Why can’t we just embrace who we are without society’s consent?

“Let me reassure you: When [we] find these demons, we bring them to justice, evil must be punished. The inquisition is here to protect you. Let this be a warning to you all (p29).” This is what the inquisitors say. They want peace and prosperity, to get rid of the “monsters”. Perhaps in their eyes, they are the heroes, the civilians cheering tricked by society. But what they don’t know is, society is made out of smoke and mirrors, the genius deemed as insane. The ones who speak up are the ones killed. Every day we tell ourselves they are the monsters; the ones who are different, the ones who can wake up and speak their dreams, but never once do we doubt ourselves, that maybe we are the monsters. “As always, I made sure my hair covered my scar (p5).” Like Adelina, I create a quintessential façade to cover up my flaws, or maybe my gifts. Some people see a gift as a flaw, a genius as insane, a survivor as a monster.

Stored in the depths of the universe is a key that can unlock the prison she has been in for so long. And the daggers have fallen from the sky, rescuing her, whisking her away where she will be accepted for who she is, but she has to go through the wrath of the people first, a battle through a sea of hypnotized civilians. And when they see her silver hair, her missing eye, they lock her up and throw her in the dungeon. So who’s the monster?

Because Adelina is a malfetto, she is naturally unwanted. Different. Disgusting: “She’s a malfetto,” says the man, “No one will care,”(p10).” “I don’t want to be seen doing business with a malfetto family (p10),” “…little abomination…(p10)”, “No one wants a malfetto bearing children (p11).” This is in her world. In our world, many people look down on people who have disabilities. Because they look different. People might think that they bring bad luck and that they are disgusting. In school, if you are different, no one will want to be friends with you. You are weird, the nerd, the loser. On page 20, a kind women gave Adelina food and shelter when she was crumpled and broken, on the run away from her past. However, after Adelina fell asleep unconscious, she found out that the woman had turned her into the Inquisition Axis and she is to be burned because society doesn’t accept people like her, monsters like her, demons who belong in the underworld. Not too long ago, I realized almost half of my friends were only friends with me because I can “help” them with their homework they wanted to use me, so they can copy my work and get away with it. They think I’m too nice, too afraid to say no, too dumb to see beyond their lies, doesn’t that naturally make me their target? Because I write a lot. Because they think I write nonsense. Because I’d rather read than be social. Because I work too so hard. Even as I know the truth, I am too scared to act upon it. Because I can’t afford to lose the only people I have. I put up an iron wall that distances myself from others in return for protection.

This summer, I lost one of my cats, Kiki. He was everything to me, my best friend, the only person who believed in me when others did not, who listened when others did not. He used to follow me everywhere, jump up beside me on the couch. Right now, as I am writing this, his absence is a big, bottomless pit in my heart. I miss the smelly puss that drips out of his mouth, leaving stains everywhere. I miss his steady breathing, reminding me that he is still alive, the purring that comforts me. Now, the couch is clean, free of the smelly stains and the tangled bits of fur—the last pieces of him gone, already forgotten by the people who used to make fun of him, how he is ugly, how he is a waste for food, a sick cat better off dead. I used to tell him he was beautiful every single day, how he deserves the gift of life every day. But now I can’t. I can’t whisper these words to him ever again, hoping one day other people will realize that. See the beauty hidden beyond the surface. But people start judging others before they even know them. Sometimes, waves of emotion carry me on the ocean, the only thing keeping me afloat, but then slamming me back to July 21st, the day he died. Pain can be the invisible hand on your back, pushing you forward or holding you back, bounding your ankles and wrists tight as you struggle to swim, letting go at the last minute so you won’t die, only to plunge you back under again. Again. Again.

Sometimes I wonder when I will break. When I will finally snap. When I can finally let go. I can only wait. Wait in this prison I made myself. I close my eyes and close the lid to my coffin, waiting for the inevitable, truly alone. The ghosts in the shadows wait, the whispers in my mind grow. I roam in the hallways, the whispers following me, knocking on every door. A door opens, and water crashes in, flooding the hallway. I’m swept up in the chaos, opening my mouth in a silent scream. The water is salty, filling my insides and choking me with it. It pushes and pulls, dragging me under. I sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Now:

The girl cowers in the corner of her cell. The fragmented rays of sunlight hit her silver hair, creating an illusion of shifting colors. The silver turns black, the marred skin turning smooth as marble; a freak into a beauty. The human body isn’t perfect, no human heart is without its scars, no human mind free of darkness. There are two sides to everything. A villager chanting in the crowds for her to be burned could also be a loving mother, an inquisitor who kills and tortures children’s with marks could also be a struggling father at home, a malfetto could just be a child, afraid of the powers she possesses. “One does not walk in the forest and accuse the trees of being off-center, nor do they visit the shore and call the waves imperfect. So why do we look at ourselves this way?” -Tao Te Ching.

The girl looks up from her crouch and sees a dagger, the jeweled hilt and the viciously sharp metal glinting under the fading sun. But what catches her breath isn’t the weapon, but her reflection. Where did her silver hair go? Why does she now have two eyes? Why is she me?

Me.

Me. The girl who is still trying to cover up the raw wound on her heart, the scars inside of her bruised mind. Me. The girl who puts iron walls around herself because she is afraid of being hurt. Me. The girl who is different, who was used and then cast aside, nothing but a spare pawn in someone else’s game.

It took me ten years to realize the truth, that we are all helplessly trapped behind iron bars, walking in circles or shrinking away. But why? Why are we so afraid even when fear is an illusion? When that voice in your head is not really there at all?

Life is set in a prison hidden by an illusion. And it depends on how you use your time in that prison that makes your life interesting. You can either plan on escaping, to muster up the courage and stick your hand you cellmates, or you can cower in the corner, haunted by the shadows and the voices in your head, putting up barriers between you and the real world, trapping yourself inside, putting the last nail in your own coffin, waiting to rot, alone.

I raise the hammer over my head, ready to put in the last nail in my coffin, but a tiny sliver of me is doubting my decision, the whispers telling me to say goodbye to the outside world one last time. I set the hammer down, and walk towards to bars. Beyond it, the future is not set, the shining surface ripples with uncertainty. Bubbles swirl in the water, waves crash into each other above. Humans are just a bubble on the tide of life. On the bottom of the ocean, tiny sparks of sliver join together. The pieces of metal stick together, and piece by piece. Laying on the bottom of the ocean is a lock. The lock that kept me in this cage for so long. It reminds me of the pain I’ve been through. The life I want to escape. Is my future merely more prisons and shadows? More lies and riddles? This is why I have to set the last nail in. I walk back to my hammer, a decision made, my fate sealed. But I find a key instead. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, the delicacy of the molded metal, the uneven edges that is freedom. White light shines behind me, beckoning me to it. I walk towards it, reaching out to touch it, but my hand hits the iron bars, and then goes through.

*          *          *

Fear fuels the darkest of lies.

“They think they can keep me out, but it does not matter how many locks they hang at the entrance. There is always another door.”-Marie Lu, The Young Elites

“I’m going to die tomorrow morning.”-Adelina Amouteru

I’m going to live tonight.