I Ran Away Towards Freedom by Smriti Srinivasan

“Bianca! Come here! You’ve not finished cooking or cleaning!” my mother called from the diminutive ‘kitchen’ in the corner of our house. I sighed. I never had a minute to myself.

“You did not have to scream.  I am right over here,” I said.

“Bianca, I’m going to the market. And you have to finish all your chores before I come back, okay?” my mother told me. Chores!

“Okay,” I replied as she walked out of the one room house. I started cooking a bit of rice and a bowl of soup. “Ahhh!” Not again! I had burnt my finger again. And now it looked like a dull pink cherry with no stem. I thought about my dad who was away in Texas to earn enough money for the family. My brother, Arthur, was at school. I loathed the fact that I could not go to school. “We are twins, so why can’t I go?” I thought. We were living in a miniscule hut with one room. The floor made with strong stone and mud used like cement. It might seem small, but it was luxurious compared to the people who were homeless. We were more fortunate than them.

Living in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador was hard.  In the past few years many gangs attacked our neighbourhood and the attacks were becoming more and more frequent. Our town was caught in war between two rival gangs. The gangs dealt with a lot of illegal stuff, like drugs, kidnappings, and extortions. Just last month, a group of men, called M-18, had entered our house. They had said that my mother would have to pay them three-fourth of the money she earned, or else they would recruit Arthur to join the gang. She had no choice but to do so. They were really powerful.

Many of my friends had run away to North America. But, I can’t imagine me doing that. My family needs me here and I need them. BANG! BANG! I yelped. Outside our tiny house, hordes of men were shooting innocent people with guns the size of my brother’s schoolwork desk. My scream had made the gang realize that there was only one house that they did not harm in the neighborhood yet. Ours.

What should I do? What should I do? Thoughts were running through my head. I quickly hid behind our tiny table. Bullets flew over my head from the windows. I panicked and swiftly ran to the closest window that they were not shooting from and scrambled out. I had escaped! I hid behind a tree, and hoped no one had noticed me. Thankfully nobody did. After a few minutes, the men left and I was free to go home.

“Bianca! Are you home?” My mother’s voice rang through my brain. She was safe! Relief poured through me.

“Mom! Are you okay? Do you need anything? Do you think Arthur is fine?” I pestered her with questions. She smiled, but there was a shaky and sad look in her eyes. “I’m fine, and so is your brother. Don’t worry. We should go to church. Jesus Christ will help us. We will feel safe. We must have hope.”

“Okay,” after all, we need to have hope during these challenging times.

After coming home, I went to my friend’s house. When I knocked on the grainy door, Aria opened it. “Bianca! You are alive! I saw the men; they were heading to your house…” my friend trailed off.

“I’m fine. May I come in? I have to talk to you,” I said as she allowed me in. “I think we have to run away. We can’t go on living like this.” Aria stared at me too shocked to reply. I suddenly got scared too. If she did not come with me I definitely couldn’t run away. “Have you even thought about it? If we get caught, we would be sent back. And, our parents would have to pay a fine. How will we travel? Where would we travel to?” She suddenly said after a long pause.

“Paying a fine or dying? Which is worse?  And yes, I have thought about it. If you come, we could try to earn money to get on for La Bestia and go reach Monterrey, Mexico. Then we’ll go to Texas an find my dad.” I said. I looked at her with the most hopeful look I could muster.

“Okay, but how will we get the money?” asked Aria. I never thought that Aria would be so easy to convince.

“I guess we could sell some of our things,” I say, sadly. “Our families aren’t rich no money to ‘borrow’ from our parents. I could sell my chain,” I added when I saw the sorrow look on her face. Aria gapes at me. She knows that is my most precious item. “No! You can’t! It’s too important to you.”

“We have no choice.” I replied. “Aria” I asked, “what would happen to our families? Our mothers? Our brothers?”

“I don’t know… But we have to have to have hope.”

Why is everyone telling me to have hope? I know it’s important, but it is really difficult now.

“Okay, but where in Texas? Aren’t there many cities?” Aria questioned. I’m not good at remembering things but this is one thing I remember. “He lives in Laredo. He said he’d be near to the river as he is a fisherman.” I reply, glad to recall something.

At around 10:00 pm Aria and I met at the railway station. It was late and it was time robbers haunted the unoccupied streets. Anything could have happened to us, but we made it to the railway station safe. Still, I felt a chill down my spine.

As planned, we slid into a freight train carrying rice bags. Feeling scared and alone, we scrambled into a big bags were carrying and hoped no one would notice us. From our small hole, we saw another girl.  She looked older than us, and she was squeezing into a small bag. Aria and I caught each other’s eyes. We had to be friends with her. Without help there was no chance that we could make it North. We rolled in the bag causing us to move towards her. We banged ‘her’ bag once and it got her attention. She peeked out of her bag after the train started moving. We learned a lot about her, she was 18 years old, four years older than Aria and me. She wants to go to Laredo, like us. Her name was Liz, and she lived a few houses away from our house. It was surprising that I’ve never seen her before seen her before. “Liz? Aria and I do not know when to exit. Can you help us?” I asked hoping that she knew and did not randomly come like us.

“Of course. Since we want to go to the same place, we should stick to each other like a barnacle to a boat. We have to wait till the seventh station, at Guatemala, and then creep out before anyone else leaves. Then, we climb aboard La Bestia. I know a few people at Guatemala who will help us after we reach,” she replied.

After we reached Guatemala, we trailed Liz to the Beast. She told us to follow the man with an orange t-shirt and shorts. “He is the man who will find a way to let us in,” Liz whispered to us. We kept an eye on him because we did not want to lose him. He was dressed like everyone else was. He sneaked us in from the back and told us to climb up the ladder and not to make a noise. We obeyed his orders and went up. It was very crowed. Kids, mothers, fathers, they all were there. Looking at them made me homesick. I missed my mother and Arthur a lot and I hoped they were okay.

The journey to Mexico was long and sweltering. The weather was humid and we were running out of water and food. Many people were tired and dehydrated. But after what felt like months, we reached. The hardest part of the journey was yet to come. Crossing the Mexican desert was the most challenging. In San Salvador it was heard that many had died trying to cross the desert.

During the journey through the blistering sands, we saw many bodies hidden in dry bushes. And the saddest part was, that there where people of different ages even kids, and the smell of decaying human bodies attacked me. Aria, Liz and I shivered in fear. We could taste the sand in our lungs. What would happen to us? Surprisingly, and fortunately, we survived the journey. Next, we had to pass the border patrol. The border patrols are men that guard the border. They make sure no one gets to the United States illegally, like us.

While we climbed the towering, wire fence that separates Mexico and Texas, a van stopped, with the words Patrulla fronteriza (Border Patrol) on it. A man with police uniform on exited the car, looking at the girls. “Come with me! You have some explaining to do!” the man called up the fence. We jumped down and he took us in the van. My teeth chattered and I did not know what to do. “Sir? What will happen to us?” Liz asked. Let’s not tell him about my father. They will send my father back too. Then there will be no money for the family.” I whispered this to my companions, and my friends nodded.

The man shrugged and said, “Depends. If you get amnesty you will be allowed to stay if you don’t… you probably will be sent back. There’ll be a judge who decides what your future is. Maybe you’ll stay, maybe you won’t.”

“Okay. Thank you for the information,” Aria told him. I was very worried. I hoped that we could stay. I thought. Otherwise this journey was for no reason. We all had to be thinking the same thing. Our expressions were worried and depressed. After all, we had no inkling what would happen to us. But this was my journey, and I would persevere and have hope through out it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future’s “Once Upon a Time” by Sarah K

Once upon a long time ago there once was life and it was all called “nature”
It was a time when leafy rainforests and clear lakes and golden meadows once were
The Earth had been a place where the furry, scaled, and feathered had roamed
But then the furless, scale-less, and featherless came to make their own little home

It was a time when leafy rainforests and clear lakes and golden meadows once were
It was when eyes could look up and see the clearest and deepest shades of azure
But then the furless, scale-less, and featherless came to make their own little home
And then all the color and beauty gave way to smoke and an ash-colored monochrome

It was when eyes would look up and see the clearest and deepest shades of azure
The Earth had been a place where the furry, scaled, and feathered had roamed
And then all the color and beauty gave way to smoke and an ash-colored monochrome
Once upon a long time ago there once was life and it was all called “nature”

Endangered bonobos by Sophia Y

BOOM! The crackle of the gunfire shot across the dark morning sky.

“Run!” People screamed horrifically as they scampered out of their little huts. Claudine Andre instantly grabbed her rusty notebook, a small, sharpened pencil and a bag, and then scrambled out of her hut. As she swayed her bag over her shoulder, she took a quick last glance of the sanctuary bonobo vet she used to visit everyday when she was little, then ran away, into the morning darkness.

 

War had started not too long ago. It was really dangerous, many people died. Claudine and her mother moved to Kinshasa, Congo when she was little and lived there ever since.

“The war in Congo is extremely dangerous,” Claudine’s mother had told her, as she ruffled Claudine’s dark, long hair. “You should leave Congo when it gets worse.”

Claudine replayed that memory in her head and gave a deep sigh. She started trudging behind everyone. Her shoes tore and was worn out. Beads of cold sweat rolled down her red cheeks. She wiped her forehead. Her head was spinning. Claudine finally reached the hectic, city, after an exhausting, long five-hour walk. Claudine found a taxi that could take her to the airport. Her mother had booked her a ticket to fly back to Belgium. Claudine slowly rummaged through her bag.

“Hello, I’m flying to Belgium.” Claudine said to front desk woman.

Claudine sat down next to a rather plump man that read a newspaper. He wore a smooth blue and black striped tie, and a dark suit. His dark hair was slicked to the back of his head and face was sleepy.

“Hello,” Claudine said kindly. He glanced at her for a split second, lowered his round glasses and went back reading his newspaper. She peered at the newspaper, thinking of something to say. “How are you?” That man gave her an icy stare. He folded the newspaper neatly and left it on the chair he sat on. Then, he took his suitcase and walked away. Claudine stared at him as he walked away and shook her head. She picked up the newspaper left on the chair and started reading. This was the article that caught her eye:

Can anyone kindly volunteer to help The Sanctuary of Congo to help save bonobos? This is extremely important! Thank you.

 

Claudine sat there for a while, thinking of what she should.

“This is the last call for anyone flying to Belgium, at Gate 13. This is the last call for anyone flying to Belgium, at Gate 13.”

Claudine hesitantly stood up and carefully placed the newspaper in her bag preventing it from tearing, then she walked to the front desk, and out of the airport. As she slowly walked, she regretted it more. She missed the crisp; orange autumn leaves, of Belgium. And jumping in the soft leaves with her friends when she was little. She also missed Mrs. Victoria’s delicious, warm, crunchy apple pies. She remembered her favorite part, which made her mouth water. The sticky, gooey, sweet apple filling.

 

“Claudine! Are you crazy? The war is getting worse in Congo!”

“Sorry mother, I really should help the bonobos. They are endangered!”
Claudine said crossly into the phone.

“You don’t understand?” her mother yelled. “Safety first.” Her voice suddenly softened.

“I already confirmed!” Claudine’s face reddened with anger. “Mother, you know how much I love animals! I have dreamed to help the animals in need.
“Claudine, do you understand me or not? It doesn’t matter if you confirmed, you can just quit it! Also, I agree with you, you should follow your dreams, but safety first,” Mary-Ann spat.

Claudine slammed the phone to her desk. A tear rolled out of her eye and down her red face. I must help the bonobos!  A faint voice called in her mind. She gazed out of her window into the blazing sunlight. “I can do this,” Claudine whispered. As she walked closer to the taxi, her feet sank into the dry grass, not wanting to let her go. Claudine worked hard keeping the bonobos safe and looking for them. But she realized that she had made a huge mistake. The job was tougher than she had expected. Claudine wanted to quit so desperately. One afternoon, she went out with other workers to look for bonobos.

“There’s a bonobo!” Someone shouted pointing to a tree.

“I’ll get it,” Claudine said bravely. “Get ready to bring the bonobo back to the sanctuary.”

Claudine slowly climbed up the rough tree. Her fingertips kept on slipping on the rough tree skin. “This is hard,” she stammered, slightly shaking. Finally as she reached the top of the tree, she suddenly heard the sound of gunfire shoot across the sky toward her. Claudine tried to get down, but fustratedly; she remembered something, which was her deepest fear: heights.

“Help!” Claudine pleaded. Everyone sprinted away, leaving her by herself and face to face with the bonobo. Claudine turned around desperately looking for a way to get down. The bonobo gave a huge screech. Claudine held onto the tree. Blood splat all over her hands. The bonobo was shot? Claudine got really petrified. There is no other way for her to get down unless She closed her eyes and let go of the tree. Then, she staggered back to the sanctuary.

 

Claudine lay down. Congo is really getting extremely dangerous. Claudine thought. Maybe mother is right. I should go back to Belgium. Mother should be always right. She knows best and is the person that cares about me most in this world. Should I have listened to her?

 

 

 

Abha by Minjoo K

Abha walked to the India National Airport. The sun was roasting his skin, and he tasted the burst air. Sweat from his neck was dripping down to his shoulders. His white t-shirt was getting soaked. When he went inside the sliding glass doors, the cool breeze stroked him gently. Abha didn’t realize that it was manmade wind called air condition. He let go of his luggage, opened his arms wide and inhaled slowly.

 

“How can I help you?” a tall blonde hair American stewardess came to Abha and asked politely.

He blinked his eyes, staring at her. Her golden hair looked so real that he wanted to touch it. Her skin was white as snow, and her lips were coloured like a rose. He was very dark and dry unlike hers. Working under the sun made him dry, tough, and dark.

He responded, “Yes, wh-where is the boarding gate for the plane that goes to New York?”

The stewardess pointed at the gate number 33 and said, “Do you see that yellow gate number 33? That is the one.”

“Thank you,” he replied.

Abha eyed carefully at a nametag on her uniform. It said “Riana Scarlet”. He thought it was a pretty name to have; still her name was very short unlike Indian names. He had 13 names in total, but he just used Abha Kayva Pranulhi.

He walked slowly toward the gate and sat on the chair to wait for the flight. He was tired of interconnecting in his new language. He closed his eyes to take a rest; he thought his muscle releasing all the energy, he fainted into a deep sleep. He dreamed about the moment when he was picked to go to US:

 

“Abha, you will need to go to America,” his boss told Abha while Abha was washing his elephant, Thomas. “I know this will be hard for you. But you are the only mahout who can speak English. The Asian Nature Conversation Foundation picked you to go. We thought you are suitable for this job.”

Abha was very surprised, and he dropped the hose that he was using to rinse off Thomas. He needed few seconds to organize his thoughts. He was scared, and excited, but mostly he was worried about Thomas.

Abha asked anxiously, “Will Thomas go with me? How will he be moved to the US? Do I have a place to live with him? Does US have a camp like ours?”

“Come down, one at a time. It will be okay. New York has a better camp to live in, and they have more food to feed him. But to care him is not your job. Your job is to represent about India and mahout. You will be going to some meetings with the representatives of their county,” his boss calmed him down a little, and lastly, he mentioned. “You’ll need to study English more.”

 

*          *          *

 

Then few minutes later the stewardess came again and woke him up. She smiled at him, and pointed at the people who were entering the gate. Half of them were gone. He hurriedly ran to the gate and took a few steps to the door of the plane. He was just out of sorts. He finally sat down and sighed.

The plane took off with those loud roaring sound unlike birds flying gently. He glued his back to the chair in fear. Stewardess in their uniform looked very beautiful to him. Golden curly hair, with their deep blue eyes just looked so perfect to Abha. Then his attention followed to a small window. All the buildings, cars, people were small as a miniature. Even tiny as ants.

Then blonde but smaller stewardess, Diana came to him and asked him to fill out the immigration card. On the card where you write your job, he wrote mahout in his sloppy English handwriting. And he handed it proudly to Diana. But as if Diana didn’t know this job, she stared at him and gave him a face with question marks around her. Abha was just smiling at her without noticing anything. He thought mahout was a job that he should have pride on, and he was waiting for that wow moment when the stewardess read his card and realizes he is a mahout. But only thing he got was an awkward silence and a stare from her. His head just blanked out, and he only thought about telling this woman how superb he is.

He said; stumbling, “I am a mahout. I, I am good. Elephant keeper. Elephant.” He emphasized the word elephant.

The stewardess asked in very polite way like she always does, “Is that a professional job?”

She made her nice smiling face, but Abha was just shocked at the fact that she didn’t know what is mahout. Abha was in the famous magazine and had tons of interviews. Almost everyone in his town knew him.  Asian Nature Conversation Foundation picked him too.

After this incident, he had no confidence at all. He tried not to think of the unhappy things that might happen to him in America, but he couldn’t help worrying. How could the stewardesses doesn’t know what is mahout? How could Diana do not know me? Didn’t she see me in the magazine? What if everyone in America doesn’t know what is mahout?

Abha took a deep breath. I am Abha Kavya Pranulhi. I am a famous mahout. It will be okay…

The plane landed safely, but Abha was still gluing his back to the chair in anxiousness.

 

Abha walked out of the immigration place. He was shivering in cold. It was winter in America, and nobody told him that knew it was very cold. Only thing he had was a thin blanket from the airplane, white t-shirt, and shorts that he was wearing the whole time. There were people from Asian Nature Conversation Foundation waiting for him and they had big puffy jacket, gloves, scarf, and long pants for him. They were greeting him with their eager smile. It relaxed him a little.

He said “Hello” and “Nice to meet you” to them, because they were the only words he felt sure about. He just smiled at them. They could see his effort to be respectful.

The glass door of the airport terminal slid open. Abha stood there for few moments. Stepping out of this terminal door felt like leaving his family, his camp, mahouts, India… forever. Am I ready to live in this new life?

 

He shook away his anxiousness, and took his first step into a new life in New York.

 

The Deported by Shawn Q

Louvri moute! Louvri pòt la!” came a shout from outside in Creole, the Haitian language, “Open up!”

We all knew who was knocking on our door, they seemed to be the biggest worry of the neighborhood these days. We all knew what they were going to do. We all know that they would take away our most valued possession. Our home.

“Louvri moute! Ou nou pral louvri pòt la pou ou!”came the voice once again. My father seemed to have lost his always present smile, as he stood up, he let out a long, deep sigh, knowing that this is the end of our stay in this foreign place. My papa reluctantly walked to the wooden door.

“Do we have to go?” I asked tearily.

“We must,” replied my father grimly, “They’ll kill us if we don’t.”

The old days seemed so far away, the days where deportation was the least of my worries, the days that my older brother, Osse and I could go to school, the days where I could stroll through the market feeling the heat on my back… Sadly, those days are over. We can no longer be proud of our ethnicity, we can no longer feel unjudged because of the color of our skin, we can no longer be proud to be Haitian.

My father opened the door, seeing two government officials.

“Your time is up,” said one of them.

***

Everything after the government officials’ visit continued in silence getting in the my father’s old truck, leaving our home, our neighbors half heatedly waving us goodbye, knowing that they soon would suffer the same fate. Due to not having our visas and documents ready, our family was one of the hundreds that were deported back to Haiti that month, many more were to follow. Little Mina also seemed to know to be quiet, as her usual crying stopped. Or so we thought… But wait, these deep, sad cries weren’t coming from Mina, they were coming from me. Without realizing, I let the saddness I had inside of me burst out. First came a tear, the next thing I know, I was bawling my eyes out, shaking with anger, longing, and above all, sadness. I was sad because I could no longer live in my home in the Dominican Republic, the only home I ever knew.

 

5km away, A hurricane brews

 

My crying finally finished, not because I no longer missed home, but because I have run out of tears to shed. I felt the wind in my face; it’s surprisingly cold, but I didn’t think much of it, as I was used to it. My hands were cold, my face was cold, so was my heart. My home was taken away from me. Along my friends, my education, a part of me was gone, forever.

 

“Haiti isn’t that bad…” comforted Osse thoughtfully.

I let out a deep sigh, hanging my head. Osse was born three years before me, living in Haiti before moving to the Dominican Republic with my parents. My father often told me stories about Haiti, about the family farm, warm and loving Haitians, as well as the dredded huricane season. Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to visit Haiti so bad. Visit the family farm, wander around in the street market, and join the locals in their festivities, once I even dreamt of doing so. Just not like this.

 

 

The wind was getting stronger and stronger. I felt it biting into my skin, making me shiver.

I asked my brother, “Osse, do you feel that wind?”

He nodded.

As I poked my head outside the rusted truck frame, it hit me… Literally.

 

 

This is how I got to this position now. My leg pinned, my home lost, my mind broken. The hurricane that hit our truck also effected the bridge that we were driving on, shattering the concrete, breaking it up into a million pieces; some big, some small. Just my luck! One of the enormous pieces of concrete is pinning my leg, making me incapable of moving.

How am I going to get out of here? I thought to myself.

I tried to push away the rock pinning my leg. No luck.

I sigh deeply, not knowing what to do next.

I let out a desperate cry, “Help!”

I hear pebbles falling, then rocks, after that even bigger rocks. I know what this is, this is a landslide. As I close my eyes to accept my fate, I hear a shout from beside me, “André! André!” It was Osse’s voice. I open my eyes. Osse is trying to move the rock pinning my leg, but it isn’t budging.

“We must try together.”

“Okay.”

“One, two, three!”

We lifted the weighty rock, releasing my pinned foot.

“You okay André?”

“Yeah, where is mama and papa, is Mina safe?”

“I think s-”

My brother never got to finish this sentence, the rock we moved caused a landslide, knocking my brother over the side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter from the author:

 

Dear reader,

 

Although all characters in this story are fictitious, I wrote this short story to bring awareness to a very serious problem; deportation. In the Dominican Republic alone, there are tens of thousands of Haitians that have moved to the Dominican Republic for a better future that have lost their homes as a result of not having necessary papers. If you are reading this right now, then you’re probably much more fortunate than them; but it’s important to sometimes be reminded that there are those that aren’t as blessed as we are.

 

Shawn Quek

 

I, Andrew by Miles D

I sat in our stuffy, littered, minivan at an old rusty Mississippi gas station, finishing a bag of chips for my dinner. My younger sister, Sophie, was sitting in the back, snoring loudly.  I looked out of the car window, thinking about when I was twelve.  I remembered all the little toys I had (especially Mr. Penguin), all so many friends, books, fishing in the Mississippi river, and school. It was after a good night of playing baseball I heard my mom and dad screaming at each other.  I was in my bedroom but I could still hear most of their conversation. “What why? Why would you give them most of the money!!! What about Andrew?” I heard mom yell.

“I had to or else…” my dad said softly back.

“Or else what?”

There was a long silence…

Honestly after that I won’t say it was so pretty. Well the last thing I heard before I went to sleep was my mom yelling, “Ok then, LEAVE!!!”

“I might as well leave then! And I am NEVER coming back to this house again!” my dad yelled.

Those words echoed in my head never coming back… I heard the door slam which made the whole world shake. It felt like a small knife was cutting my heart. My sister asked in a sleepy voice, “He is coming back… right?”

I reassured her in a shaky voice, “He is going to come back.”

That night I heard my mom crying and praying to God.

At first, my dad didn’t come back for several days.  Then weeks. Then months. After that I knew I would never see him again. After about two months after my dad left we started to lose lots of money so we had to sell stuff. At first it was small things like some of my toys and some plants. But eventually we had to start to sell big things like our computer and the TV. Even though we sold many things we still had little snacks everyday. Then eventually we had to sell our entire house and live in my mom’s car with my sister.

Ever since we started to live in our car it has been really hard for me to go to school. At first, it was just a short walk from our car to school. But as time went on, we slowly started to move farther and farther from school. Not only that, it was hard for me to study and do my homework in the car so my grades started to slip. Eventually, I had to quit school all together. So instead of going to school with Sophie we would go from door to door looking for work to do and get paid while my mom went to work at a factory. But that still wasn’t enough money to fill my stomach. Plus, since we lived in car we never get to have a shower or bathe, and when we did it was usually had 7eleven bathroom sink. One time I asked why we don’t live in a shelter for homeless families. My mom didn’t want to answer that. So I knew then we would always being roaming around and living out of our car.

When I get bored I would sometime wish that I were like an animal and do whatever I wanted. To escape all this hardship, to be free and fly…   These ideas came to me more and more often when I would explore Mississippi’s large green forests.  I saw many things like rabbits, deer, squirrels, and foxes…

Two years passed since my dad left dad we where still in pretty bad shape.  While I was eating my potato chips for dinner, I saw my mom crying red faced and slowly coming to our car. She opened the door and said “The… factory… closed… we have no more money” and she burst out crying again. She woke up Sophie and before you knew it we are all crying.

That night, after we all calmed down and when Sophie was already asleep, my mom stroked my brown hair and thought that I was already asleep and said “It’s going to be ok.” She repeated over and over until she was asleep.

The next day I woke up in jeans and an old vest. I looked out the car window watching the sunrise and thinking what am I going to do about this problem? I already know that doing chores for random people isn’t enough money… I looked around our minivan. Sophie was still in the back snoring loudly and my mom wasn’t in the front. So I got out of the car and saw my mom closing her eyes, with a pink hoodie on and letting the great wind of the Mississippi blow in her golden hair. She looked at me and said in a sad voice, “What are we going to do?”

She got back in the car without saying a word…

Once Sophie woke up we did the usual. We went to near by fast food restaurant and bought something very small and went around town for money, meanwhile our mom looking for a new job. A couple days passed, and every night my mom got sadder and angrier. To the point where she would go hours on end looking for a job, I suggested, “Maybe we could move to a better state where there are more stable jobs.”

She replied “We probably won’t have enough gas to get us to a better state.”

That is when I knew it. I would run away to find a job. Get lots of money and help my family. But then I thought what about Sophie and my Mom? Will they be okay without me? Or should I try to find a job for my mom? I wondered about these questions for days. As our food shortened and shortened to about one meal a day, I was getting really concerned.

I decided to make list why I should go and not go. I should go because I might find a good job and make money. Or I might meet people who could help us with our problem. If I succeeded, we could all have a home and live a happy life.  Why I shouldn’t go: If I do go I could get lost and never find my family again. Our family might be torn apart. Or I might not be accepted in a good job.

I thought of this for a long time. And then one night I decided: I will go. I will help my mom even if it means starving myself. If I fail I will keep on trying. I will work as hard as I can.  I will come back with money and a job for mom before our family is torn apart.

The night before I left I wrote a note to mom saying:

I put the note on the dashboard on our old minivan. I looked at Sophie and whispered, “Its only bye for a little while.”

I kissed her and stroked her hair, and got my bag with everything I needed for my trip. Then I opened the car door to a whole knew world…                                                            

 

Guilt by Christina K

The grey dolphin stalked me with his cloudy eyes as I steered my small wooden kayak toward Fanalei. The icy cold salt water sprayed up to my ankle, stinging my skin. The wound on his back was still bleeding, but he stopped fighting just a few minutes ago. Another gigantic wave turned toward us. The dolphin whimpered, and a tear escaped from my blue eyes, trailing down my wrinkled face.

 

Jaymark woke up with a start. He had sweat all over his forehead. Shaking uncontrollably, he carefully laid back into his thick wool blanket. He sighed. He had this dream for months now.  The dream was the same thing over and over again: the same grey dolphin, the stormy weather, and the humongous wave before he woke up, always the same. He knew that hunting dolphins is unfair and wrong, but what choice did he have? He was not even close to the goal of this month, and he still needed to eat. As he used his left arm to push himself up, Jaymark closed his eyes.

Another day full of guilt as he killed dolphins.

Putting on his worn-out shoes, Jaymark stood up and looked around his house. The little room made of wood, with a ceiling made of straw. Dim light shone only by a small lantern on an old lopsided table. He sighed again. He used to daydream of living in a house made of gold, having all the money on earth. He wanted to complain, but the urge faded over time, he knew that it wouldn’t ever happen to him, and he should just be a normal fisherman. Jaymark grabbed his dolphin hunting supplies, and walked out of his house.

 

“Mark! Stop staring at the dolphin! We need a hand here!” Jaymark shook his head; his floppy dark hair became even messier than a lion’s mane and looked up to Augustus, who was using both of his hands to carry a bloody dolphin. He started walking towards Augustus but almost slipped on the sandy ground. Reaching out his hand, Augustus laughed.

“Seriously? How is it even funny?” Jaymark asked. Augustus frowned at him.

“Come on, laughing is good for you!” Augustus smiled and laughed again.

 

“No, no, this is not true.” Augustus covered his tanned face with his muddy fingers, only showing his deep brown eyes and muttered.

“Are you kidding me? This is awesome!” Jaymark shrieked with happiness. “We don’t hunt the dolphins but still get money? The deal must be the wisest decision the chief have ever made!” Right after Jaymark and Augustus came back from dolphin hunting, they heard news. Fanalei made a deal with a non-governmental group, and that they would not hunt dolphins anymore, but because the entire village depended on hunting dolphins, they would get money in exchange.

To Jaymark, the deal was best thing that could ever happen, but to Augustus, hunting dolphins have become part of his life, like the other people in Fanalei, even the entire Solomon Islands.

“What do we do?” Augustus asked. “I would rather hunt dolphins than doing nothing!” But Jaymark frowned.

“What are you talking about? You like hunting dolphins?” He couldn’t even imagine him, a person that was against hunting dolphins, friends with a person that enjoys hunting dolphins.

“Lets go talk to the chief and try to convince him to regret and change his mind!” Augustus said. Jaymark started to get furious.

“Do you realize what damage you have, no, we have done to the environment ant the dolphins? And you want to do that? Are you out of your mind?” Jaymark yelled. His piercing blue eyes made Augustus shrink back a little.

“What do you mean? You don’t? Who are you? You want to protect the planet? It has nothing to do with you!” Augustus covered his face with his hand.

“Just, leave me alone for a second.” Jaymark said. “I can’t believe my best friend has the complete opposite dream I have.” Augustus blinked. Looking stunned, he walked away.

The Honey Collector by Andy N

“Dangit!”

The logger’s chainsaw ran slower and spun to a halt. “Rrgh!” he dropped the chainsaw on the messy undergrowth and gave it a swift kick. This only worsened the problem, and the chainsaw started smoking. He looked onto the horizon, and heard bunches of forest animals calling out to each other. He sighed and breathed in a deep breath of jungle air. If the boss finds out I only got two logs AND broke my chainsaw, I’ll surely get punished! “Work, you stupid chainsaw!” he pleaded. This logger was so focused on getting his chainsaw to work; he didn’t notice the dark figure silently but rapidly advancing towards him.

In blind fury, the logger seized the chainsaw and started chipping away at the nearest tree. “Come on, I’ve got to – Argh!” the logger, a large, muscular man, now sunk to his knees, and the last thing he saw before he blacked out was the dark, sharp needle embedded in his throat…

 

*****

“Ihh! I can’t get this dumb tree sap to stretch! Rin, can you pass me that stick there?” I asked. Then I noticed the logger mumbling for me to stop yammering. “Oh, hi, did I wake you up? Sorry, I’m just making my newest invention. Oops, I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Maw-bee, named after a famous Nukak. Of course you wouldn’t know who the Nukak are, you’re a logger my dad recently captured, aren’t you? Well, the Nukak are a tribe of people who live deep in the Amazon rainforest, between the Guaviare and the Inírida rivers, in case you didn’t know. And guess what? I’m a part of the Nukak! Every one here is –” I stopped when I noticed my friend Rin-ta glaring daggers at me.

“Honestly, why do you even keep this dirty brat in your house anyway? And why do you keep talking to him?” Rin-ta demanded. “He’s a LOGGER, and loggers have no heart, no respect for the environment. Plus I hate loggers, you know why…”

“Rin, he can still listen to us, and he can help me with my inventions!” I sighed and continued talking to the logger. “That was my friend, Rin-ta, but I call her Rin. She hates loggers, because her mom and dad were both killed by angry loggers.” I paused briefly when the logger mumbled something about a “raise.” “Look, I don’t CARE what your boss says; he’s a mindless forest hater. And why are you rambling on and on about this “money” stuff? Do you use it for trading? And–”

“Some attention here, too…” Rin stabbed a knife into the table to get my attention.

“Seriously, Rin, I’m just chatting to him here. All right, I added the final touch to my invention. All right, let’s go hunting!” I dashed out of the room before she even had time to dislodge the knife embedded in the table.

 

*****

 

It seems now that logger has become Maw-bee’s best friend. I sighed and looked around the dark gloomy hut. Maw-bee banged on the door and told me, “Hurry up, already!”

“Coming!” I grabbed my knives and my hunting spear.

“Oh, yeah, don’t forget my airhorn thingy!” Maw-bee yelled through the leafy door.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” I grabbed his little contraption off of its stool and ran out the door. When I got out, Maw-bee was looking at me expectantly, tapping his foot.

“Come on!” he cried and ran off into the jungle. I sighed again and ran after him. The jungle was humid today, and I could hear monkey calls in the distance. Good.

“Apparently someone caught a sacred white-tailed deer yesterday,” Maw-bee announced to me.

“What?!” I looked at him with a shocked face.

“Probably wasn’t looking, maybe thought it was a capybara. Plus, the guy over to the left of your hammock is making me a new piranha tooth spear, because he caught a whole batch of piranhas with his net, and said that he could share the loot to make spears, and my one is sorta cracked.” He showed me the tip of his spear, and sure enough, a long, jagged crack ran across the side.

“Really, what DO you do with your spears? Mine is in tip-top shape. Also, my blowgun darts are tipped with the special paralyzing poison that your dad makes, the one that he used to capture that logger guy. I bet your ones are just the average mildly poisonous kind, the kind that everyone uses.” I stuck my tongue out at him, and he made a face and nudged me with his fist.

“Well, I bet your berry plant is much smaller than mine,” he defended. “I use the special kind of fertilizer that my mom makes.”

“Ha, you think that — ” I broke off. Maw-bee looked at my gaping face and followed to the direction I was looking to. Then I thought that his jaw dropped all the way down to his chest. But I couldn’t blame him. Up on a tree was the biggest hornet’s nest I’ve seen since we moved to this jungle, and it was so full of honey that it was overflowing at the sides. But…

“Hey, Maw-bee, do you really think that you can reach that nest?” I observed the tree uncertainty. “It looks seriously high, and I don’t think even Nun-bu could survive that fall.”

“Pfft! Don’t be a scardey cat, Rin! I’ve climbed lots of trees for honey before. How is this one any different? Plus, look how much honey we could get!” he exclaimed.

“The only difference is that this tree was TWENTY log widths higher than the other ones you’ve climbed! The worst falls those shorter trees could give you is a broken leg! I don’t even want to consider what would happen if you fell from this one – Hey, Maw-bee! Come back!” But he was already on the first branch, with all his stuff in a pile on the ground. I sighed. That stubborn Maw-bee is such a risk taker! I just hope he doesn’t fall… if he does, I won’t be able to help!

 

*****

The trussed up logger sighed. He breathed in the stale air of the hut and grumbled out of annoyance. He was getting tuckered out of looking at a bunch of wood and closets of wacky inventions. Whatever that energetic boy with the wild hair and that auburn girl with the knives were doing must be more fun that sitting tied up in a noxious hut. What on earth WERE they doing? He wouldn’t call it a date, because normally they didn’t involve weapons.

I sure wonder what those young’uns are doing. They’re still young, young like Collin. I really hope they don’t end up like him. Sure, he hated these “Nukak” people, but he still had a heart, and just the thought of Collin made the logger’s eyes tear up…

*****

“Lookin’ good, Rin!  These vines look sturdy. I’m just going to use them to pull myself up… Ungh! The vines stop now!” I grabbed on to the rough hide of the tree. “I’m going to have to just use the bark! Hey, the nest is only about thirty logs away!”

An ominous buzz that I ignored started growing more boisterous. I looked up and saw a cloud of black and yellow descend towards me. “Rin, the hornets are starting to close in! I’m gonna light the torch to put the hornets to sleep!” I reached towards my tiny pouch made of a few leaves and pulled out a large stick and some flint and steel. I lit the torch and the hornets started growing more placid. A few fell out of the air and onto me. I grimaced and kept climbing. “All right! I’m up to the nest!” I called down to Rin. “I’m cutting the stem now! Got it! Now I just need to shimmy down – OW! WOOOOOAAAAH!” The next thing I knew, I was plunging down the tree. The pain in my leg was nothing compared to the tidal waves of fear crashing around inside me. “HELP, RIN!” My voice elevated to a scream. “AAAAAHHHHH! I DON’T WANNA DIE! AAAAAWhat?!”

I hit a huge branch, and the momentum threw me off the edge. Before I fell down again, I grabbed hold of the smallest, thinnest twig on that branch. But with the nest clutched in one hand. I couldn’t pull myself up. Even if I dropped the nest, I wasn’t sure if I could climb up without the twig snapping.

*****

“I’m coming, Maw-bee!” I scrambled madly to the base of the tree. My heart pounded so hard in my chest I thought it was going to burst out. I knew it! That stupid Maw-bee got stung by a hornet and fell off the tree! If only that branch wasn’t there, then — then — I didn’t even want to consider the alternative! Maw-bee was hanging on to a single, incredibly thin branch, with the torch in his mouth to keep the hornets from stinging the hand that was grabbing on to the branch. And with the other hand, that stubborn Maw-bee was still clutching the heavy nest. Even from the bottom I could already see the branch cracking. I needed to do something, and fast!

I took out my spear and prepared to throw it to Maw-bee so he could use it to climb back up to a sturdier branch. I aimed closely. If I missed, it could cost his very life. I hoisted my arm back… and a sudden burst of pain erupted from my back and ran up my left arm.

Something warm and sticky ran down my back. I gritted my teeth and turned around. What I saw almost gave me a heart attack. A full-grown jaguar was right behind me, and this particular one looked especially hungry.

I glanced up and saw the branch Maw-bee was holding slooooowly cracking. I defeated the muscly barrier with my spear, but MORE came out of the bushes to avenge it!

Maybe if I defeat the leader, the rest of the pack will retreat! I located the biggest, most muscular jaguar and furled my last knife as hard as I could at it, hitting it square between its eyes. But instead of retreating, this seemed to infuriate the remaining ones ever more. No! There has to be a way! Meanwhile, Maw-bee seemed to be trying to tell me something. He kept pointing at my bag with his foot. What?

There was nothing in my bag except for a few nuts, his airhorn thingy—the airhorn thingy? YES! THE AIRHORN THINGY!!! I pulled it out of his back, took out the horn contraption and blew into the hole as hard as I could. The most horrifying sound I’d ever heard emitted from it. I almost dropped the tiny contraption, but managed to hold on. And NOW the jaguars squealed and ran like little kittens with their tail between their legs. Then, without hesitation, I took my spear and threw it at Maw-bee, just as the branch finally gave out and he plummeted down.

I screamed and looked helplessly as Maw-bee fell down the tree. But, somehow, miraculously, he caught the spear in MIDAIR and stabbed it into the tree, slowing his fall. He stopped two logs above the ground. He ripped the spear out of the tree and dropped to the ground. Then I tackled him in a warm hug.

“I thought I lost you!” Tears started pouring out of my eyes. No matter how annoying he could be, I just couldn’t stand the thought of him gone forever. He was my friend, and friends should stick together. He’s still here, and that’s good.

The mushiness only lasted for two seconds, though, and then I pushed him away and walloped him in the stomach.

“Yow! What was that for?!” he rubbed his red tummy.

“Don’t you DARE do anything that dangerous EVER AGAIN, you got it?” and flicked his shoulder. I sighed and rubbed my eyes.

“How are you? Are you alright?” I asked him, examining his sting.

“How am I?! You’re entire back is bleeding dry, and you’re asking ME how I am?!” He helped me up.

“Well, that’s what friends are for, isn’t it?” I asked him.

“Heh, you sure you’re feeling alright?” he joked, only to receive a slug to the shoulder.

“Ow! Okay, you’re normal, you’re normal!” he rubbed his collarbone. “Come on. We’d better get you to a healer, and quick.”

But once we got to the healer’s hut, everyone was darting around in a blind panic. The limp silhouette of the tribe chief lay unmoving on the hut’s cold floor.

“What? What happened?” Maw-bee asked a crying woman.

Little did we know that those words that came out of her mouth would haunt us for the rest of our lives.

*****

 

The logger should have been comfortable lying on a pile of puffy leaves. Yet, even as he was deep in his slumber, he still tossed and turned as the nightmares haunted him once again…

“Collin! Get behind me! Collin? COLLIN! NO!”