Sitting in a room full of family and friends dying to get their greedy little hands on my recently deceased Aunt’s fortune, I carelessly pick the polish off my nails as the lawyer reads her last will and testament. Eyes bulging in anticipation, one by one their faces drop in shock as they realize that my aunt gave it all to charity.
Collectively, they stand up and storm out, cursing her name. My parents thought for sure they would get some of her money, but they didn’t deserve it. They were greedy and I swear only adopted me as a tax write-off. My aunt was a great woman, but she too was obsessed with money. She told me once that she wished she had the strength to walk away from it; looks like she finally did.
Surprised that I was even invited at all, I start packing up; sure that nothing has been left for me as well, but not caring either way. I had hoped she would have left me her cookbook, containing the secret recipe to her delicious mince-pie. As I am about to leave, the lawyer calls my name.
“Elaina, your aunt left a few things for you,” he said.
“Is one her cookbook?” I ask.
“Yes; and a few other things. She left you this bag of herbs, a note to read in private, and this…wheel,” he said.
Excited about the book I grab it immediately and thumb through it. The herbs smelled wonderful. The wheel was strange, as I had no idea of its purpose; but nonetheless, I put it under my arm and took off to my new apartment where I could read my Aunt’s last words to me, in private.
Opening up the letter it read:
What I am about to tell you might frighten you, but you must believe what I say, and keep it to yourself as you are the only one I can trust.
Seventeen years ago, a horrible monster called Greela came to Earth from another planet and took human form. Her wants were simple; Greela survived off the flesh of greedy men. I came in contact once with Greela as she was at my back door ready to eat your uncle Ned.
Begging for pity, I promised Greela that I would find her food to survive on as long as she left my family alone. The Greela agreed and I’ve been feeding her since. I would comb the streets at night, following the greedy into bars, nightclubs and brothels and kill them. I would mash them up into a pie and feed them to Greela to keep her at bay; using the herbs to conceal the smell of human flesh.
One day, on my way to Greela’s layer, I found a magic wheel. The wheel whispered to me that it had the power to send Greela back to her planet forever. Thankful to whoever sent it, I used it to send Greela back; or so I thought. The next day, I found an infant hidden in the caves untouched. Thinking that Greela had taken on another form, I tried to send the baby back but it disappeared before my eyes. As legend has it, the child of a Greela doesn’t mature until its 18th birthday. We’ve been waiting for years to see if she will come back, but I grew sick and couldn’t wait any longer. I feared my days were numbered and since I have no children, I am passing on my gift to you. It’s been almost 18 years now since I found that baby. If it’s still here on our planet, you must try to use the wheel to send it back. Otherwise, I fear it will come for our family.
Instantly, I pick up the phone and dial.
“Hello?” said a man.
“Timmy? It’s your cousin, Elaina. I’m freaking out right now, can you come over?” I said.
“Sure Elaina is everything okay?” said Timmy.
“It’s kind of hard to explain over the phone, just please hurry up,” I said.
“I’ll be right there!” he said.
Crumpling up the note, I throw it into the fireplace and watch it burn, then grab the magic wheel and pitch it into the fire as well. Walking into the kitchen, I grab a slice of pie out of the refrigerator, put a candle on it and light it with a match.
“Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday dear Greela….”
I’ve never written anything like this before. I was tasked with writing about a magic wheel, a herb and a Wendigo in 750 words or less. I had never even heard the word Wendigo before. So this is my first try at horror I guess? Hope you liked it…
Two weeks have passed since the quake first hit. Our neighborhood of forty houses was brought down to ten in a matter of minutes. Then came the volcanic eruptions. Lava rocks raining from the sky torched another eight, leaving just two houses standing: The O’Connor’s house and ours. Both made of brick, it made it harder for the lava rocks to burn. Our neighbors were living on the streets, or in cars, fighting each other for food. Mother told us to barricade the doors and not to let anyone in. I didn’t understand; if they were starving then why couldn’t we help them?
“We don’t know how long we are going to be in this situation. If we share what we have, we might run out and then we’ll be the ones dying in the streets,” she explained.
Staring out of the crack in the blinds, I see Timmy; a friend of mine who lives a few houses up. He’s crying and looks hungry and alone. His parents are probably dead by now. It seems wrong to not help. I have to do something. Sneaking downstairs, I fill my bag with canned food and bottled water from the cabinet. It seems odd that we have so much still. We haven’t left the house in weeks, yet we’re feeding four mouths and never seem to run out.
Slipping out a nearby window, I crouch down behind one of the few trees in our yard still standing and whistle to get Timmy’s attention. He looks around and finally spots me. Running in my direction as fast as his little legs can carry him, a smile crosses my face as I feel a sense of elation in knowing that I might be able to ease his suffering. Walking out from behind the tree I extend my arm to hand him the bag, when a shot blasts out of nowhere. Blood splatters on my shirt and face, Timmy’s eyes roll back into his head and his legs collapse beneath him. A bellow of screams by my mother ring through the air as she bursts out of our house towards me with my father close behind.
Paralyzed with fear I stand staring at my parents running towards me when I hear two more shots ring out. My father falls instantly and I feel my chest cave with uneasy breath. Mother has also been hit and now I can see the shooter. It’s our postman, Mr. Conlin from up the street. Reloading his gun and walking at the same time, he quickly moves towards us. My mother manages to crawl to me. Throwing myself on top of her I start screaming in agony.
“Ssh! Listen, you need to protect Toby,” she squeezes me. “Take this,” she whispers, handing me a pistol.
Mr. Conlin’s gun is at his side. He reaches out his arm signaling for me to hand over the bag of food I had packed for Timmy. Mother closes her eyes and lays very still, but I can still feel her breath on my hands.
“Give me that food kid and show me to the shelter. I know your parents have one. I guess they weren’t crazy after all! Ha ha, the joke is on us!”
I don’t know what he is talking about, but I know what I have to do. I can’t let him inside. I have to protect my little brother Toby at all costs. Slowly I stand up, knees shaking, heart pounding and throw the bag of food in the air. Mr. Conlin raises his head to look as I fire my pistol. Ripping through his skull, he falls backwards, water bottles smashing on the ground around him. Looking down at my mother now, her eyes barely open, I see her arm slide out from underneath her body and she opens her hand. Inside her palm is a key.
“In the basement. There’s a door in the floor. Save yourself. Save…Toby,” she said, exhaling her last breath.
Panic sets in and I sprint inside the house in search of Toby. Luckily, he’s still sleeping and didn’t witness the recent neighborhood horror. He’s small for a seven year-old, so I just pick him up and carry him down into the basement. As I search frantically for a secret door in the floor of the basement, Toby begins to stir.
“Is the storm over? Can I go out and play yet?” he asks, rubbing his eyes.
Too overwhelmed to answer, I ignore him.
“Where are mom and dad?” he asks, tears forming.
“Mom and Dad…they went to help some of the other families. They gave us a mission to find a door in the floor. Can you help me look?” I said.
“Okay!” he says excited.
In the corner of the basement, I see part of the carpet rolled up and walk over to examine what might be underneath. Pulling it back, I see a steel door with a heavy chain through the handles and a lock. Twelve years I’ve lived in this house and played in this basement, how did I not know this was here? Opening the lock I release the chains, pull it open and descend a staircase with Toby behind me. There’s a long hallway and then another steel door. As I approach the second door, a light above me comes on, a sensor light I can only guess, and the door opens automatically. Unprepared for what is inside, I fall to my knees in pure awe.
Mr. Conlin was right. My parents did have a shelter. A very large, underground bomb shelter filled from ceiling to floor with enough food to feed hundreds of people for weeks. Or four people for a year. Or two people for even longer. My parents were preparing. They were like…doomsday preppers! There’s food, water, and clothing to the left; to the right shelves of toys, books and games. In the back there’s at least a dozen commercial generators. Instructions hang on the wall on how to use everything, when to use it, and when not to in order to survive as long as we can.
“We’re going to make it,” I breathe a sigh of relief.
Suddenly a surge of pain bursts through me. Grabbing my side, I fall to my knees.
“Why are you bleeding Jenna?” asks Toby.
Soaking through my sweatshirt is blood from the bullet that must have grazed my side after it went through Timmy. Quickly I pour water on it to wash out the wound, find a first aid kit and begin placing gauze and bandages on it. While choking down painkillers and antibiotics, I hear something above us.
“Stay here and don’t make a sound,” I warn Toby. I run up the stairs and peak around the wall in the hallway.
Out of the corner of my eye I see someone sneaking around the kitchen searching for food. Holding onto my side, I realize that I still have the gun in the front pouch of my sweatshirt. Slowly I watched as the shadowy figure opens cabinets, grabbing
food and water out of them. Stepping slowly behind him I pull out the gun and point it at his head.
“Don’t move or you’re dead,” I said.
“Jenna? Is that you?” said a shaky voice.
Backing up, I lower the gun and spin the boy around. It’s Brian O’Connor. He lives in the other brick house still standing in the neighborhood.
“What are you doing here?” I said.
“They killed my parents. I’m alone. I have no food. Please don’t kill me!” he pleads.
Brian O’Connor, biggest bully in school pleading for his life. He and his friends would tease me about my weight because I was heavier than the other girls. His parents were the neighborhood snobs- so much better than us ‘cause they were doctors.
“Why should I help you?” I said, gun still pointing at his head.
“Because…we’re friends,” he said hesitantly.
“Friends! What a crock! You have never been my friend. I should kill you right now!”
“Then kill me! I’m going to starve to death anyway. If you don’t shoot me someone else will. There’s nowhere to go, we won’t survive this, none of us!” he cried.
“I will survive. Toby and I are going to be just fine. Can’t say the same for you,” I laughed.
Brian slid down onto the floor and began to cry. He rocked back and forth holding his belly, hungry, tired and fed up.
“I want my mom and dad,” he cried.
Then a little voice spoke out from behind me.
“Jenna, what’s wrong with Brian?” said Toby.
“Toby go back to the shelter now, I’m busy,” I yell.
“Why do you have a gun Jenna? Why are you being mean to Brian?” he said.
“Because he’s a bully!” I scream.
“You’re a bully!” Toby screams back.
He stars crying. He’s scared and confused, I thought.
But he was right.
Lowering the gun I look at my reflection in the microwave.
“What have I become?”
“That looks bad,” said Brian pointing to my bloodied side.
“My parents have books and tools at the house. They are…they were surgeons. I…I could stitch you up,” he offers.
“We have a bomb shelter,” I shout out suddenly. “You can stay with us, it will save us all, keep us alive for at least a year until the storms stop.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied back.
“Go to your house and pack up any medical tools and books you can find then meet me back here in twenty minutes. Take this gun to protect yourself,” I said.
After handing him the gun, he holds it in his hands for a minute and instantly a horrible thought runs through my mind. Did I just seal my own fate? Can he be trusted? Will he kill me now and save himself? He puts the gun in the pocket of his coat and looks back up at me.
“See you in twenty,” he said.
Watching through the window I hold my breath as Brian sprints down the road towards his house, avoiding lava rocks, burning cars and hungry stray animals. Now feeling the effects of the painkillers, my legs give out from under me.
“We should get you in the shelter now,” said Toby.
“Not without Brian. Without him, I’ll bleed out and die,” I said.
“Mom and Dad will be home soon, they can take care of you,” said Toby.
Tears roll down my face as I realize for the first time that they are never coming back. They were dead, I had seen it, I just hadn’t accepted it yet, not until now.
“Mom and Dad are…dead,” I said.
Toby begins to cry as I rock him gently in my arms, drifting in and out of consciousness. The sound of music causes me to stir and when I open my eyes, I’m inside of the bomb shelter laying on a bed with a blanket over me. Too my right I see Brian and Toby playing a card game. Pulling up my shirt and pulling back the bandage I look at the stitches where my wound was once before. Running my fingers over the stitches I’m in awe at the precision that came out of a mere twelve year-old boy.
“You’ve been out for almost six hours. I figured you must be starving, so I made you some soup,” said Brian.
“Thank you,” I said.
To think I almost shot him. He saved my life even after I was ready to take his. This world we live in now, what had we become? We’re so violent. Maybe we deserve the wrath of the quake and the fires. Maybe we’re being sorted out, tested to see who’s worth saving.
“I’m really glad you are here,” I said to Brian.
“Just for the record, I never thought you were fat. I always thought you were, um…are…beautiful.”
Dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
Walking to the mailbox, a gust of wind passed by
Three little voices giggled and then whispered to me, “Hi”
Their names were Charlotte, Olivia and Jessica;
they were making the wind blow
“Make sure you wear your hat and gloves to work,
we are going to make it snow!”
As the snow picked up so did traffic, and I hoped I would not be late
Then I saw two more little angels, throwing snowballs by the lake
I pulled over and watched them play in the snow with a smile on my face
Three little boys started a snowball fight with me, Dylan, James and Chase
Now an hour late, I noticed ahead a truck had hit a pole
Would that have been my fate, had these angels not touched my soul?
Standing in line to pay for breakfast I heard some chatter at the tables
I looked around and before my eyes sat six more of those little angels
They sat with me as I ate blueberry pancakes, two eggs, and a banana
Their names were Emelie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Avielle and Anna
We laughed and laughed all morning and on our way back outside to play
We noticed a woman at the breakfast line who had no money to pay
“She forgot her wallet” said an older voice, so I stood up and said, “It’s on me”
It felt good to help, so I thanked the angel, her name was Anne Marie.
In the parking lot an older man had lost the keys to his car
A few others walked by, not offering help, as the man looked near and far
Then I saw more little angels whisper into the old man’s ear
“They’re inside your jacket pocket, remember you put them there?”
“I remember now,” exclaimed the old man, with a smile on his face
Those angels were named Daniel, Madeleine, Josephine and Grace
“Come on kids, its snack time!” called out Victoria, Lauren and Rachel
The kids lined up behind them and disappeared into a snow squall
Deep inside my heart grew heavy, wondering if I’d ever see them again
Those beautiful angels who had lifted my spirits and grew to be my friends
Night came fast as I tucked myself in, but my mind was still awake
Tears rolled down, my stomach turned, and my heart began to ache
Four more appeared at the edge of my bed, and began to sing to me
Their names were Benjamin, Allison, Catherine and Jesse.
Then they kissed my head and giggled as they floated towards the sky
Selfishly I begged them all to stay, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye
Then two more appeared, older ones, who came to ease my pain
“You can find them in the snowflakes and in the wind and rain
The angels will always be by your side in the stars, your heart, your breath
Their love is stronger than ever now, they are more powerful after death
They are behind every act of kindness to help the living move along”
Then the angels blew a kiss and floated away, their names were Mary and Dawn.
The world can be so scary and the struggles awfully tough,
And sometimes just believing isn’t quite enough
But for me I rest more easily now, knowing the little angels are in place
To teach the living what it is we need to become a better human race.
Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, James Mattioli , 3/22/06, Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, -Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, – Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65- RIP Angels
Jogging along the auto-track that runs where the sidewalks used to be years ago, my eyes are quickly drawn to an object half-buried in the ground below. Jumping off the track, I almost twist my ankle. The ground is dusty, dry and grassless. I backtrack to find the object I spotted. This part of town hasn’t been kept up in years; it’s intriguing to find anything here at all.
Pulling on the dark black object protruding from the ground, almost falling over, I use my fingers to burrow the dirt surrounding it, setting it free. It’s a gun. It has been many years since I have seen a weapon. They were all banned over thirty years ago by the Women’s Republic of States. Not even our police women are issued them anymore. They weren’t necessary as there is rarely an event that would cause a need for such a violent invention.
Still, this gun looks in good condition. There’s powder on the handle and three bullets in the chamber. I examine it carefully; recalling my days at the academy training with them before they became outlawed. My nose picks up a smoky scent suggesting that the firing of this weapon occurred recently.
A rustling in the bushes a few hundred feet away catches my attention. Someone is watching me. Instinctually, I pull the gun into my chest, closing the bullet-filled chamber and ready it. Whatever is preying on me is moving in fast. I spin around aiming the weapon in their direction but there is nothing there. Suddenly I feel the gun being ripped out of my hands, my body pushed gently against a tree and my hands tied behind it.
Helpless and unable to see my captor, I wrestle to tap the emergency help button that’s latched onto my ankle in hopes to send out a signal to a local authority, but I am pushed to my knees and my ankles separated.
“Who are you? Show yourself?” I scream.
Suddenly, three men appear in front of me out of thin air.
“My apologies Alexis, but we had to take precautions to ensure you didn’t run away or alert the authorities. My name is Crandos and these are my brothers. We come from the planet Aconia,” said Crandos.
“I’ve never heard of it. What are you doing on Earth and what do you want with me?”
“We’ve come here because we need your help,” said Crandos.
“How can I help you?” I ask.
“Our world is under attack by an army of vigilantes who want to take over our planet. We managed to capture all of them but one. His name is Joffer and he’s a very dangerous man. We followed him throughout the galaxy and found him here on Earth.” He said.
We’ve been trying desperately to seek audience with you. There’s nowhere on your world where there is privacy anymore except out here. We knew we’d find you here on your daily jog,” said Crandos.
“So you’ve been stalking me?” I ask.
“Seeking a private meeting with you,” he corrected.
“Then why am I tied to a tree?” I ask.
They untie me and sit themselves down on some nearby tree stumps.
“We need you to find this man and seduce him.”
“We scanned our database and you are an exact match based on his tastes; his perfect woman to be blunt. You’ll get his attention,” he said.
“Then what?” I ask.
“Once you gain his trust, his defenses will be down and then you can kill him,” he said.
“Kill him? That seems extreme. What do you have that he wants so badly?”
“We have an unlimited amount of natural resources that other planets are running out of, including Earth and he wants them,” said Crandos.
Sitting myself down on the ground, I quickly grab the nearby gun, aim it and shoot all three of them point-blank in the head.
“All clear Joffer,” I said.
“See baby, I told you we were meant to be. Even the Aconias think so,” said Joffer.
“You’re such a romantic,” I said.
“Now lets go find us some oil, shall we?” said Joffer.
For the first 36 years of my life I had been competing with outside voices telling me who I am, what I am, and what I will do with my life. It starts with parents, then siblings, friends, teachers, bosses and before you know it, you have lost yourself in the shuffle.
For the last year I have finally started to listen to myself. My inner voice had been quieted by the dreams other people had for me. I woke up one day and thought to myself, “I don’t remember dreaming about working in a cubicle in a building with bad lighting?”
Nobody grows up and dreams about being a salesperson or a truck driver. We grow up wanting to be artists, doctors, superhero’s and ballerina’s. Somewhere along the way our voices our silenced, why?
I’ve been a writer since I was old enough to hold a pen. I’d leave scrap paper with scribbled thoughts all over the house. I typed up poems on typewriters, and printed out short stories on computers back when all we had for programs was Dos 2.0 and the paper would get stuck and you’d have to crank it to get it out. I took creative writing in college, wrote plays, screenplays, musicals and even published a poem in the National Library of Poetry’s Anthology, River of Dreams.
Yet, this is the first year of my life that I’ve ever considered myself a true writer. I think my inner voice fell silent on my own ears. I’ve spent so much time believing what others thought I should be, or what I believed to be the more responsible avenue, that I ignored my calling.
Today I take my voice back. I am a writer. I don’t care that I’m not a best-selling author. Maybe I will be one day, maybe I won’t. Either way, it doesn’t define me. I define me. I don’t care if I’m not a millionaire or that I don’t have a 401k. I will survive, I will find a way and I will do it as a writer and nothing else.