Writing in a Time of Coronavirus
Our Scribes had no idea how eerie the pandemic would soon make some of their stories feel.
“Well, they aren’t nice,” she says as she exits my room. “Why is it hard for you to understand that you need art lessons?” Before she leaves, she pushes out a nasty cough. She looks scared as her hand touches her heart.
“I’m fine,” she mutters as she rushes out.
When I wake up the next morning, I don’t feel like going to school. KIPP Strive Academy is one of the oldest and most boring schools in Atlanta’s West End. The teachers always fill us in with their stories from this school in 2020, exactly 20 years ago. My thoughts are interrupted as my dog, Leafy, hops onto my bed. She is a black chihuahua and papillon mix. As I sit up, her pink tongue and saliva cover my face. She is the only creature in the world who doesn’t judge me, besides my mom. Ever since my dad passed away two years ago, mom seems like a robot trying to mimic a human. When dad died, he took a piece away from each and every single one of us. It’s also when Krystal started acting this way toward me. She started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and mom doesn’t seem to care. Even though Krystal treats me this way, she is still my sister and I love her.
I put my hair into a ponytail and hurry out the door. Krystal isn’t exactly a morning person, so I always try to make it to school before her.
“Why are you going so fast?” she taunts. I pause as I realize that I’m late.
“I was just trying to make it to school on time,” I say. When she doesn’t respond, I slowly turn around.
“Krystal!” I shout. Everyone is still inside their homes, sound asleep. I put my arms around her as she starts foaming at the mouth and rolling her eyes back. What happens next is a blur. I pick her up and carry her unconscious body back to our home. Krystal has always been small and thin, weighing only 90 pounds at 13 years old. At some point during the trip, I feel as if this is what she deserves for treating me this way all these years, but I quickly push those thoughts away. We finally make it home, and this is when I realize I’m crying.
“Mom!" I yell. "We need to help Krystal."
I call 911 and take her upstairs, my eyes flowing like waterfalls. Why am I affected by everything Krystal does? Why do I care about her so much even though she doesn’t feel the same for me? I hear footsteps go up the stairs and and mom starts knocking on my door.
"Audrey, what’s wrong with Krystal?” she asks.
“I don’t know. When I turned around to look at her, I saw her on the ground with her mouth foaming.” This is probably the most I’ve said to mom in one sentence since my dad died. Mom sits on the floor where we’re at and hugs me tight. I hug her back.
A few minutes later, I hear a loud knock on our front door. “911!” a man shouts. I pick up Krystal and head to the door as mom unlocks it. I give the man Krystal’s body and follow him as he climbs inside the ambulance.
The hospital is bright and smells like cough medicine. I heard that ever since the coronavirus scare 20 years ago, hospitals tend to use stronger medicines to treat diseases.
“I wish the hospital didn’t smell like this,” my mom whispers to me as we walk past different rooms.
“I know," I say. "All this medicine is going to make me puke."
“Audrey, I want to apologize to you and Krystal. I know that these past few years, I haven’t been the best mom I could be,” she says before we enter Room 112.
“It’s OK, mom. I understand your pain. It seems that none of us are the same after dad died." I know this isn’t true, though. I feel as if I’m the only one in the family who hasn’t changed a bit. I only told my mom this so she can feel better about herself. We enter Krystal’s room and sigh a bit of relief once we see that she looks fine.
“She’s having a very severe case of the flu,” the doctor tells us when he finally sees us in the room.
“Is she going to be alright?” my mom asks.
“Hopefully she’ll be strong enough to overcome this deadly fever,” he says. I know we’ll be here for a while, so I sit down and make myself comfortable and pick up a magazine.
I must have fallen asleep because now Krystal is laughing and watching something on her computer that mom had brought. The doctor leaves the room, but mom is sitting on a chair next to Krystal’s bed. She’s reading something on her phone. I look at the dusty TV on the wall. I haven’t watched TV since I was 8 years old. Ever since social media and video platforms like YouTube have been around, people haven’t really been watching TV as much. At least that’s what my mom says.
“Audrey!” Krystal shouts. I’m confused about why she’s so excited to see me. Mom tells her to quiet down, and I don’t reply. Instead, I walk out of the room for a breath of fresh air. Outside, I see a girl, probably my age, crying and screaming.
“Naomi! Quit it,” a little boy says. He seems to be around the age of 9 or 10. A little girl who looks to be about 6 pops out.
“She can’t help it. She’s an idiot,” she giggles. I stare at them as I try to process what’s happening. What is this girl crying for? Where are their parents? The little girl must’ve seen me staring because she rudely asks, “What are you staring at?”
“Nelly! Don’t say that to strangers,” Naomi says as she stops crying and walks over to me.
“I apologize for my sister," she says. "She’s only 5 and doesn’t know any better.”
“It’s fine,” I say. “But are you OK?”
“Yeah it’s been a long day, that’s all,” Naomi says. She glares at the little kids who are arguing and whispers, “Little devils.”
Naomi and I sit on a bench and talk about our lives. It turns out she’s adopted and was at the hospital because her birth mom started foaming at the mouth and passed out, just like Krystal.
"I know she’s going to get better one day!” she says.
We exchange phone numbers. Later that evening, I think about Naomi and hope she’s right about her mom’s chances. I watch as her family walks away from the hospital into the gathering darkness.
I’ve been waking up a little later than usual. Although I’m allowed to since my school gave me a family emergency break. I still have to do the online work my teachers send me. I call Naomi and ask if she’s free to go to the park today. She says yes, so I put on my clothes and start to walk out of the door.
“Are you going to eat breakfast before you walk out?” my mom says as she walks over to me.
“No, I’m not hungry,” I say. I’m still not used to mom being nice and actually talking to me.
The neighborhood park isn’t that far away. It takes about 15 minutes to walk there. I spot Naomi and run to her.
“Audrey! Nice to see you again,” she says. We’ve known each for less than a day, but I feel like we’re already best friends.
“Hey Naomi! Where’s Nelly and Neil?” I ask.
“They’re at home. Did you really expect me to drag them everywhere I go?” she giggles as we sit on the swings.
“Well, yeah! That’s what older siblings do,” I say. We start laughing, and then get carried away into our own conversation and thoughts.
Before I know it, we start talking about my sister and Naomi’s birth mother.
“Audrey, I need to tell you something. You might be scared, though,” she says. "My mom is in a coma, and it might happen to your sister, too. It all started with the same symptoms that they both experienced. They foamed at the mouth, passed out, and started having fevers immediately after.”
“Yeah, but my sister’s fine now,” I say. What is she going on about?
“Well, my mom was fine, too, for about two weeks. Until one day she fell into a coma while sleeping and hasn’t woken up since,” she says. “And that was six months ago.”
“I’m sorry about your mom," I say, "but people are different."
“I looked it up on GoogleMD," she added quietly. You can look it up too. A lot of people have had it."
She was beginning to aggravate me. I didn’t wait to hear the rest. I started running to the hospital.
Two weeks later, I haven’t heard a word from Naomi. I feel bad for her, but she has no right to assume that Krystal will fall into a coma just like her mother did. We can’t stay mad at each other forever, so I text her asking if we can meet up. She immediately responds “yes,” so I get ready. All of a sudden, I hear a loud knock at my door. My mom bursts through the door and screams, “Audrey get up! We have to go to the hospital now. The doctors say that Krystal may have fallen into a coma."
I text Naomi on the way to the hospital, and she replies with three sad faces. She says that she’ll go to the hospital too, so she can check on her mom.
The whole ride there, I feel sad and regretful. Why didn’t I believe Naomi when she was just warning me about this disease? We finally make it to the hospital and I run to Krystal’s room. I’m so glad it’s on the first floor. I go inside and see two doctors talking. One leaves, and the other goes to talk to mom. I go up to Krystal and look at her. She looks so sick and frail. I don’t want to cry in front of my mom, so I go outside for some fresh air. When I go outside, I see some familiar faces. It’s Naomi, Nelly, and Neil.
“Naomi!” I call out.
Her eyes are swollen and red, and I see dried tears on her cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“My mom … she’s gone. We just found out.”
I start crying. After a few moments, I tell her, “You were right about Krystal. She’s in a coma."
Naomi’s eyes widen, and she pulls me in for a hug.
God, I miss her. Everything used to be perfect before she died. And now my father is an alcoholic and no one talks about her anymore. Almost as if she never existed. She was one of the most respected surgeons in Atlanta. Now she’s gone. But right now I have to stuff those depressing thoughts because my father hates it when I cry. Not because he cares, but because it reminds him of Mom.
I turn on the stove and start cooking. Once everything is ready, I gather up the courage to go to my father’s room. I knock on the door once. No answer. Twice. Still no answer. Before I can knock for the third time, the door swings open.
“What?” he bellows. He looks horrible. He has huge, dark bags under his eyes and has greasy hair pointing all different ways. The smell of beer and smoke radiates off of his pale, skinny body.
“I made you breakfast like you asked, Father,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper.
“I’m not hungry,” he snaps.
“Maybe you should eat something …" I say.
He slaps me. “I said I’m not hungry!” he says, and slams the door in my face.
I stand there, plate in hand, with a blank face. I trudge back into the kitchen and throw the food away. Afterward, I run to my room and hide under the covers as my eyes fill with tears. Then I hear a ding.
It’s a text message on my secret phone. When I see who sent it, my hands start to shake violently. It’s from Mom.
That day was June 3, 2039, only last year. I was at camp. The people in my cabin went on a waterfall hike with another cabin. I was walking next to a friend I made that week, laughing at a joke he made, when two boys from another cabin came up and slung their arms around our shoulders. One of them asked what we were talking about, and the other one blurted, “Whatever faggots talk about.” I’ve never liked that word. It sends me into a silent rage. After the boy said it, something inside of me snapped and I punched him right in the nose, and when he fell to the ground, I didn’t stop. I just kept punching and punching and punching until someone pulled me off of him. I was so blind with rage I couldn’t tell who it was, but it must’ve been a counselor based on the fact that they threw me over their shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
The last personality is me. The original me. My name is Joshua. I fall somewhere between Jay and Josh — not too bad, but not too good either. I was born on July 6, 2024, and I’m 16 now. I’ve learned how to control my personalities pretty well, but they still manage to slip out at times. I know it’s strange that I have to control them when there are only two, but they have a mind of their own, even though we share the same body. I take medication to have better control, but anything can trigger them. It’s like, one wrong move and you’re either in for tears or a punch in the face. It’s not up to me anymore. I lost that choice a long time ago.
To be continued …
Four stories about future fantasies
By Faith Lawrence, 5th grade
Giant kittens take over the world while kids on skateboards try to stop them.
The tree smelled like cat poop again. I could be living in a house like a normal kid, but instead I'm stuck inside of a litter box-smelling tree. I remember when I was a normal kid. It was literally just yesterday.
Mom had just told me to do something, but I didn’t hear what she was saying. I was listening to music, and then I heard an alarm sound on my phone. Bold red type said: “Cat food poisoned by government scientists.”
The poison must have done something strange, because now there were giant, angry kittens everywhere trying to take over the world. I didn't care at first because we didn’t own a cat. Honestly, I was just upset because that notification had ruined my music! But the next day, when I went downstairs and called out to my mother, there was no response. Confused and worried, I called her again and again. She never responded. Now I knew there was something wrong with my mom. The door to her room was wide open. Everything was gone, and so was she.
The first person I told was Jade. She said that I could live with her in her little spruce tree.
Jade was my best friend. When I arrived, she was reading a book titled "Why I Ran?" Jade likes to read weird books. She likes to tell lovely little stories like the one about why she lives a tree. "When I was 5," she’d say, "my parents didn’t like me. They said I looked like a deformed potato. But they didn’t want to put me in foster care because they didn’t think an ugly child like me would ever be adopted. So they took me into the woods and put me in this little tree."
Jade later told me that the story was false and that she didn’t know how she ended up in a tree. I was disappointed because I really wanted to know how she ended up here.
After I had been with Jade for a while, I told her I was going outside to have a look around. She waved her hand and said, "I don't care as long as you don't get eaten." And with that inspiring quote, I squeezed my way out of the tree and tore off a branch as I was leaving. For protection.
I wanted to take a walk, but with giant, evil kittens roaming around, that was not an option. Despite their size, they're still the most stealthy creatures I know.
I didn't know where I was going. When I was a few steps away from the tree, I felt like I was being watched, like there was something behind me, I turned around but saw nothing. It was just me, being a little freak again. "Just keep on walking, don't look back. Keep on walking, keep walking, keep walking," I kept telling myself."
I heard shuffling and paused. I was being followed. Walking a bit faster, I noticed that the air smelled different, like rotten fruit or spoiled milk or something. THUD! I stopped and looked behind me. What I saw surprised me. It was a tiny gray kitten with an apple in its mouth. I was shocked because I was sure every cat had turned into a giant evil monster, but this one was adorable! I picked it up though I had no idea where it had been. "Aww, are you lost?" I said.
I ran back to the tree yelling for Jade to come and look at what I had found. She didn’t like leaving the tree, so she was pretty angry when she popped her head out to see what I was screaming about.
"Dude! Please hush, you’re being annoying again."
And that’s where the story leaves off. Perhaps the adorable kitten becomes something scary?
By Brooke Fuller, 7th grade
An encounter with a frightening alien.
Iva grabbed Aaron’s sleeve and yanked him through the mob of people and the flashing red lights toward the spacecraft. Aaron started to yell and Iva covered his mouth, hushing him, and pointed to a dark liquid on the floor. Aaron’s eyes dilated as he recognized the blood splatter. “SpaceUnit Craft R58 released,” the intercom announced. A loud sudden bang made Iva swerve around like a car turning on a race track, and she locked eyes with an abnormal human-like figure standing, hunched over, with a big hand on the glass door. It had the long, sharp teeth of a predator. Iva backed away instinctively and pressed the flashing red light that promised "take-off."
By Hilton McGill, 6th grade
A rogue galactic bounty hunter on the hunt to get his family back while fighting the law and most of the galaxy.
“Happy birthday, my sweet angel! How does it feel to be 9?"
"It feels great!" Zae told his father.
"I’ve got a surprise for you. It’s something from Lowery at the agency. He said you’d need it for the big galactic world."
"Need it for fighting?" Zae asked.
"Yes," his father replied. "You can’t defend us without your own ride cycle. It’s the latest Hoover bike in the galaxy, the one and only Dinas Nest Hoover bike!"
"What! You are joking, right?"
"No, it’s outside now."
"Cool! Can I ride it please?”
Just then, they heard a loud explosion. BOOM!
"What was that?" Zea exclaimed.
He was going to need that Dinas Nest Hoover bike sooner than he or his father had imagined.
By Mustafa Kilinc, 6th grade
Climbing aboard an old sci-fi staple, with a twist.
Day 1: The day it happened
It seemed like a normal Sunday morning as I woke up to my iPhone alarm. But it was anything but normal. Today was the day I was going to prove to my friends that I wasn’t scared of that stupid time machine. I brushed my teeth, dressed and headed downstairs, where my mom greeted me.
"Hey, Cube. Did you sleep well? Where are you heading today?”
“I’m going to try the time machine!” I said.
Mom dropped the glass cup she was pouring milk into.
“What did I tell you about that thing, boy!” she said with a fury stronger than the devil.
“That I shouldn’t use it?” I mumbled.
“Good. Now eat your breakfast.” She had cooked pancakes and turkey sausage, my favorites. I guess she was trying to make me change my mind, I thought. But nothing would stop me. I headed out the door.
When I finally reached my destination and beheld the time machine, I was in awe. "Wow, there it is."
They had announced a public test of the time machine a month earlier. You could sign up for $100. That gave me time to save up for it. Some people said scientists had built the machine, while others said it was found in a junk yard or was dropped off by aliens. Whatever the truth, I wanted to try it out. I got there early enough to be at the front of the line. All I wanted was a chance to skip one year into the future.
A scientist named Gunther Hall put me in the capsule and turned on the machine. That's when everything started going bizarre. Before I knew it, everybody started freaking out and I started screaming. Little did I know that my capsule was not set to one year in the future.
Day 7300: The start of my new life
I opened my eyes and my body felt frozen. I looked around and saw a variety of broken circuits, broken lights and a big hole in the wall. I stepped out and looked at my capsule to see how long I was set to be in the future. The label said 20 years!
I walked on and saw a street. There were robots, the type with laser guns. It was like all my dreams were coming true. What’s next: I was going to become a cool superhero who saves the world from evil villains? I kept walking and found myself among the robots. All of a sudden, they were saying: "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”
I ran as fast as I could, but one of the robots shot my arm off. It hurt like my whole body was burning alive, and it was bleeding a lot. I didn’t know where I was. All I could see now were trees and lurking darkness. I wasn’t sure I could survive in this new world.
Day 7301: Survival in the wilderness
I didn’t have much to eat. I was getting by on bugs and worms. I wasn’t brave enough to fight an animal, and besides, I didn’t have any weapons.
I looked for sticks, but I couldn’t find one on the ground and wasn’t strong enough to pry one off a tree. I looked for rocks and found them laying around the forest. I used them as tools and was able to cut enough wood from the trees to build a shelter. I also fashioned an ax. Now it was time to hunt for food.
I needed more wood for this next stunt because my plan was to bait an animal with berries, and when it got caught, eat it. After laying the trap down and waiting forever, something went off.
As I got closer, I realized my prey wasn’t an animal but was a human. A girl, but a weird-looking type like you might have seen in the movie "Avatar."
Day 7302: A new encounter
After she woke up, I asked, ”Who are you exactly, and why are you here?”
“Before you start asking questions," she said, "let me ask you one: Why did you trap me?”
“Sorry about that, I was just trying to get some food.” I said
“Oh, so you’re hungry?” She pulled out a bag of chips with a label that said “Dynamite’s chips” and another label that said “The taste will blow you out of your mind." After I tried it, I guess it was true. The flavor was super good, so I helped myself to the whole bag.
“So answer my question," I picked up. "Who are you and why are you here?"
“Fine. My name is Minky and I wanted to explore the Earth since I’m from the sky Islands. But it is not going so well right now.”
“The sky islands?"
“I take it that you’ve never been around here before," she replied. She noticed the angry wound where my right arm had been. She touched it and, through some weird power, it was healed and restored.
“Whoa, what was that?" I said. "That was SO COOL!”
“I’ll explain it later," she said, "but I hear something coming. Let's hide!”
We both jumped in some nearby bushes. The thing we saw coming was despicable. I saw the robots from earlier, but above them, I saw animals, and not the kind I knew from 20 years before.
“Oh no. It’s them,” she whispered.
"Who is them?” I asked.
“You don’t know who they are? They are known as the Evil Three. They watch over the lands so there are no intruders, especially not humans. They took this land from the human race 10 years ago and have ruled over it ever since. My plan is to take them out so we can reclaim this land, but we must grow our team first." She looked me over. "And you too must grow if you want to defeat these things."
She asked for my name.
“Cube, I said. "My name is Cube,"
After the creatures passed, we got out of the bushes. We were beginning a long journey on the road to freedom and righteousness and victory over these aliens.
Day 7330: Another encounter
After living on Minky’s food supply for a month, we finally ran out and had to go hunting. We traveled through the forest until we came upon a city, but this was no ordinary city. It looked like it was for robots and humans, because everything was modern and electronic. We hid until the robots were doing duties and checked some houses. In one of them, we discovered a human boy, with a husky as a pet.
“So who are you and how did you get here?” I asked him.
“My name is Mark," he said, "and I got here in a time machine that was turned to 20 years into the future. They sent me to fight for the fate of Earth. They also said that they were sending someone else from a different state. I am guessing that’s you?”
I was confused. "They sent us here on purpose?”
“I believe that is true, my friend," he said, touching my shoulder and starting to walk away.
“WAIT!" I said. "You don’t want to come with us to stop the Evil Three?”
“First off," Mark answered, "why did you say Evil Three, like … the Evil Three?”
"Well," I said, "since this is like a comic book or an action movie, I thought I would say their name with a little bit more pizazz.” I motioned my hands to do that thing a DJ does to a disk.
We set off to get some food in a nearby forest. We finally found some steak, raw eggs, chicken and ginger ale. I know it’s unbelievable that we found this in the woods, but all of this food was laying around in a treehouse, an old fashioned one too. We stayed there for the night, and in the morning, we found an old flag and declared it our base.
“Base JOJO!” I screamed, loud enough for everything in the forest to hear.
“What the heck is JOJO?” Mark asked.
“You know … JOJO’s Bizarre Adventure, the anime?”
“Sorry," Mark said, "but I’m not a geek, nerd."
To be continued …
In our second installment of Scribes stories, the living dead — always a popular subject for middle-schoolers — take a star turn.
By Layla Dixon, 6th grade
It’s a lab explosion! It’s a fight with zombies!
On the day my parents died, there was a big explosion in a lab down the street. A man named Zeke Broston blew it up. No one survived, and they found no trace of the bodies. Some say Zeke took the bodies with him. I can't stand crazy myths like that. Zeke is dead. There was no way he could have survived the blast. He killed my family in that lab just like everyone else. Who knows how many kids like me lost their parents. He deserved to die. I never want to hear his name again.
The day I met Akiva and Taylor, we were still in middle school. They are older than me, but we have similar back stories. Their parents died in a lab too. I felt my heart drop when they told me. It felt like we were sisters. Then I thought more about mom and dad, and memories came flooding back. At that moment I totally lost it. I dropped to my knees and cried.
"I loved when we all sat on the sofa on Sunday nights. With the smell of chicken filling up the room," I said softly. Akiva picked it up from there. "Mom would be cooking mac and cheese and fresh baked biscuits."
Memories like those make me feel better. They make Akiva giggle because she gets to hear that we all have a lot in common. Dad would take me and mom to tons of fun places. The best place was the fair. Every year. Every summer. Thinking about it brought tears to my eyes, and Taylor and Akiva would cry with me. I felt their pain, and they felt mine.
One day, as the three of us walked home, we came upon a terrible scene. There seemed to be bodies laying everywhere on the ground and kids crying over them. It looked like a mass shooting. We asked some of the kids what happened, but they didn't reply. They just sat there crying. Until this little boy named James called us over. He had an older brother next to him. He seemed to be in our grade. We asked them what happened.
"Our mom was walking to the store with me and this man just passed by us. He touched her shoulder and she just passed out. Right on the spot," James cried.
"She just passed out?" I asked.
"Yes," James said.
Apparently it wasn’t a shooting. But it was just as bad. Akiva and Taylor looked at each other, then they both looked at me. I didn't know what to say. Or do. I gave James a hug. Then I listened to see if their mom was still breathing. She wasn't. Her body lay there as cold as snow. Akiva and Taylor looked at me and felt everyone else's parents' bodies. No one was alive. Everyone was dead. Taylor and Akiva thought it was a good idea to take the kids with us and keep them somewhere safe. I was the one behind the scene looking to see who did this and why they only came for adults.
We took the kids into my basement. I was still trying to find out who would do such a thing. I remember what my grandpa told me to do if anything like this happened. He said keep working hard and don't give up. And if i have a problem that is hard to figure out, I would have to look inside the black suitcase. I was told not to look in.
I ran up the stairs to my room and looked for the black suitcase under my bed. It had collected a lot of dust over the years. I wiped the dust off. I opened the suitcase and saw a bracelet, a necklace and some earrings. They went flying in different directions. The necklace and earrings went downstairs in the basement while the bracelet went right on my arm. I tried pulling it off but couldn’t. I heard Akiva and Taylor run up the stairs.
"What is this?" they said.
"I don't know. I just opened the suitcase my grandpa told me to open." Then we were magically sent to this dark place. We all stayed together in a huddle, then a little voice came out of nowhere. "Hello girls!"
"My name is UWU, and I'm your guide to your new life. Ash, your grandfather has created this for you. Zeke was an old friend of his, but he turned bad and your grandpa tried to stop him. Now that you have found your friends, you are the leader.
"Let’s go over some basics. Ashley has the bracelet of the fire fox. You have the power to make fire — UWU! Akiva, you present the earrings. You're the water fairy, you can make anything out of water — UWU! And Taylor, you have the necklace of peace! You can heal your teammates or make any item from the earth — UWU! Your job is to save the earth, but you have to find your target in the forest of the unknown. And to transform into your costumes, you must say the name of your power — my name, UWU! For example: 'Earrings of the water fairy,' and if you need me in any fight, just say, 'UWU!' OK?"
We were too confused to ask any questions.
"It was nice talking, girls. UWU!"
I didn’t know what to say.
"How about let's kick some butt!" Akiva shouted. "We can totally do this! We have been chosen to do this. For the people of Earth!"
"I have to agree with Akiva," Taylor said.
"Fine, I'll do it." I said excitedly. "Team on 3!"
"1, 2, 3!” we all shouted. "Team!"
As the dark cloud disappeared, we were teleported to the forest of the unknown. I didn’t know there was something named that, but that’s not my main concern. Like UWU said, we had to save everyone else.
"Should we just transform now or look around for any clues where he might be?" Akiva asked.
By he, she meant Zeke, our sworn enemy and the killer of my parents.
"We should be able to use magic without transforming," I replied. "Let’s just find any clues where he might be. Then it may be quite easy to ruin his plan."
"You’re right, Ash," Taylor said. "The plan is that we can split up. And by using our magic as a light, we should be able to tell each other if we're near him or in a battle. Without burning any trees down, so maybe fairy dust. UWU did say our powers can be anything related to our magic, right? So we could leave a trail of fairy dust and when we reach the end then we could make the dust glow."
"Wouldn’t that lead villains near us?" I asked
We ended up using Taylor’s plan. I didn't think it would be perfect. But the way she described it got Akiva's attention. I would go down the middle, Akiva the left and Taylor the right. And that was pretty much it. I could see the glow on the ground from their dust and how the trail slowly started to fade away from me. I felt so alone. I never thought I'd feel like this again. Like dark black walls were closing in on me.
I continued to walk. The glow started to fade. Tick. It felt like i was in a clock. Tock. Dark and lonely. Tick. The dust didn’t glow anymore. Tock. I closed my eyes. And opened them. I felt what was around me.
I WASN'T DREAMING! It was a deep dark wall around me affecting me with negative thoughts about myself. The ones I keep deep inside of me. My worst nightmare. The thought of never seeing them again. I could hear Akiva crying and Taylor shouting. Everything was changing. The thoughts pulled on my arm. I was being swallowed by a puddle full of darkness. I could see a small light somewhere but couldn’t find it. I fell on my knees but before I went down, I said, “UWU."
I woke up and UWU was there. She shook me hard.
“I’m up!” I said.
“Sorry, you were gone for so long. You must transform now. You are being sucked in a huge amount of negative energy. If you transform now you will be safe.”
I got on both my feet and took my bracelet and swung it in front of my face. “Bracelet of the fire fox!” I shouted. All I could see were hearts made from fire. They went against me and made me yell, “Fox ears! Fox tail!” The next thing i knew I had ears and a tail. I couldn't freak out because I was stuck in the transformation. My clothes changed as well. But I was wearing a skirt, heels and a bow. When the transformation was over, UWU pushed me with her baby hands to fight ZOMBIES! I was terrified. But I had no other choice; they had my friends. And I could not lose anyone else.
The first thing I did was make fox fires then switched it with a fire sword. It was heavy, but I would risk anything to get my friends back. Most zombies in the first row went down. I counted 10. I swiped the sword. 16 more. Another swing. Another 20. Then I saw Zeke with a small group of zombies. Should I just attack? Should I save my friends first? I was so confused. I could hear a little scream from behind me. Calling for help. I turned around and saw UWU was gone. I couldn't think again. The zombies crowded me. Before I could close my eyes, I heard another voice. It sounded wrinkly and a little old.
"Ashley, my dear," the voice called. "You have to believe. Think what you should do first. Put your mind to it."
I went a little numb. "Grandpa?" I called.
"I’m here for you," the voice continued "You have to find your inner self. Your mom, dad and I are watching over you."
I cried. The voice faded away. And I already knew what I had to do.
My eyes burning with flames. I took the crowd of zombies out with one jump. I made an explosion toward Zeke, blocking him from making any moves. I took UWU, Akiva and Taylor. I made a little fire horse which took them to a safer place. I waited until the fog cleared to get Zeke. My arm felt like it was broken. I didn't care. Zeke yelled, "Follow the horse." I burned more of the zombies before they caught up.
"Zeke!" I yelled. "It’s me you want. Leave them alone." My arms had flames rushing right out of them.
"If it isn't little Ashley," Zeke said, "I see you've been playing with chemicals."
"Why are you doing this?" I asked. I noticed that Zeke looked younger than I expected.
"Well, princess, my dad was killed and I’m trying to carry on. See, I’m Zeke Jr."
He looked me up and down.
"Imagine what we could do if we combined our powers. We could get married and pass our powers down to our children and be happy together!"
He walked closer to me, but I drew back. "You’re crazy!" I yelled, and threw a fireball at him. I could hear him throwing a fit as I ran away.
I found Akiva and Taylor and saw that they were transformed and looked like me. I gave them all hugs. Even UWU hugged us! They all said how they weren't feeling well and they were glad I moved quickly and took action. I saw my horse was still here. I gave it a rub on its back. Then it disappeared. I smiled as I watched the horse leave.
We ran back in the woods, together this time. The fog was still shifting, so it was really hard to see. The plan was that we would walk through the woods rather than making wings and flying. We didn’t want to be noticed. UWU came with us but hid.
"We have to keep dealing with this" I said. "Zeke Jr. could be anywhere making more zombies. He could be anywhere."
By Travis Lawrence, 5th grade
A spirited race against time and fearsome enemies.
Troy was sitting on his bed watching his favorite TV show, "Law and Order." He paused the program to walk downstairs to heat up some pizza rolls when an announcement popped up on the screen: “EMERGENCY … TOXIC GAS RELEASED … EMERGENCY.”
He switched to the news where a reporter stood in front of a complex in South Dakota where there had been some kind of disaster. "A scientist was sitting near a control panel and spilled some soda pop," the reporter explained, "and there was an explosion. Now a toxic gas has begun to leak out."
You could see people running from the building behind him and hear them screaming. The toxic gas was Chrominacal Scytophersis," the reporter continued. "It infects your blood and turns your skin green. It also makes you want to kill anyone whose skin is not green."
Troy looked out the window. Incredibly, the sky was turning green.
“Mom, Dad," he called out. "We need to leave now!"
His parents had already seen the news. They were no ordinary family. They had weapons and technology to fight toxic gas leaks like this — and the crazed zombies the chemicals could produce. His mother told Troy to pack his bags immediately because they were going to South Dakota with his friend, James, who had some of the special adhesive that could seal the leak.
Troy ran to the car as James arrived. "Get in," he said. "Do you have the adhesive?"
"Let’s go and seal the rift before it’s too late!” Troy said as he backed out the car and started for South Dakota.
There were four of them in the vehicle, a specially outfitted Koenigsegg 5000: Troy, James, and Troy’s mom and dad. They were driving through the night, the others asleep, when a car came out of the darkness, pulled up next to them and bumped them, The impact woke everybody up. “We got company," Troy said.
He activated the car’s road spikes and pulled the trigger. POP! POP! POP! The spikes shredded the other car’s wheels and it disappeared behind them.
Troy put the Koenigsegg 5000 in turbo mode and zoomed down the highway. But they weren’t through the danger. As they were almost out of Idaho, a gigantic truck and three cars pulled up next to him and blocked him in. Troy’s dad pulled out a ray gun and shot one of the drivers, but he just smiled as the ray passed through his sickly green body. The driver pulled out his own ray gun and shot Troy’s dad in the chest. He passed out in the back seat.
“Dad!" Troy exclaimed. "Oh I’m going to murder them.”
His mom and James aimed their guns and took out the truck and one of the cars. But the driver of one of the other cars leaned out his window and managed to get off a shot that struck James in the arm, and he passed out too.
Troy quickly triggered the road spikes, and when they hit the tires of the other car, it exploded. Once the highway was clear, Troy pulled their car over and his mom attempted to revive his dad and his friend. He walked back to one of the attacking vehicles, sitting disabled across the road, and noticed a gun hanging from the now-dead driver’s hand. A label read: "Knockout Gun — Kills in 24 hours.
"We’d better make that a snappy recovery," he told his mom, "or we’re going to lose both of them."
His mom had an antidote for the zombie gun, a green liquid, and she injected them as they slept in the backseat.
"Will they be OK?” Troy asked.
“Yes, but it will take a while for them to wake up.”
Troy got back into the car and started driving. After a while, he noticed his mom dozing. “Rest up," he thought. "You deserve it.”
They had one last piece of adhesive to seal the gas leak. If the fumes were allowed to spread, the world might be contaminated, possibly infecting everybody. James and Troy had brought weapons and their parents had the latest tech in order to strike down the hordes of crazed, toxic-gas poisoned, green-skinned, former humans.
They finally made it to South Dakota. As they approached the complex, they saw a mob of zombies guarding the way with clubs and guns.
Troy concentrated on his plan of attack. If he didn’t press the controls in the right sequence, the battering ram wouldn’t come out of the front of the car. He pushed the buttons and the car started to shudder. The ram was ready to be shot and all he had to do was pull the trigger. He turned left and sped toward the mob with his finger on the trigger. When he got close enough, he pulled and BAM! The ram destroyed them all! Their green blood covered the pavement.
Just then, his mom exclaimed, "Hallelujah!" James and his dad had awakened in the back seat. The antidote worked.
"What happened?" James said in a groggy voice.
"You’ve been asleep," Troy said. "Those zombie-brained freaks nearly killed you guys."
The four were ready to fight now. Troy rammed the front door of the building and they trained their weapons on the remaining zombies, mowing them down. Troy grabbed the adhesive and ran toward the gas tanks, where the toxic gas was spewing out.
But they hadn’t gotten all the zombies. A green figure suddenly sprang to life and tackled Troy. Everyone ran toward them, shooting their weapons, and he sprawled on the floor dead. Troy got back up, ran toward the tanks, and slapped the adhesive on the breach before the toxic gas could affect him. The leak stopped and within moments the sky began to turn blue again.
As they were leaving, James pointed at Troy with alarm. A trickle of green seemed to be running down one of his arms. Troy wiped it off.
“Just a little leftover zombie blood," he said. "No need to worry.”
They all laughed.
Some of our Scribes were thinking about climate change and atmospheric disasters, as you can see in these five scenarios.
By Malia Dewberry, 8th grade
Ecological calamity on a grand scale.
May 24, 2040
When the meteor hit, the world was shaken. It hit off the coast of Haiti but impacted the rest of the planet. Scientists thought the asteroid would just burn off into a pebble when it reached Earth’s atmosphere.
But they thought wrong.
This asteroid was covered in some type of radiation, a type that no scientist in the world recognized. The radiation spread across the globe, increasing water and air pollution, bringing more acid rain. The environmental impact was bad enough, but the worst part was the drastic effect the radiation spike had on some people.
I was one of them.
One month after the meteor
I was walking outside my house, but not out of my own free will. My parents had forced me out since I never went outside normally. They had told me to take a walk down the street to smell the fresh air and “be one with nature.” How can I be one with nature if nature is trying to kill me with radiation?
But I did what I was told and walked around the neighborhood. I didn’t have any friends where I lived. In fact, I didn’t have any friends at all. Many of my classmates would attack me just for fun, like I wasn’t human. It wasn’t for any particular reason, either. I was just your average 16-year-old introverted boy who would rather play video games for days straight than communicate with other homo sapiens. I was pretty smart for my age, almost reaching college sophomore level in school. But did it matter to anybody else? Other than my parents and younger sister, no.
I wished that I could just toughen up and show everybody else what they had done to me. I wished I could play God and play with their lives like they were voodoo dolls. Only then would they understand what I had gone through.
Walking down the street, I came to a corner store that I went to when I was growing up. "Johnny and Mark’s," said the sign on the top of the building. The place looked rundown, like it had been abandoned. I remembered it as bright and neon, with a lot of lime green. The door was cracked open, so I walked in.
The shelves had been emptied out completely, as though someone had robbed it. I had to be careful walking since there was broken glass everywhere from the drink bottles scattered around. I was turning around to leave when the smell hit me. It was blood.
I walked into the side room and saw two bodies on the ground. I recognized them immediately. It was the owners, Johnny and Mark, two brothers. Their bodies were in a position as though they were sleeping, but by the blood that was pooling out of their mouth, that was apparently not the case. There seemed to be no sign of a fight, no bruises anywhere.
My mom had taken my phone so I would go outside, so now I couldn’t call 911. I ran out and my eyesight grew blurry. My throat got itchy, almost like I couldn’t breathe. My nose started to bleed.
I knelt down on the floor, hoping to get myself together, but nothing helped. My body got weaker and weaker by the second. Looking at the door, I started to crawl toward it, trying to find someone who could help me. It was getting darker, darker, and then:
I woke up on a hospital bed, surrounded by cords that went through my arms and hands. I couldn’t move, but I could see what was happening around me. An IV was stuck in my arm.
I tried sitting up, but my head started pounding.
“Oh good, you’re awake!” a young doctor said as he walked into the room with his clipboard.
“Where am I?” I tried to sit up, but a sharp pain pierced my head.
“Whoa there, you don’t have to sit up,” He laid me back into the bed. “I’m Dr. Choi.” He showed me his ID card: Hansol Vernon Choi.
“You’re wondering how you got here? Well, your parents told me that you weren’t home by 10, so they went out looking for you. They had gone to some corner store near your house and saw that you were unconscious on the ground, bleeding. They called 911 and brought you here. You’ve been asleep for about four hours now.”
I remembered seeing the dead bodies and falling to the ground.
“Are my parents here?”
“Yes. Want me to bring them in?”
I nodded. Dr. Choi walked out of the room to get my parents. I looked around and saw my jacket on the chair next to my bed. I noticed the time: 6:03. My head was still throbbing, and my hands went to my forehead.
I became aware of an insect flying around my ear. "Go away," I muttered, and swatted toward it. The bee was thrown across the room and fell dead in the corner. I hadn’t even touched it.
I looked at my hands, and saw my veins almost popping. My blood was so vibrant, you would think that someone had stabbed me.
I looked back at the bee and raised my hand toward it. The insect slowly levitated through the air, yet it was still dead. I dropped my hand, and the bee dropped as well.
“What is this?” I said out loud.
“Blood-bending," Dr. Choi answered as he walked back in the room. “I’ve been studying this for a while now, even before the meteorite hit."
He sat next to the bed and took off his glasses. “Apparently the store you went into had been infected with radiation. Your case is interesting. Normally someone who has been exposed to this radiation would be killed almost immediately, as you could see with the two bodies in the back of the store. Since you weren't killed, the radiation gave you something instead: Blood-bending. It's a practice that has been hidden from the world for a while, but was confirmed to have been used during ancient times. Or at least attempted to. There hasn't been any attempt recorded as successful, but scientists have been studying it for decades now. And it seems like this type of radiation has exposed you to this ability."
Dr. Choi paused so I could absorb this startling information.
"What it means," he continued, "is you are able to manipulate a living thing's bodily fluids, especially their blood, and can move their muscles. It is a potentially deadly practice. You can kill others — which is what I assume happened to that bee over there." He pointed toward the corner.
"Yeah, I tried to swat it away," I said, "and killed it without even touching it."
"It was instinct," Dr. Choi said. "You didn’t mean to kill it. But you have to watch yourself. With blood-bending, you can do harm with just your emotions. So you have to be careful about how you feel toward others."
I let that sink in. I tend to keep my feelings to myself since not a lot of people care about them, but they don’t always stay bottled up inside. Normally when I go home, I sort of break down. Not in anger or anything. I’m just scared. Scared of how people try to control me and manipulate my mind. I want to take matters into my own hands, but I can’t. I'm too scared.
These new powers were going to be dangerous. But I could also use them to overcome my fears. I knew exactly what I was going to do.
By Nola Hemphill, 8th grade
A world where climate change forces people to make radical changes in how they live.
Whenever I ask how things used to be before the meteorite hit, my dad will immediately begin talking over me about how things will never go back to how they were before. I've heard his lecture so many times I could give a whole lesson on the surface of the planet and how it got destroyed.
In the winter of 2039, a deadly meteorite hit Earth on Australia’s northwestern coast, causing thousands of shock waves and tsunamis, bringing drastic amounts of heat radiation, and setting set off a chain reaction of forest fires that increased the pollution rate by 47 percent.
The only area on Earth that remained habitable was under the oceans. After months of the planet getting sicker and sicker, scientists were finally able to create a device that allows us to live under the water, our own personal water filters. It was the only thing that saved human civilization.
But I’m very curious about the old life on the surface. Whenever I ask my father about it, he cuts me off and says that it's best we stay down here, that I’m lucky our ancestors were selected to migrate underwater. I’ve heard other people say the surface isn’t so terrible anymore, but my father won’t hear of it.
By Ajahla Jefferson, 8th grade
Climate and family crises mingle.
It’s the year 2040, and Earth is on the verge of becoming unsustainable. Fire scorches the planet’s surface, sea levels rise at drastic rates, and air has become difficult to breathe. Most living things are on the edge of extinction, except for humans, whose population has reached more than 9 trillion, with disease and starvation beginning to ravage their number. It’s time for something new, something that could save the human race from self-inflicted extinction.
In an emergency World Crisis meeting, with representatives from each nation, people from across the globe come together to find a solution. The delegation from the United States, one of the most prominent advocates for global change, brings four people. The leader is Clancy Addams, head of the Environmental Protection Agency — a nice guy, or so it seemed until years later when it was discovered that he had been dealing in secret with companies such as Amazon, allowing them to break safety regulations. Second on the team is Kairi Jacobs, a prominent engineer who figured out how to turn melted plastic into fuel for cars and airplanes. Third is Katherine Patterson, an esteemed biologist named after a NASA mathematician. She honored the name well, having one of the highest known IQs and working for equal rights for everyone, particularly people of color and women.
Finally, there’s Henryk Epstein, an internationally recognized astronomer. In his early years he worked at NASA, but then …
After hearing that last name, I decided to log out of the virtual reality class I was attending. I am Henryk Epstein’s daughter, Asteri, the Greek word for star, and I didn’t need to learn more about the man who had showed so much promise and so disappointed those he loved.
I took off my headset and started to make dinner. Luckily, I was able to find a box of macaroni and cheese, canned peas that were a month old, and four pieces of slightly moldy bread. Even though the options were limited, it was better than going to bed another night with an empty stomach. As I cooked, I decided to put on some music, which always seemed to get me into a better mood. I grabbed my old iPod, which used to be my mom’s, and played her favorite songs. When I first started using the thing, I was upset I couldn’t download any of the popular songs from my time, but I gradually began to appreciate and love her musical taste. I plugged in my earbuds and got to work, singing a happy tune the entire time.
My mood changed as soon as my father stepped through the door. I hid the iPod, as my dad did not know I took it from his room. It's not as if he would notice anyway. He often comes home smelling of alcohol and other drugs.
By Taylor Haney, 6th grade
A solar eclipse does strange things.
As I drove to the hospital, I noticed that the solar eclipse was getting worse. I had forgotten my glasses and was struggling to see where I was going. I spotted a gas station and pulled over. I glanced at my phone and saw the sun reflecting on the screen. It was so bright and blinding. That’s when I tripped and hit my head on the concrete.
“Help! Help!" I yelled until somebody finally came out the door. But when I looked up toward the gas station, all I saw was black. Just a few minutes before, it had been blue. A man tried to help me up, but I kept falling because I felt so weak and couldn’t see. I knew it was a man because of the way his rough hands touched me. He was speaking to me, but I couldn’t make it out. It got to the point where I felt so weak and exhausted that I blacked out.
Take Your Kids to Work Day … If You Dare
By Kaydance Brown, 5th grade
You think it gets hot now?
“Good Morning, California. Today might be the hottest day on record here in L.A. 157 degrees. Be on the lookout for spontaneous fires. Take caution when leaving controlled environments.’'
Siri’s weather report played as Donna Joe drove to work with her twin children, DJ and Devon, in their new Apple car.
"Can we listen to s-s-something else," Devon stuttered.
“It’s too hot for Take Your Children To Work Day," DJ said. "We aren’t going to be able to get out and go with Mom to the office.”
"We’re going there now," she said. "Don’t worry.”
“I don’t w-w-want to go.” Devon was only saying this because he was embarrassed about having Tourette’s syndrome, and going to his mom’s work would mean meeting her coworkers, and that would mean talking.
Once they arrived at the B&B accounting firm, Devon and DJ waited in the car because their mom wanted to check the heat to make sure it was safe.
Devon was afraid, but he felt because he was a boy, he shouldn’t show it, so he pretended it wasn’t a big deal. “I’m fine," he said. "I want to go inside. Plus, I’m more likely not to catch on fire because I’m faster than DJ.”
DJ rolled her eyes at him. They had twin telepathy, so she knew he was scared. He couldn't hide anything from her and vice versa.
Their mom didn’t get very far, only halfway to the front door of the building, before she turned around and ran back to the car. Her shoes were starting to melt. Her head was drenched in sweat, her arms were slippery, and her hair had gone from flat to frizzy.
“If you two still want to go inside," she told her twins, "you have to run. Like, REALLY RUN!”
“I know I said I wanted to go inside, but is it too late to change my answer?” DJ asked, winking at Devon.
“Sure, I’ll go inside then come out if it’s safe,” Mom said, panting.
Twenty minutes later…
“Where is M-M-Mom?” Devon wondered.
“Hiya kids!” a voice yelled out.
It was Jeffery, their mother’s annoying co-worker. He jumped in the car.
“Hi, Jeffery” Devon groaned.
“Why are you here?” DJ questioned.
“Oh, sad thing kids. You see all of these people running out of B&B?” he said, pointing.
“Well, about your mom," Jeffery started. He was taking too long explaining why she wasn’t here and why he was here instead of at home watching SpongeBob and munching on cold, raw Ramen noodles like the weird man he was. This was a secret their mom told them about Jeffrey, but they weren’t supposed to tell anyone else.
“What about her?" DJ said. "She could be coming out any second now.”
“Oh wait, I think that’s her!” Devon yelled.
“Sorry, no," Jeffery said. "But I think I know where she might be...”
“Where?" DJ demanded. She was getting VERY impatient.
“Listen to me, young lady. If you don’t pipe down, I’m gonna bring out the Styrofoam! Yeah, I know about your weakness.”
Their mother must have told Jeffery about their irrational hate of Styrofoam. The screeching noise it makes turned them into little demons. They hated it so much the they even knew who invented Styrofoam, Ray McIntire, and thought he was the absolute WORST PERSON ON EARTH!
“Get out!” the twins both screamed at Jeffrey. “We hate you.”
“Nope, I’m in charge now,” Jeffrey said.
“So what happened to our mom?” DJ asked.
“Oh, I think she got burned,” Jeffery responded casually.
“Burned?” Devon said.
“She’s dead?" DJ cried.
“Yep, she’s dead," Jeffery said, "and now I have to take care of you little idiots.”
A few days later…
DJ woke up from a deep sleep, with Devon’s drool all over her knee. “Where are we going?” she asked. She saw they were in a desert for some weird reason.
“Somewhere where it isn’t raging with fire from this stupid heat wave.," Jeffery said, munching on his disgusting cold noodles.
Out of nowhere, DJ yelled, “Stop the car!” She had spotted something in the sand outside the car. It was a bottle of medication. "Isn’t this your medicine for Tourettes?” she asked Devon.
It was. But their mother usually kept the medicine. If the bottle was here, maybe she was.
"Maybe she’s alive!" DJ said.
She yanked Devon out of the car and ran off into the desert. Jeffery followed them, but he stopped in his tracks when he heard a woman’s voice come out of nowhere. It sounded like Donna Joe.
"Jeffery," the voice called out, "where are my babies?"
To be continued...
Our Scribes Program is supported in part by a generous Fulton County Arts and Culture grant.
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