Immortals by Amelia

The Creation

In the beginning, the earth was as dry as a stone. No water trickled over its surface, no living thing grew in its soil. Then, out of the need of the earth, the gods appeared. The first one was the Shining One, the Lord of the Sun. His queen was the Lady of the Moon, the Silver One, goddess of women and all that is secret. The final god was the Lord of the Underworld, the very embodiment of death, the Black One. Together, they flew to the dry, scorched pebble in the universe that was the earth. Their tears mingled and formed the Great River, and out of the mud on its banks they shaped man and woman. The Shining One gave them joy, the Silver One gave them sorrow, and the Black One gave them peace.

The man and woman loved one another, and gave birth to three children, who ruled over all the earth. The eldest daughter ruled the earth, the only son the seas, and the youngest, another girl, the air. Fish, birds, and animals were created in every shape and form by these three, and their parents did as the gods did and fashioned humans out of clay and mud. When the earth had been populated by these, they faded back into the mud from whence they came.

The Shining One and the Silver One gave the creatures life and sleep, and when they wearied of the world, the Black One welcomed them into his gentle arms. For it was the true nature of Death to be kind, and give old creatures eternal rest.

The people of the earth separated into three tribes: earth, water, and air. The ones of the earth lived on grassy plains that rippled in the wind, the ones of water lived in lakes on gently floating platforms, and the ones of air lived high in the treetops, some of their feet never touching the ground as long as they lived. Today, only the tribe of the land remains. What happened to the others?

Even today, mountains rumble and spew fire into the heavens. They are the result of the tremendous anger of the Shining One at the humans on earth. Loathing their irreverent ways, the Lord of the Sun drove his flaming horses down to earth and lit the world on fire. The Black One, who could not bear to see innocent life destroyed, hollowed out the largest mountains in the world and filled them with the liquid fire that raged over earth. He walked over the world, touching those that had been harmed and giving them eternal rest.

The people of the air had been killed when their trees burned, falling to their deaths from enormous heights. The people of the sea had drowned in the boiling waters of their lakes and oceans. The people of the land had only survived by hiding in the deepest caves they could find, where it is eternally dark and damp and evil things whisper from the shadows. When the terrible heat faded, they went again to the top of the earth and grieved to see their brothers and sisters broken and drowned. They knew this was a sign from the Shining One, and immediately fell on their knees and praised him. Now, whenever the sun beat down and the rain did not fall, the people knew they had angered the Shining One, and would cover their eyes and beg with the Lord of the Sun to forgive their mistake.

Lunae

The Lady of the Moon partnered with the Shining One, and they had many children. The sons were the clouds, who floated by their father in the daytime, and the daughters were the stars, who wheeled around their mother in the blackest nights. Once in an eternity, a star would fall in love with a man on earth, and streak toward him in a shower of light. She would never stay past midnight, and if she bore him a child, a pure white dove would fly to earth with the baby and present it to its father. To this day, the old women in mountain villages know when a child does not have an earthly mother, and whisper to each other, “He is a star-child…. she is a star-child….” The wise old women would always know, but few would believe them.

One star-child was a girl named Lunae, which in an old language means “moonlight.” Her father was a common woodsman, but one of the most handsome men in the village. He had often told her about the star-woman that had shot from the sky into a forest clearing one moonlit night. She wore jewels of moonlight, and a dress of purest linen. The woodsman had never seen her again, but the image of her was enough to sustain him until he passed into the realm of the Black One.

Lunae took after her mother in looks, and her father in wildness. She ran the woods at night, racing as swiftly as the wind. She always brought with her a silver bow, and any of her arrows was a compass, staying dead on its course until it met its target. Often, the people of the hills and mountains would awake and look out the window to see a beautiful starlit maiden dancing in their fields. Then she would be gone, as soon as they blinked.

One moonlit night, the Lord of the Underworld saw her dancing among the hills and trees and rivers. He stepped out softly in front of her, so as not to startle her; then he gifted her with the power to make anyone fall in love, simply by touching them, ever so lightly, with one of her silver arrows. She lived on the earth for all eternity, shooting swift arrows of love at anyone, man or woman, king or slave, noble or knave. The world was made a happier place for her presence.

A Cup of Tea by Connie Hong

I wish to scream at everyone in this humid and foul smelling room to shut up. The constant banging of cups against the wooden tables is making me feel nauseous. To add on, the air smells like booze and days old worth of unwashed clothes. I stumble to the counter, one hand pressed to me burning forehead.

“Kitty, do you need a break?” My younger brother, James, asks from behind the counter. He’s only a few years younger than me, but he always seems to be the more composed one out of both of us. He hands me a cool cloth, which I press to my forehead. I sigh in relief, the coldness providing refuge against the stuffy air.

“DEATH TO THE KING! DEATH TO THE KING!” The crowd chants. I roll my eyes. Our tavern is typically a haven for drunk Patriots. Although we are constantly pressured to join a side, my family chooses to stay neutral. I march to one of the wooden tables, and climb on top. My skirts make it easier to trip, but I manage to stand up.

“Quiet!” I holler, in attempt to silence the crowd. My attempt is futile, only stirring up them more. Just then, my older sister, Marian, saunters into the room. She reminds me of everything I’m not, with full lips, curves, and dark, silky, hair twisted back into a ruthless coil. Marian walks over to where I’m standing, and slams the point of her boot onto the table. The entire crowd suddenly grows still at the sound of her stomping.

“Silence.” Marian says, sternly, as if she was scolding a misbehaving child. “Roughness is not tolerated in this tavern.” Upon saying so, she steps off the table. The crowd parts at her command. She sashays to the back of the tavern and  I rush to follow her.

“Why are they so loud today?” I complain once we get into our places besides James.

“You don’t know?” She asks. “Oh, of course you don’t.” I want to kick her under the table. “Lord North sent a few ships laden with tea. Rumors say that it’s holding up to 500,000 pounds. It’s sitting in the Boston Harbor now. The crew’s too afraid to unload to tea because of the vast number of rebels. Such a waste,” she sighs, twirling her finger in her drink before licking it.

My jaw drops at the news. 500,000 pounds of tea would be worth almost a fortune. Even if I manage to even get only a few pounds, it would still sell for a lot on the market.

“Oh, and apparently the rebels are going to dump the tea into the Harbor tonight. Some sort of protest they’re doing to persuade Parliament take away the taxes. I personally think it’s not going to help them at all. It’s going to be pretty great though.” Marian adds on.

I pounce at the news, picking up important details from her babble. It’ll be easy to get away this time, with the chaos the Patriots will cause. I have to take this opportunity.

Outside, the sun begins to set. It casts a warmish, pink, glow through the tiny window of our tavern. I look at the light streaming through the window, calculating in my head. There might be a few soldiers stationed near the Harbor, but I doubt it will be many. They’ll have little chance of actually harming the Patriots, since the number of colonists greatly outnumber them. That means I’ll have to sneak on the ship with the Patriots, and then take one of the back streets out. I review my plan over and over in my head, waiting for nightfall. The men slowly trickle out as the sun sets, crying promises to overthrow the king as they exit.

Finally, the last customer walks out, leaving my siblings and I alone in the tavern. We leave our posts and start clearing off the mess. Marian scoops up all the cups, and fills them with water to soak overnight. James and I both grab wash cloths, tending to the leftover stains of liquor. I scrub hard, making sure to catch every spill on the dirt-stained floor.

It takes half an hour to finally clean the whole room. By then, my knees hurt from rubbing the floor and my shoulders are aching. I collapse over one of the tables, exhausted. James comes and joins me. We stare at the ceiling, silently appreciating the moment of silence in our busy lives.

In the distance, I hear faint chanting. I groan and roll over on my back, turning to face James. He smirks back at me.

“Sure makes it a nice day, huh?” He yawns. “Some tea would be nice.”

Suddenly, I bolt up from my lounge. Tea, I remember. I run upstairs into the room I share with Marian. There, I reach for a spare of a pair of pants and a loose blouse tucked in a corner on top of our cabinet. I quickly dress, exchanging my petticoats for a more practical set of clothes. I grab my cap sitting on the nightstand, and tuck my braid inside.

Marian stands in the doorway, arms crossed as she examines me. I almost think she’ll prevent me from leaving the house, but she just heaves a sigh and walks into the room. She slumps on her bed, and quickly falls asleep as I prepare.

I tiptoe out the door, my boots silently slipping on the wooden boards. I rush to the door of the tavern and quickly grab a coat from off its hook. James hollers at me to stay safe, then returns back to his work.

The cold air nips at my face, so I tuck my chin into my coat and wrap my coat tighter around me. People have already started flooding into the main streets, chanting as they march past. Some hold torches, lighting up the streets. A few men wearing feathers on their head

join the crowd, paint smeared across their face atrociously. I stifle a laugh. The Indians would be offended.

I slip into the crowd, dipping my hat low in order to avoid being recognized. People trickle in as we passed narrow buildings squeezed together on the sides of the cobblestone streets. I even spot a few women amongst the men, chanting along.

The crowd weaves like a snake through the streets, growing larger as the Harbor nears. I finally make out a tall, white, mass, gleaming in the dark night. I pick up my pace, trying to get to the front of the crowd. A man with feathers in his hair walks alongside me. I slow down my pace, walking just a foot step behind him. I steal a feather from his band, and tuck it into my cap. I might as well blend in. The crowd’s chants grow louder. I realize that we are finally at the Harbor. I run to the front, shoving people out of my way.

The ship’s deck has been lowered. A few people have already began dumping the tea into the cold water. The ship rocks from the weight of the colonists, causing me to lose my footing. I stumble to a crate and wrap my arms around it, raising it off the slippery boards. I hear the tea leaves shifting inside, the sound smooth and sly. The ship suddenly lurches to one side, and the crate flies out of my grasp. I fall back, landing on my bottom.

A man chuckles at me, and offers a hand. I take it, using him as a post to yank myself up. I brush off the dirt clinging to my pants, and thank him. I walk over to retrieve the crate, but then notice him staring. I curse under my breath. Reluctantly, I make my way to the edge of the ship and toss the crate downwards.

He turns away, tricked into believing I’m with the rebels. Luckily, there’s still a surplus of tea left. I make my way back to the stacks, and grab another crate. This time, I steady myself, bracing for another sudden jerk. I push against the oncoming throng of people, and finally make it onto even ground.

I sidle into the crowd on the port. Most don’t bother to notice me as I pass, their concentration fixated on the commotion. However, one colonists catches my eye. He glances down at the crate I’m holding, realization catching up with him. I turn around just in time as he begins to lunge towards me.

“Thief!” He cries. Heads begin to turn, and people join him in the chase. I sprint as fast as my ability allows me, my boots clanking across the cold stones. The group of colonists follow, hot on my heels. I turn abruptly into a dark alley, hoping I’ve lost them. I slow down, panting. My legs burn and sweat drips down my back.

It turns out I didn’t lose them. The man pauses at the end of the alley and spots me. The others soon follow, breathless from their run. He smirks at my bewildered state and grins wickedly.

“Drop the box,” he commands. I turn around and begin to run again, in the opposite direction. Oddly enough, they don’t come after me. I skid to a stop at the end of the alley, realizing it’s a dead end. The street curves down, the stones dropping into the sea. I hitch in a breath, realizing there’s no way out of this situation.

Unless I jump.

The colonists step closer, smirking at my bewildered state. I look at the water. It looks angry, fiercely slamming against the stones.

But I only have one choice.

I suck in my breath and launch myself off. I’m briefly suspended, then the air rushes forward and I’m falling. I cannonball into the water, holding the crate tight at my side. The water is cool and refreshing against my burning skin. Above, I hear snippets of their chattering.

“He probably drowned–”

“At least the tea is dumped into the Harbor.” They share a laugh before heading back. I wait underwater until their footsteps to quiet down. I surface to the water, flailing. The air feels fresh, and I gulp it in large breaths. The box drifts quietly a few feet away. I swim towards it, and hold on, using it as a float. I pry open the lid. The leaves are soaked, but they’re still mine.

In the primers Mother bought for us, they taught us the Puritan attitudes towards life. Always behave, she would repeat, or God will punish you.

But lord, did it feel good to commit a sin.

Suicide in Youth by DC13

“It’s just a phase.” What parents don’t realize is how much pain a person has to be in for them to think that their only option is to take their own life. Suicide is not a joke. What are we doing wrong as a society to make it so that over 5,000 youth lives are lost each year to suicide?
The thing that a lot of teens aren’t realizing is that suicide is permanent. You can’t come back once everything is better. Once you tie the rope, step off the edge, swallow the pill, pull the trigger, whatever you choose – there’s no going back. You’re gone. Forever.

Suicide is a growing issue in youth that is often pushed aside or overlooked by adults. I personally have had multiple adults tell me that it’s just a phase, or that my feelings and opinions aren’t real because of my age. I took a poll of everyone in class 8B to see how many people had had adults tell them that what they were feeling wasn’t legitimate because of their age. Out of the 23 people that were in the class that day, 13 of them said that this happened to them regularly. This means that over half of the class has been told that because they are teenagers, that they can’t possibly feel a certain way, or that it’s “just a phase.”

Warning signs are pushed aside and ignored because we’re ‘too young to have feelings like that’ The Jason foundation said that : “4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.” Adults have simply neglected to admit that these are real problems, therefore leading to teens not getting the help that they need.

An 8th grader at Bullis Charter School who would prefer to stay anonymous said:
“I knew I needed help but I didn’t know how to ask. It made it worse when my parents didn’t say anything about the cuts and burns on my arms. It was like they didn’t notice or care. My step mom had told me multiple times before that I needed to ‘toughen up’. “

If someone has the courage to speak up and ask for help, we should encourage and support them. Not tell them that they’re too young to be able to feel that way.

Pushing away problems and pretending they don’t exist only makes it worse. Teens today are too focused on hiding cuts and self harm from their parents because they are scared of the negative response that they will get rather than the help that they need. Teens should be focused on being teens, not the best way to kill themselves.

The Inevitable Fate by T.K. Lawrence

Before passing through the veil to whatever world lies beyond life, most people can hear the whispers of the dead. For the old and for the younger soon to perish, the barriers between life and the next world already begin to crumble months before their departure.

Death–who did not always appear as a cloaked wraith as much of folklore and imagination would suppose–visited the soon-to-be-diseased precisely one month before their demise. It was merely a courtesy call to inform them, whether or not they believed Death or not. A courtesy call so that they might get their affairs in better order. If it was amusing, sometimes Death would informed those not long for the world of what the cause of their death would be and then give a chilling hair-raising chuckle (it was fortunate indeed that mortals were deaf to the noises of Death for most of their life) as the hapless mortal strove to evade Death.

Such was the case of one Alberto Smith: a crotchety eighty-two year old man with arthritis. Precisely on March 13, 1999, Death paid him a visit while he sat in his moldy leather armchair, slurping oolong tea.

“Hello, Alberto Smith,” Death whispered down Alberto Smith’s back. His breath embodied the essence of Death: cold and still.

“Demon! Evil spirit! Hallucination!” the man shouted wildly waving his arms about. “Be gone! I am but an innocent old man enjoying oolong tea.”

“I can never be gone, so long as Earth is broken,” Death replied. “You would be wise to listen, Alberto Smith. Heed my warning. On April 13, 1999 you will die of food poisoning.”

“I-I’m dreaming, hallucinating,” the man stuttered.

“Dismiss me as you well,” Death said, his ancient voice echoing and grating like stone against metal. “That will not stop me from coming for you when the time has come.”

With that, Death vanished to pay another person a visit who was doomed to perish in a car crash.

Alberto Smith chuckled. Death pay him a visit indeed! He proceeded to finish his oolong tea with a relish until the cup was drained. Laughing off the encounter, Alberto Smith continued with his life of equally grouchy cats and soap operas.

April 6prior a week to the 13tharrived. The old man had nearly forgotten his hallucination when he began to hear voices. His father, his mother, his younger brother, and his deceased fiancee all dead. The codger trembled and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. It was not happening. If he thought so, it would be true.

But the voices continued to haunt Alberto Smith up to April 13, 1999. The voices drove old Smith mad and he stopped eating. The only nourishment he consumed was oolong tea and a tea biscuit.

Knowing that the threat of Death was real, Alberto Smith fasted on the day of his death. No food or drink passed his lips in his waking hours.

Feeling immensely pleased that he had managed to evade Death, Alberto Smith took a long bath before turning in. As Alberto Smith tossed and turned, Death, furious with the impertinent mortal, sent the man a dream. In the dream, Alberto Smith rose from his bed, famished. He prepared a glass of oolong tea and drank. Unknown to him, the leaves, which originated from the time of the bubonic plaguefor Death was not bound by timehad been infected with a deathly bacteria.

In his dream-like sleep walker trance, Alberto Smith drank the infected tea. The bacteria took effect quickly. He fell and the mutant bacteria (spurred by a bovine-poultry origins) took effect.

For ten minutes, he labored under chills and fever before the mahogany spots appeared like splotches of paint. Like spilled water, the cyanosis spread over Alberto Smith’s face as he gasped for breath. Within an hour, as eleven fifty-nine passed, he died.

Death smiled. Let that be a lesson that none can evade Death.

Untitled Poetry by Natasha Epstein

Watch the people
with their petty fights
Watch the towns
the little arguments about what belongs to who.

Watch the cities
the states
the countries
all fighting
all yelling
all bombing each other into oblivion
why can’t they stop?

Why can’t they
just sit back, just watch,
observe the world
zoom out
they’ll see
see beyond their own for once.

Look at our planet
Look.
It’s just a revolving sphere.
What if you could just
reach out, touch it, and
turn it off kilter?

Imagine all of us
falling against each other,
against the sky.
Our entire lives flung into chaos
just because of
one
tiny
push.

Children of the Syrian War by Amrita Sangani

Across countries around the world, children laugh, play, and enjoy the frivolous activities of being a kid. However, in war torn countries such as Syria, children are growing up much sooner, many evacuating their homeland to seek safer ground.

Since March 2011, when a civil war erupted in Syria, two million people have begun migrating from Syria to find safety primarily in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These refugees include one million children. Some, if not most, of these children have lost their families, friends, homes, and schools. In this country, many booms and blasts are heard everyday, hurting innocent children.

Several countries and organizations are trying to help these children regain their strength, both mentally and physically. Dr. Christine Latif, the response manager for Turkey and northern Syria from World Vision stated that the children of Syria have, “experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” (worldvision.org). As a result, several Syrian children are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, and millions have been forced to quit school.

One child refugee, five year old Omran Daqneesh, gained international media attention when an airstrike struck his neighborhood and a photo of him injured and distraught was posted on the internet on August 13, 2016 (New York Times). The photo of him in shock in the back of an orange ambulance has been posted on newspapers all across the world.

A six year old boy, Alex, from New York, decided to write a letter to President Obama on August 21, 2016, asking if he could adopt Omran and make him his brother (Fox News). Situations like these show how much love all the children in Syria are receiving and how there are many efforts to improve the lives of these children.

In his letter, Alex stated what he and his sister Catherine will provide him if the President allows him to adopt Omran. He wrote, “we will give him a family and he will be our brother.” Additionally, he wrote that he will wait for Omran with flags, flowers, and balloons.

Though Alex may not understand that the United States government is not allowing refugees into our country due to controversial security threats, he sure has a heart large enough to support the children of Syria, including Omran.

Omran is not alone. Several other people, including ordinary citizens whom you have probably encountered in your daily lives, have experienced what it is like to be a political refugee. Parthiv Sangani, a father of two girls and husband to Misti Sangani, was one of these people.

When Parthiv was seven years old, he, and the rest of his family, were living in the East African country of Uganda. However, Idi Amin, the president of Uganda, expelled all Indians from Uganda. Each person in his family had to leave the country within 90 days with only one suitcase.

When leaving Uganda, Parthiv had to leave his, “house, school, car, friends, and belongings.” Leaving Uganda was a dangerous journey; as they drove to the border of Kampala, they ran into several checkpoints where armed guards, acting as toy soldiers, searched their car. Several other guards shot the Indians that drove by, but Parthiv was lucky. The Ugandans were blaming the 1% of Indians in the country for every problem that Uganda was facing.

The Sangani family left Uganda to go to Kenya, and Kenya to go to India. In Jamnagar, where Parthiv’s mother’s family grew up in India, he was not able to resume going to school because the only English school in the town was already full, so he had to stay home. Meanwhile, Parthiv’s father, Rashmikant Sangani, got a Visa to the United States where he took foreign doctor tests to see if he could stay, a process which took a year, but allowed for the rest of the Sangani family to move to New York.

In the end, Parthiv had his education disrupted, lived a year without his father, lost all his friends and belongings, but, as a child refugee at age seven, was able to move to the United States. Here, he was united with his father and resumed his education. When Parthiv described what it was like to arrive in the US, Parthiv stated, “It was very nice.” Unfortunately, not all child refugees are as lucky as him.

Malala Yousafzai, a 19 year old who rose to fame after being shot for speaking up for girls education and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is making an effort to help education for Syrian refugee children since many had to stop attending school like Parthiv.

Since millions of refugee children are no longer attending school, Yousafzai is launching a half a billion dollar campaign to help fund education for these vulnerable children (Cable News Network). According to a study issued by World Vision, the number of Syrian youth in education has plummeted to a 15-year low in the past five years as a result of the war.

Either way, no matter what, people all across the world are trying to help these children who are facing some of the most difficult hardships imaginable. The civil war in Syria has no apparent waning, and though many of these children are losing hope, optimism is spreading.

Many of these children have not seen their families in years. Because of this, the world needs to start acting as a family to these children. The message inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York, written by Emma Lazarus, rings true today, accurately reflecting the weight of the Syrian refugee crisis, for children, and adults.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”