It didn’t surprise me when Julian came home today with blood covering his shirt. At first I thought that he was being bullied, since he refused to go to school for a week, but that thought quickly died out when I received an email from the principal informing me about his suspension. I was even more stunned when I discovered that he was suspended for severely beating up a classmate.
“Hey, Jules. How was school today?” I inquired. I received an infamous grunt in response. I then said, “I’m making your favorite tonight; chicken lasagne.” I looked towards Julian with a smile. With no response, he angrily sped up the stairs to his bedroom, shutting the door quite violently behind him. I let out a sigh then continued to prepare the dish until darkness bled out into the sky before I finally proceeded towards Julian’s bedroom.
“Jules, I’m coming inside.” I said and slowly opened the door.
He was sitting against the headboard, headphones in and eyes looking distant. “I’m going to tell you a story.” I said, taking a seat on the corner of his bed.
“You’re wasting your breath if you’re thinking of telling me a bedtime story, Cara.” It’s the most that he had said to me in weeks.
I pretended to ignore his response and continued, “When dad proposed to mum, gran didn’t approve. She barely knew him yet she judged him. One day when dad was walking home he saw a woman having trouble carrying her goods on the street. She was taking groceries to her mum who lived far away and had no one to take her there, so dad accompanied her. Through the journey the woman only talked about a certain man she hated because he wanted to marry her daughter and she felt that he wasn’t good enough because he was black. Dad silently listened through it all until they reached her mother’s house. The woman thanked him profusely than asked for his name. She paled when he replied because that’s when she realized that the man she hated so much had just helped her.” I paused, stealing a glance at Julian who had tears in his eyes.
“After that day she changed her mind on the marriage.” I added.
“No matter how tough life was for dad, he didn’t take it out on those around him. I know it’s hard, Jules. I’m not mum, I can’t comfort you the way you want me to, but I am your sister and I will keep trying to help you, no matter how much you push me away.” Tears threatened to fall from my eyes.
“We can be a whole family. Two halves of a whole, don’t you think?” I asked trying to smile.
“Maybe.” was all he had said. The next day when he came home, his shirt was untarnished.
When you left (Full Chapter)
She looks back. The girl appears pale. All the blood is drained from her face. She is not the first one who had been affected though, there were countless before her. “Leave. Don’t act as if you care about me. You and I both know that by saying that you would be lying, and lying is not something you like being a part of but that’s a lie too isn’t it? Since you lied about being who you really are? Just go!” she backs away from the sick girl, no, sick isn’t the right word, she is transformed.
She tries to move, to get away from the stranger before her, but the wound in her leg prevents her from doing so. “Help! Somebody help me!” she cries out. Then she thinks to herself, it is Memorial Day; no one is here. I am alone. She lets out a bitter laugh. Memorial Day, that seems like such an ordinary thing to occur in this absurd time.
Avianna is Leaving, she needs help. Unfortunately for her, right now, nobody is going to help her. Maybe she should have listened to her conscience before leaving Lillian. She feels a pang of guilt in her heart. You can be one of us or you can be nothing, the choice is yours. That was one of the many rules you had to adhere to, but then she thought, rules were meant to be broken, especially when they were wrong.
She looks back at her own reflection one last time before darkness overlaps her.
People are plants. Not literally of course, but in some aspects of growth we are. Plants need water. They have to be cared for and have to be given water because they thrive on it and it helps them to grow. People, meaning us humans, need to be cared for too. We need to be watered with happiness once in a while because without that happiness we start to wither up. We become neglected and no matter the amount of water you sprinkle on us afterward, it won’t make much of a difference because we have already fallen; we’re not getting back up. There’s no amount of water that can revive a plant from being burnt by the sun, or in our case, by the darkness. Though that sentence may be contradictory, it is also true. Being the plant people that we are, once the darkness of the world has consumed that tiny speck of glowing happiness that we depended on every once in a while; we stop growing, we stop living and we become the Neglected.
I glance back at the sign in front of me. A large concrete slab with the words Neglected engraved upon it in silver letters. The edges of the slab have creaked with time and look as if they’re about to come crumbling down at any second, leaving a rather ominous looking sign that’s supposed to make you feel welcome in this cemetery. I circle the word growth in my notebook before placing it back inside my coat pocket and carry on walking toward the group of people standing in the center of the field.
The sky above mirrors the emotions of the people below it, casting a large grey cloud across the cemetery, setting the perfect scene for this tragic event. As I step closer to the group I see a young girl wearing a pleated yellow dress standing near a leafless tree, alone. Only when she turns around do I recognize that it’s Madeline. She notices me approaching her and begins to walk towards me.
“Lillian, why are they putting sand on top of my mum?” she asks, her soft voice hardly being heard through the harsh wind blowing all around us. I bend down so that I’m leveled with her and take her tiny, pale hands in mine. “She is being buried. You’re never going to see her again.” Is all I can think of saying, but when I look into her bright hazel eyes all I can see is a curious little girl, trying to make sense of a traumatic situation. So instead I tell her, “She wanted to know what it is like to be a plant, Madeline. To be underground, where the sun doesn’t burn you. She wanted to grow.”
Madeline looks back at me for a while. I can practically see the 5-year-old gears turning in her head, trying to determine whether or not I am lying to her. Children are curious and have this need of knowing what is going on all the time. They know all too well that some things should not be known to them, which only fuels their determination to find it out. Madeline is not like other children. Sure, she loves chocolate and always has time to run around in the mud when it rains outside, but she is also perspicacious, making her curiosity and understanding reach a higher level. “Why does mum want to grow? She is already as beautiful as a flower.” she asks me, confusion plastered across her face.
“Yes, she was beautiful, but some flowers prefer to continue growing after they open up instead of just being beautiful but having no maturity to them.” I replied, looking back at her as if silently asking; Do you understand me? She continues to stare at me for a moment before placing her arms around me. I return the gesture and gently pull back from her when I feel tears drop onto my shoulder.
“I don’t want mum to grow. I want her to stay here with me. Tell her to come back, she can grow another time.” Madeline says in a whisper, as if it were that simple. I have never been one to console the bereaved, so instead of telling her everything is going to be okay when I know that it’s not, I wipe her tears away and take her hand in mine as we walk toward her mother’s grave.
A large group of people, all dressed in yellow, stand in a circle around Melissa’s grave. Sobbing and placing stones near her tombstone as if they knew here so well. I want to scream at them and tell them to go home because every one of their tears are fake. They did not know her, they weren’t there for her and they only showed up to gossip about her death and act solemn so to dramatize this ceremony. I decide to ignore them and rather survey the tombstone sitting at Melissa’s grave.
"With shadows lying beneath these eyes,
I wear a smile filled with hopeful lies"
18 March 2025
I read the quote several times until nostalgia overtakes me. Melissa held so many responsibilities having to raise Madeline on her own yet her smile never faltered. She would never complain no matter how hard her life had become because she had such hope that one day all her worries would fade. That perhaps everything would get better with time, and now her time has run out. Tears threaten to fall from my eyes so I instead focus on the actual tombstone instead of the words engraved on it.
I always pondered on the reason why they would not engrave the age you were at the time of your death onto your tombstone, but I now understand why. People remember you for the person that you are, they will always be mourning your death, but soon they will get over it. They will forget and they will stop placing flowers on your grave. They will stop thinking of what you would have been if you were still alive, how old you could have been.
When you die, the memory of you still lives on, by engraving your age onto the tombstone, whenever people pass by it they will think of who you were at that time only, they’ll soon cease to remember what you were like before the time of your death. By not putting up your age for show on your grave is as if you’re telling people, remember me before I had fallen. They can choose what memory they want to keep of you, they have a choice. It wasn’t always this way. Only when Marilyn Connors decided that she didn’t want to be remembered by her associates as the mentally challenged person that she had become and rather wanted them to commemorate her for the person she was before she broke down, before she became Neglected. Soon others after her stopped placing their ages on their tombstones too, letting go of their pasts.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of thunder beating its way through the sky. I remember thinking that the sky was alive when I was little. Whenever there was a storm I would think that the lightning was the sky’s way of showing that it is alive, as if the sound of the thunder was the beat of it's heart and the lightning were it's luminous veins. When it rained I would assume that the sky was happy with us, drenching us with it's waters and bringing forth new life from the earth. Though when the sun shone high in the sky like a destructive ball of fire, I had thought that the sky was angry with us, that it was burning us for taking advantage of the earth, for destroying it with our fumes and ludicrous wars. Not until the age of seven did I finally come to realize that the sky was in fact not showing it's emotions through the weather and that the sun was a star, not a large ball of fire ready to burn us all.
Now, standing here in the rain I can’t help but feel quit annoyed with it, washing away tears and silencing the cries of sorrow from the people mourning my aunt's death.
All that’s needed are a few zombies to make an appearance at the surrounding tombstones and this graveyard would make a perfect setting for one of those meaningless horror films. I know that I am being quite narcissistic at the moment. I should be mourning the death of my aunt and thinking of all the good things that she had done for me. I should be grieving instead of getting lost in my own somewhat sarcastic thoughts, but how do you feel great sorrow for someone when you’re incapable of feeling anything at all? It’s as if I have been unable to feel anything ever since my dad had informed me about Melissa's death not too long ago.
I had been in the middle of reading a tremendously good book that day. A cup of coffee placed in one hand and a hardback held open in the other. Dad had entered my room then, not bothering to knock of course, and took a seat on the chair placed in the front of my white desk. He was silent, and I was too engrossed in my book to notice his presence so I continued reading until he finally broke my comfortable silence and said, “We had an accident in the mines today, unfortunately.” I looked up then, closing my book and laying it on my lap while placing my now empty mug of coffee on the floor.
“What sort of accident? Is everyone okay?” I asked, peppering him with questions. It was one thing for my father to talk about his business in the house when he rarely ever seemed to do so, but it was another thing for there to be a casualty in the mines. The mines are where the butterfly effect is at it's highest peak. A single change in the systematic of the mine could result in disastrous effects elsewhere, killing many people or causing hazardous fumes to erupt from the surface.
After some time he finally said, “Lately Marcus has been on my case. Being the deputy, he thought it would be fit for him to actually take control for once instead of me always leaving my intern in-charge when I’m gone. He thought that I didn’t trust him since I have never actually given him a chance to see whether he is capable of being in the position that he is. I just kept him around because the owner before me had said that he needed the job for personal purposes. Today he finally got his wish because my intern, had to return to his home due to a family emergency and I couldn’t be present during the mining because I had to take your mother to run some errands. So I gave Marcus a chance, I showed him the ropes and left him to supervise today's process in reassurance that he would do his job. I assumed he could be responsible, and that was my downfall.” He ended off, looking at the floor.
I waited for what seemed like forever for my dad to continue speaking but he had remained silent and made no effort to speak again, so instead I asked, “What happened when you left him to supervise, dad?” He looked up then.
“Marcus was inexperienced with being a leader but because he was so headstrong in doing so, I left him. I left him without warning him about the rebels from my rival company that had tried many times to sneak into the mine and make a mess of things. But they had remained inactive in continuing their shenanigans since the last time, they had been quiet, too quiet for comfort and I stopped asking the guards to patrol as the miners worked because I had thought that maybe Robert had stopped trying to infiltrate my business and would instead take up my offer on being partners, but I was wrong. I was so wrong.” He paused and rubbed his face with his hands.
After a few seconds he then said, “Which is why when he sent thirty of his workers to the mine this morning and placed a radio-active bomb in the sixth quadrant, I was clueless and so was Marcus. Robert is inventive which is why it must have been easy for him to overthrow my guards and sneak into the quadrant, place the bomb underground and then leave thereafter as if they hadn’t just committed a serious crime. The bomb went off at 10:30 on the dot this morning and killed just over 12 people while injuring 29 others. Good thing is that the cameras managed to capture a glimpse of Robert's second in command as he and his associates escaped, but from the angle that it was taken you can hardly recognize who it is. I barely caught a proper glance at him myself before he dashed out of sight, but I would recognize that golden ring that flashed in front of the camera anywhere. It’s not—"
“Wait,” I interrupted, “You said that they placed the bomb in quadrant six. Melissa works in quadrant six, is she injured too?” I inquired, hoping more than anything that the answer was no, but when my dad looked up at me and I saw tears glistening in his eyes, I knew what the answer was.
“She’s dead, isn’t she?” I inquired, my voice shadowed. He said nothing, he merely continued to stare at the floor.
That’s when I felt the ground fall from beneath my feet, stormed out of my room and ran up the stairs to the attic, slamming the door behind me.
How could he have been so careless? He barely knew who Marcus was yet he placed him in charge of the lives of his workers, and one of those workers included his sister. His own sister. He put her life and countless others in the hands of a complete stranger. Immediately Melissa’s face came into mind. Her long, light brown hair and her bright green eyes that were always filled with happiness and held a hopeful light within them. I would never have the chance to see those eyes again, I supposed a light that burned that bright wasn't meant to last.
I glanced around the attic, breathing in the fresh spring air making its way through the open bay window. The attic was my sanctuary; my place of peace. I would always find myself here whenever my thoughts were winded up in all the wrong directions like the television wires after dad had ‘fixed’ it.
Before my mum moved into this house, it had been owned by the parents of Quintin Pingere who is currently one of the most famous artists in America. His biography is sold in many stores around the world yet only a few of them contain the information regarding what his life was truly like before he tasted fame and fortune. He had composed one of his very first art pieces in this room.
He would come up to the attic, a brush in hand and creativity coursing through his veins. He too found tranquility in the scenery that the attic provided but instead of gazing through the skylight he would capture it on canvas. He transformed a large open space of dust and wooden floors into his very own art room and created some of his greatest masterpieces inside of it. But like every successful painter out there he wanted to explore and the attic was no longer needed to him, so once he reached the age of 19 he moved out of the house without going as far as to find another owner first, taking his paints and eccentrics along with him.
Not long after he had moved out did a little girl by the name of Elora Fortem stumble upon this house and seeing that it had been abandoned she dashed inside hoping to find shelter from the rain. This house was quite big with all its rooms and endless passageways yet the little girl found comfort only in the attic. She was destitute and had no family to go home to everyday so she would spend her time roaming the streets searching for blankets and clothes then would later take them to the attic and conjure up a little bed for herself to sleep in during the nights. As the days went by, she began to spent almost all of her time in the attic.
Though she led a rather wistful life having to grow up all alone with no family, she remained optimistic and didn’t allow the darkness that she had went through to prevent her from seeing light again. In her biography it was stated that Elora one day arrived at a nearby market in search of black paint. Though she had no money, the owner of the art supplies store was rather fond of Elora and had decided to give her a can of paint, free of charge. She was more than overwhelmed once she had her hands on the black paint, or more accurately, in the black paint.
Elora developed into one of the greatest poets there ever was, being unique in writing poems about happiness and the true meaning of life, breaking away from the stereotypes of your average poet. She went from dipping her hands into buckets of black paint and spreading them onto an attic wall to writing poetry that appeared on display at the Museum of Art in London and making close to millions of dollars with her gratifying words of wisdom at quite a young age. Her poetry came to an abrupt end when she later fell ill and discovered that she had cancer, depleting her plans for the future. Elora might have passed away a long time ago but her words of grace and happiness will forever be remembered.
Willow White was the last person to move into the house before my mum did. I know very little about her because unlike Quintin or Elora, she did not become famous for her work in the arts. I glanced at the attic in front of me, which is completely congruent to any other attic out there. Old albums and books along with some trinkets lie in boxes across the floor, some of the contents spilling out from them. The walls are bare, save for the one spot near the skylight where Quintin had painted a rather elegant mural featuring a beautiful landscape being viewed from a balcony as well as a poem written in black paint situated in the corner of the room on the west wall. I slowly descended from my place at the bay window and made my way towards it.
You appeared with a smile
You remained for a short while
Joyous moments we shared
Until your end was declared
Time passed by
Though you would not cry
You were strong and brave
But soon you welcomed your grave
One minute you were here, the next you were gone
Now it is your death that I shall forever mourn
I glanced back at the words displayed across the wall. They looked as if in the midst of being painted, the artist’s hand trembled, causing the paint to smudge and leave the sorrowful words barely decipherable. Elora had surely been afflicted when she painted these words, the mere sight of it speaks her emotion. Why would she paint such words? She had always remained gleeful in her writing yet this poem is dreadful, the words meaning much more than what meets the eye. Perhaps she was undergoing a traumatic time, needing to display her words someplace where they shall not be viewed.
Now, standing prior to my aunt’s grave, I can’t help but associate those words with her. But soon you welcomed your grave? Death might be inevitable but I highly doubt that anyone would welcome it.
One minute you were here, the next you were gone. I had seen Melissa the night before, at least I had spent time with her before the explosion had burnt her from existence, leaving nothing but ashes and the smell of charred flesh behind.
I take a closer look at the stones that are circling Melissa’s grave. Some have one word written on them whereas others have sentences. The one that catches my eye is written in red chalk; Why? I don’t understand it. Why? Why did you leave? Why did you go so soon? I think of countless possibilities as to what that person who wrote that on the stone meant before finally giving up and placing my stone next to it.
This was our tradition. We placed these stones near the graves of the dead so to give them one last thing before they Leave. I hated it. People, strangers, anyone could just come to a grave at random and place their stones of praise but not everyone has good intentions. Many have placed stones near the graves of their enemies, describing how awful they were and wishing hatred toward them. Wishing to cause them pain. Only humans such as we could turn sending praise to the dead into a selfish deed.
My thoughts are interrupted once again when I hear thunder. The rain begins to cascade down from the stone-colored sky, singing a song of sorrow for the graves that it's waters are now drenching. I remove my sweater and wrap it around Madeline’s small form, shielding her from the cold that is being given off by the harsh winds surrounding us.
I take a glance around the graveyard in search of my mother and find her standing under a tree near the east side of the cemetery, looking off into some point in the distance. The three of us seem to be the only people left in the graveyard at the moment, the rest of the crowd now departed, their prayers being forgotten within the rain. I walk towards my mum with Madeline at my side.
She continues to stare into the distance once we reach her, lost in thought. After a few moments she breaks the agonizing silence by saying, “He is a coward.” I survey her expression and see that there are dark shadows under her eyes and her mouth is set in a deep frown.
“I don’t think that he is a coward,” I lie, “He must be feeling guilty, I’m probably to blame for that.” I say, looking everywhere but at my mum.
“You are not to be blamed for his guilt, Lillian. All you did was tell him the truth which is better than anything you could have said to him. He should feel guilty for this. His regret is taking over, which is why he couldn’t attend this funeral, he couldn’t show his face to the people who think the same that we do; it’s his fault.” She ends off, finally looking at me. Silence falls upon us like a blanket of discomfort, only the melody of the rain being heard. Madeline tugs on my hand and I look down at her.
“Where is Uncle John?” she asks, aware of the fact that we were speaking about him. “My dad is really busy at work. Why would you like to know, Madeline?” I ask her, bending down so that I am leveled with her once again. She looks at me with uncertainty in her eyes, pondering whether or not she should voice her next words.
“Does your dad not like my mum?” she questions with pure curiosity.
“No, of course not. He loves her. Why would you think that?” I ask her softly, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“Because,” she pauses then adds, “He killed her.”
(End of chapter one)
Title - Rise of the Forgotten
Genre - Science Fiction, YA
Age range - 14 to 19
Word count - 7000+ (total of both chapters and introduction)
Author name - Anonymous
Why it's good - Though my work has not yet been completed, the chapters I have written so far has received great feedback.
The hook - Contains unique writing and plot twists to keep the reader hooked onto every chapter. Appeals to age range.
Synopsis - N/A
Target audience - Young adult
Likes/ hobbies - Reading and writing
Age - 15
You arrive home from a late night at work. You open your bedroom door and find yourself sleeping in your bed. You're completely petrified and confused. You think that perhaps this is some sort of prank. You step closer to the figure in your bed and notice that it looks exactly like you, save for the birthmark which is on the stranger's right eyelid instead of the left. The figure in your bed begins to stir, until it finally opens it's eyes. You scream when it's eyes focus on you. You run towards the door as fast as you can but are only able to place your hand on the doorknob before the figure grabs your arm from behind you. It lets go and you turn around to face the stranger, feeling frightened yet intrigued.
"Who are you?" you ask in a quivering voice, staring at the stranger before you. The figure remains silent and stares back at you with wide eyes. "I have come for your soul." says the stranger. Your blood runs cold and you begin to panic. "What?" you say, your voice rising.
The figure then begins to laugh, taking you by surprise. The sound frightening you even further as it echoes throughout your bedroom. "You should have seen your face!" the stranger exclaims, laughter escaping from its mouth. The figure than sobers up and says, "Did you actually think that I was going to kill you?"
You are frozen on the spot, utterly at a loss for words. "Um... Uh... Well..." you say but the figure than interrupts you by asking, "Who do you think I am? The Grim Reaper? I am not going to kill you, so stop hyperventilating."
You continue to stare at the stranger in shock. "What.. What are you doing here? Who are you?" you inquire, suddenly getting frustrated.
"I am you, but I'm sure you have already realized that." she says then adds, "I'm here to warn you." Many questions begin to spur up in your mind but you settle with, "Warn me? About what? How did you even get into my house and who are you? You can't possibly be me if I'm standing right here."
The figure before you lets out a sigh then takes a seat on the edge of the bed. She pats on the spot next to her and you hesitantly sit down next to the stranger. Up close you now see that you both have the same color eyes, the same hair length and the same amount of freckles. The only difference is the clothes that you are wearing. "I came from there." she says, pointing at the mirror behind your door. "You came from the mirror? How? Why-" she interrupts you by asking, "Have you ever thought why you can't walk through a mirror?"
You stare dumbfounded at the mirror than think to yourself, It's a flat surface, why would I even think of stepping into it? You shake your head. "Did you ever think that maybe your reflection is there to protect you from what's on the other side?"
To be continued...
People Are Plants
In my mere fifteen years of living I have concluded that people are plants. Not literally of course, but in some aspects of growth we are. Plants need water. They have to be cared for and have to be given water because they thrive on it and it helps them to grow. People, meaning us humans, need to be cared for too. We need to be watered with happiness every once in a while because without that happiness we start to wither up.
We become neglected and no matter the amount of water you sprinkle on us afterward, it won’t make much of a difference because we have already fallen; we’re not getting back up. There’s no amount of water that can revive a plant from being burnt by the sun, or in our case, by darkness. Though that sentence may be contradictory, it is also true. Being the plant people that we are, once the many drops of darkness varying from depression, suicide, stress and anxiety have consumed that tiny speck of glowing happiness that we depended on every once in a while; we stop growing, we stop living and we become nothing but withered up plants that have barely grown into the flowers that we were meant to be.
I have learned that the world is full of darkness that threatens to consume us all, but there is some light in it as well. I realized that our world could become a much brighter place if we simply stop allowing the darkness to arise and instead start to spread as much light as we possibly can, to as many people as we can.