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You Can't Go Home Again

By Susan Wakefield

Grace and Ibrahim were in the kitchen of her small studio apartment, concocting some new dish together. “I’ll mash these garbanzo beans and the chick peas, if you chop the garlic and fresh parsley,” Ibrahim offered. They mashed and chopped and stirred the ingredients together. This was one of many things they enjoyed doing together – cooking, inventing recipes, and sharing meals.

Ibrahim had introduced Grace to pita, hummus, and Grace had introduced him to the casseroles she grew up on.

“This is quite the creation,” Ibrahim announced proudly as he slathered the garbanzo mix on some stone ground wheat crackers.

“Mr. Original,” Grace teased, “You’ve just made hummus but sad news,” she mocked a deep frown, “somebody already invented it.”

Ibrahim wiped a finger through the light brown mash and smeared it across Grace’s mouth. Then he kissed her as he folded her deeply into his arms, where she rested content in his tender embrace.

“You are so good for me,” he whispered in her ear.

“You are my amazing …” her voice drifted off, she did not know how to finish the sentence. They moved out of the embrace and Ibrahim grabbed Grace’s hand and led her to the terra cotta colored canvas fabric love seat that was part of the sparse furniture in her small apartment.

“We need to have THAT talk,” he said. Grace sighed and slid down the love seat, and closed her eyes and brought her hands together in front of her heart. “Are you praying or inventing a new yoga pose?” Ibrahim inquired.

A tear slid down Grace’s cheek. Without opening her eyes she said, “How can we do it, how can we break this news to our parents? How can we ever go home again?”

“Did you talk to Chelsea?” Ibrahim questioned her.

“I did,” she said. “A very long talk – almost three hours on the phone. We have been friends since we were four-year-olds but we lost touch when I moved to Chicago and she moved to South Dakota. But even after all this time, it is like we talked yesterday. She knows me better than almost anyone. We grew up in Sunday School and church youth group together.”

“When did you talk to her last?”

“When I was interviewing with the Environmental Justice Committee which would have meant moving to Chicago,” we talked often. “You know I was scared to make that move.”

“Well?”

“She thinks I should break up with you.”

At those words, Ibrahim’s face fell. “What are we going to do?” he said plaintively. “I love you – you are my soulmate. I cannot imagine life without you.” Grace responded, “Same.”

Ibrahim, lawyer, activist, musician, hummus maker. Devout Muslim. His life revolved around his faith in so many ways – it illuminated his life. His prayer practice was essential to his well-being. His strongest friendships came from people he knew at the Mosque. Except for this: His parents could never understand why he could not meet a nice woman at the Mosque. Even after Ibrahim graduated from law school, got a premier job with a law firm and bought his own condo in Chicago – and hence did prayers at a different Mosque from his parents who lived in the suburbs, it was hard to understand why he did not meet another devout Muslim woman to marry. He was a catch, as his mother often mused to her friends.

Grace, community organizer, activist, musician, casserole maker. Daughter of a Christian Pastor and long time Sunday School teacher. She grew up in her Christian Church – and like Ibrahim – the church was at the center of their lives. Her faith propelled her to major in political science (as Ibrahim did also) and to become an activist. She was deeply imprinted by a lifetime of Sunday School, religious retreats, Bible reading. One time when she was working for a business consulting firm, a co-worker who admired her said, “I have never met a happier person than you. You just seem to take so much joy in living. What makes you so happy?” She knew it would be corny to say that it was all about being a Christian, but that was the truth of it.

But dating was a challenge for Grace. There were just very few men out there who could match her professional accomplishments, her political interests, and her devotion to religion. Then, she met Ibrahim.

Anyone in their presence noticed it: unmistakable chemistry between these two. And they had more in common than most friends ever find. They had met at a political rally – passionate about climate change, the same political candidates and issues, and at being deeply involved in political life. They were committed to making a more inclusive world – politically and personally.

Then they discovered another interest. Grace was invited to sit in as second violin in a string quartet and invited Ibrahim to one of their concerts when she learned he played the cello. Discovering his taste in music made him dreamier to her, as if he wasn’t already the most interesting, attractive man she had ever met. Soon the cello player of the quartet got a job in California and moved away. Ibrahim took his place

Making music together was a deeply harmonizing experience. Most of their friends were into hip-hop or rock and roll but these two were throwbacks to a classical age. Ibrahim was a cello master, and Grace equally gifted on the violin. It was like Vivaldi was their matchmaker.

They worked diligently for inclusion and change in the world – dreaming of new possibilities while cherishing traditions. And now – it was personal. They wanted to imagine spending their lives together – making beautiful music forever. But for all their idealism and the love they shared – it seems they could leap over the gorge of differences. They had asked a thousand times, “Was culture, tradition, religion really that important?” They just could not figure out how to navigate this beautiful terrain.

Snowfall in Late Summer

By R. Dana Barlow

As the morning sun peeked through the slivers between skyscrapers lining lower Manhattan, Peter Simon Jr. reasoned in his heart that today would be the day to achieve the closure he so needed after 20 years.

Cradling a small snowglobe in his hands, Peter strode down Broadway southeast past St. Paul’s Chapel and swung right onto Dey Street. He glanced around at how the retail landscape – barely spanning a city block – had changed in two decades. Small bookstores and gift shops ceded territory claims to popular coffeehouses, boutique clothiers and mobile phone outlets.

As Peter walked past the array of darkened glass doorways, he mentally retreated to a memory from two decades earlier when he was in kindergarten.

_____

The field trip with mommy filled him with an energy crackling with excitement. They were going to visit daddy downtown in the tall building where he worked! Daddy called it a skyscraper, and Petey could see why. But there were so many of these concrete and steel structures that he couldn’t tell on his own which one held his daddy inside.

Along the way, Petey and his mommy shuffled hand-in-hand into a gift shop to buy a memento of the occasion. Nothing fancy or expensive. Just a trinket to mark the day mommy took her

little man to the big city for the first time. Petey was only five, but he really wanted to see where his daddy went each morning after patting Petey’s head while walking out the door. As Petey munched on his bowl of Froot Loops and watched cartoons, daddy’s pat-on-the-head represented an important ritual that completed his breakfast. Today he hoped to learn what daddy did all day long in that tall building before returning home each evening.

Mommy told Petey that daddy worked in one of two tall buildings in the big city. The buildings were twins, she said, just like Phil and Lil in “Rugrats.” Both towered near the edge of the island on which daddy worked, overlooking the Statue of Liberty across the Hudson.

Petey couldn’t wait to see the twins where daddy worked. Last year, his pre-school teacher showed him a picture of the statue of the famous lady holding up the torch, so he recognized mommy’s reference. But he wanted to see how daddy spent his time all the way up in that tall building. It must be super important, he thought, because he worked so high in the air.

Just as Petey and his mom left the gift shop with a token snowglobe souvenir containing a depiction of the Manhattan skyline, he heard a wheezing whistle overhead, followed by a loud boom, and then honking horns, screeching tires and screaming people. Mommy gasped and immediately told him to look down at the snowglobe. He lowered his head to peer inside the plastic dome at the replica of the two buildings where daddy worked near the famous lady holding up the torch. Petey shook the snowglobe once … twice … then three times. Small snowflakes swirled in the water around the tiny plastic structures.

But Petey really wanted to look up and around. His curiosity was too hard to contain, so he scrunched up his eyes, took a deep breath and reopened them. He scanned up and down the street, moving only his eyes back and forth in long sweeping arcs while keeping his head stationary. He saw people running away from the direction he and mommy were heading – daddy’s building. Some were white like ghosts, coughing and wheezing. He knew where daddy’s building was because mommy had pointed out the direction before they entered the gift shop. Horns and sirens of fire trucks and police cars speeding down the streets made his head hurt, leaving a ringing in his ears. This puzzled Petey. He did not realize that daddy worked in such a noisy place. No wonder mommy liked the serenity of nap time at their little house, he thought.

As he and mommy scurried away from daddy’s building, west on Dey Street, Peter noticed mommy frantically dialing her cell phone. She was trying to reach daddy as she pulled Peter along. He clutched his snowglobe. He didn’t want to drop it.

Before they ducked into a nearby building for safety, Petey noticed a swarm of debris floating in the air similar to the ticker tape parade he once saw on a television program commemorating the Apollo 11 astronauts after they returned from the moon. The view outside now made him think of a snowfall in late summer.

Petey shook his snowglobe again and watched the snowflakes float around the buildings, just as they were swirling and whirling outside.

Daddy didn’t return home that night like he did every night before. In fact, he never came back. Petey never saw him again – save for photographs and videos in scrapbooks, Facebook and compact discs.

_____

The shrill squeak and distinct hiss of the air brakes of an MTA bus jolted Peter back to his current journey. He tucked the memory back in place as he checked his smartwatch. 8:25 a.m. Only 21 minutes before the first moment of silence.

He arrived at the reflecting pool amid flocks of others gathering around for similar reasons. They were remembering, too. And paying their respects to loved ones and friends and strangers lost too soon.

As the sun continued to rise in the east, its threads of light rebounded off the shimmering waters of the south pool as flashing shards.

Clenching the snowglobe tightly as he did once, Peter kissed the plastic shell, then leaned over and laid it on the surface of the water. For a brief second, it floated and then slipped below the surface, tumbling end-over-end all the way to the bottom where it landed.

“Rest in peace, dad,” Peter gently whispered. “And be sure to give mom my love, too.”

A Lost and Found Discovery

By Tweety Hsiao

1. Emma

“The admission is twenty dollars,” says the staff at the admissions desk of the Immigration Station on Angel Island. The smell of sea carried by the lazy wind makes Emma feel drowsy. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you later,” she says to her friends. She goes down a few steps to see the iconic bronze bell on the wharf standing desolate in the distance. The bell, which represents an immigrant’s first step on U.S. soil in the past, evokes the memories of her own first step.

“Excuse me, have you bought a ticket yet?” asks the staff, a white man about 30 years old.

“Yes, I just bought tickets from you a few minutes ago,” she responds. The guy’s blunt question makes her think of how quickly a person can be forgotten and how insignificant she is in the sea of immigrants.

Emma swiftly enters the museum where the overwhelming history greets her mercilessly. She recalls that when she first came to the United States, she had tried various ways to tear off her immigrant label. She never speaks her mother tongue in public because it makes her look more out of place. Most of the time, she wears different masks to switch between identities. It’s not because she’s as changeable as a chameleon but rather because wearing masks seems to be easier to join the masquerade of this vast society. At first, she modulates her multiple identities very well, but the longer she wears the mask, the less she knows herself. Sometimes she wonders if she were born here, would life treat her better?

Feeling lost, she quickly leaves the room in hopes of finding peace. And there, right there, she spots the exit. A hidden garden appears like a mirage where an old Asian man sits serenely staring at the misty San Francisco in the distance. The way he sits reminds her so much of Grandpa living far away.

2. Ron

Ron sits alone on the bench basking in the sun. His eyes look blank and sunken. Since Father passed away two years ago, visiting Angel Island has become his weekly ritual. He likes to sit all afternoon thinking and writing about Father. Usually, the crashing sound of waves, the abundant colors of wildflowers, and the minty scent of eucalyptus trees provide plenty of inspirations for him. But today he couldn’t write much.

Ron is a second-generation immigrant born in the United States. He’s always thought that Wong is his family name, but it wasn’t until Father passed away that he discovered his mysterious ancestry. A month after Father had gone, he found a pile of old letters written in Mandarin. It was through a friend’s translation that he slowly pieced together Father’s story.

Father came to America at the age of 14 as a Paper Son, a false identity his real family had paid a high price for. He traveled all the way to Hong Kong, where he boarded a large ship that sailed across the Pacific Ocean and brought him to San Francisco. He arrived at the Angel Island, where he was interrogated for hours, before he landed. In Ron’s memory, Father never spoke Mandarin at home, nor did he mention his past. At that time, he didn't understand why Father cut off his roots while he was obviously of Chinese descent. Perhaps since the moment Father set foot on the ship, he had completely thrown his true identity into the sea in order to blend in.

Last December, Ron’s wife passed away. Sometimes he feels like giving up on life to end the loneliness that is slowly killing him, but then he thinks of Father’s letter. He wonders about the life of his relatives on the other side of the earth. Have they heard of his name? Will they see him as a stranger or consider him family?

Today, he visits Angel Island as usual. He has an impulse to write a letter in Mandarin to his relatives in China, but no matter how hard he tries, he could only come up with a few words.

3. Lost And Found

“May I sit here?” Emma breaks the silence.

“Sure,” Ron replies with an amiable smile.

“Are you writing Chinese poems?” Emma asks, pointing to his notebook propped open.

“Well, I’m actually writing a letter,” he smiles and closes the notebook gently.

Slowly, Ron begins to pour out his stories, while Emma listens with growing fascination because she seems to see herself in the man’s father. His words also remind Emma of her own family living far away, a family she hasn’t visited for two years, a safe haven which should be more important than anything else. After he finishes, they both fall silent.

“So, have you found your relatives yet?” Emma asks.

“Not really,” he pauses and takes out a photo from his wallet, “This is a photo I found among my father’s old letters. The person on the right is my father’s younger sister, and the two on the left are her husband and daughter, I suppose.”

Emma takes the photo and looks at it thoroughly, trying to find any clue.

“Have you tried to contact them?” Emma asked.

“Not until today,” he pauses again. “I was trying to write a letter earlier, but my Mandarin is so limited that I didn’t know what to say. I don’t even know if they still live at the same address.”

“If you don't mind, I’d love to help you write the letter,” Emma persists with an earnest tone of voice, “And, if you’re going to meet them someday, you’ll need to practice speaking Mandarin.” She clears her throat deliberately and starts to teach him Mandarin. Her crisp voice attracts several passersby, but she no longer feels uncomfortable.

Two lost people finally find hope and warmth in each other. The sun is gradually setting west, while the palm trees sway in the wind.

(The End)

Old Spring

By Fallon Manzella-McReady

We were old now. Fatima and I both knew it. We’d spent almost 45 years together. Almost being the key word. The approximate number is 44 years and six months, and we both would snark about being so close, yet so far - not quite reaching that last bit of time. We liked to joke about how our kids would have to tell people that their parents were together for “almost 45 years,” instead of just “45 years.”

The boys didn’t find it funny in the slightest, especially when we’d sit on the couch and joke about it in front of them. We’d poke at each other’s sides and laugh about how we weren’t going to be together in six months. The only other person who found it funny was Gina, our youngest granddaughter. She was a realist with an idealistic streak, and apparently there was a trend on social media about “romanticizing your life.”

I thought it was dumb, but Fatima thought it was the most fascinating thing in the world. The idea of taking every step like you’re the main character, made her smile. It made me shiver, because who wants to be the main character? I’d much rather be on the sidelines watching it all happen. But I’d already made so many compromises, what was one more? It could be our last, after all.

We liked to joke about things like mortality and our own impending ends - at least in front of the kids. Laughing was how we’d taught them to cope, after all. But it was in our vows to not keep secrets, and at night, when it was just the two of us wrapped up in big fluffy blankets, we whispered our truths.

She had always, above all else, feared forgetting. Fatima didn’t ever want to lose even a single moment of the time we’d spent together, like her mother had. Her mother, who’d lost even the memories of her children at the end of her life.

I think that most of Fatima’s fear, though, wasn’t for herself. It was for the kids - our sons and grandchildren. That was how she’d always been. Even when it was her who could forget everything that meant anything to her, she was more worried about how it was going to hurt someone else.

I wasn’t the same. Time had always been my biggest fear. I feared how it always seemed to run from me, how I could never get enough, how I could never quite stop a moment, and even the best of them had ended in the blink of an eye. Unlike Fatima, I didn’t - I wasn’t able - to just look back. I didn’t want to remember, I wanted to experience. Selfishly, I wanted all of the good things to last forever, but had never been able to make them.

I hated it. I hated that time had never stopped taking from me, even as my skin got loose and my body slowed down. No matter how slow I became, time never skipped a beat. It just kept on going. Taking.

Time doesn’t only take, Josie, Fatima had said everytime it felt like the entire world was slipping through my aging fingers.

And, as all things, I’d listened to her. Every minute of our lives together, I’d listened, and then, eventually, believed her. After so many years of listening, I’d grown an appreciation somewhere alongside that deep hate. Time took - a lot. It dulled the color in my eyes and turned my hair grey, but... It also ended arguments and never once failed to rise the sun and bring spring.

Oh, spring. I didn’t know if I was going to see another one. Or - even worse - if I was going to get to spend another with her. Some part of me wanted to go first, just so I didn’t have to see it - or anything, really - without her

Spring was truly her season. For as much as I relished in breezes that blew just a bit warmer than they had the day before and snow melting away to make room for bright-green grass, it was always Fatima who it belonged to. She made it wonderful, going berserk, running around and tossing out orders to spring clean, and buying seeds for the garden before they were in demand and started to get expensive.

I don’t want to see another spring, not if it was without Fatima. There was nothing to be had from that. Nothing to be seen if it wasn’t through her eyes. To have to see green grass without seeing green eyes was nothing but torment.

What joy could I find in the sprouting tulips if she wasn’t there to whisper, I told you they’d come back, or if she wasn’t there to run around the house opening all of the curtains when the last snow rolled in?

I’ve forgotten. I don’t know anymore… What it’s like to be without her.

It’s been so long, after all.

Unknown Ends

By Priyanshu Jha

On a misty October night, the night of Halloween, a man was winding his way through an empty, flowerless field. Going by the name of Steve Channing, he is a short and handsome man, with heavy eyebrows, jet black hair which sticks up at the back of his head, and intelligence to match his appearance. A biology professor, Dr. Channing is well-known in the scientific community for his research on aging and death of all organisms, particularly humans. You couldn’t stop Dr. Channing from talking about death once someone had mentioned it. He speaks of death, thinks of death as if he has already conquered it. Even now, as he makes his way to his cabin, he thinks of the incident when he was thirty-five, about twenty years ago. He’d experienced an extremely serious heart attack, and his body had been declared dead by the doctors whom he’d been brought to. Then just as the doctors had been preparing his death certificate, Dr. Channing had calmly walked out of the emergency room, saying, “You truly thought that death could harm me? I have come up with ways to avoid it, I cannot be killed.” He’d then calmly walked out of the hospital amid the stunned faces of those who knew him and had come for his dead body. His arrogance and overconfidence at the outcomes of his research turned into an evil mix of emotions, and he quickly isolated himself socially, because he believed no superior man than he had ever lived.

Dr. Channing withdraws himself from his pleasing thoughts as he stumbles upon a large stone in his path. When Mr. Channing straightens up again, however, he stops walking abruptly, for he spots a tall, extremely pale figure wearing a top hat and travelling cloak, and standing only a few yards away. It was a misty night, and it was impossible to have made out the figure at any further distance. As the professor stands rooted to the spot, the figure moves towards him in a gait which only indicates evil intentions to the professor. Dr. Channing feels the hairs at the back of his neck rise, and he takes several steps back but stumbles again on the large stone. He looks up into the figure’s face, and both wonder and fear grip him. The face of the pale figure has handsome features, features so strikingly identical to Dr. Channing’s that it takes him only a few seconds to realize that he was staring at himself, even though it was impossible that the figure was him. It opened its mouth, and a hoarse and aged voice speaks out. “A warning to you Channing. If you wish to live, do not, under any condition, go home tonight, for horrors lie there which you can never survive.”

“Wish to live? Nothing can kill me, fool! I have conquered death, and no soul can hurt me!” These words came out in a jeer, as arrogant little Dr. Channing recovers himself from the fear of the pale figure. “ You clearly haven’t heard of my intellectual solutions that have led me to conquer death, or else you would not speak gibberish in front of me.”

The pale figure stares at the professor, eyeing him up and down. He stands there looking at the professor for what seems several minutes before finally saying, “Your arrogance will cost you your life, professor. Never underestimate death. It can come upon you in ways which can never be avoided. It can harm you in such ways that there is no hope for you to ever come back to life again.” And with that, the pale figure walks away from Dr. Channing, disappearing into the night.

“Foolish man,” Channing thinks to himself as he continues walking, “Doesn’t have a clue what he’s saying.”

After ten or so minutes, Dr. Channing reaches his house but he knows something is wrong. The door is ajar, and the windows are smashed open. “Burglars,” he thinks as he hurries into the house and goes down to his laboratory in the basement. Hooded figures were throwing open cupboards and drawers in search of something.

“STOP! Stop right there!”. But the professor realizes his mistake a second too late. The figures, upon hearing the yell, turn around and spot him. They lift knives out of their pockets and begin crossing the lab to him. But Dr. Channing, who so firmly believes that death cannot harm him, just laughs. “You cannot kill me,” he jeers, “I cannot be killed! I’m calling the cops.”

“Run for it, mates! ” yells one of the figures, and the intruders knock the professor aside and storm out of the room. “And burn the house down, he can’t live through that!” Upon these words, fire erupted in the professor’s house. It soon trapped him inside his lab, and he knew that the hooded figures were right, that fire was the only thing which could truly kill the professor. As the smoke from the flames reaches his lungs, as the flames come closer to him, devouring his life’s work, as fear grips him, he remembers the pale figure who’d warned him of this. He remembers its words vividly.

“Never underestimate death. It can come upon you in ways which can never be avoided. It can harm you in such ways that there is no hope for you to ever come back to life again.”

And with those words as his last thought, the renowned Dr. Channing is engulfed by flames.

The Dimensional Summoner

By Shaurya Doherey

Before I tell you this story, here’s the one thing you need to know:

My uncle, Tony, is an inventor.

One day I was searching through the attic of my uncle’s house. I found a very strange gadget with many buttons, knobs and dials. I had never seen something like it before. I picked it up and looked carefully. It was very rusty, so I guess it must have been very old. I turned one of the knobs and suddenly the gadget started glowing. Right at that moment, I saw Uncle Tony open the door. When he saw me with the gadget, his face turned pale. He ran towards me, his arms stretched as far as they could to grab the machine, but then as he was about to get it, I felt myself launched backwards. I tried to look around. All I could see was a long tunnel……which I was flying through! I couldn’t see anyone around, just a lot of colors spinning around. There were many twists and turns, until at last, I was dumped in a pile of mud. I saw the tunnel above me, slowly shrinking. I got up on my feet as quickly as I could, and leapt right at what was left of the tunnel opening, but it was too late.

The portal had closed and I landed on the ground. I groaned, getting back up. What was that? Then, I noticed a letter attached to the gadget that was in my hands. It was written by Uncle Tony;

“I proudly present the Dimensional Summoner (Prototype)! This gadget can teleport the user into any dimension, or a whole new world! You must use this very carefully!”

-Creation of Stark Industries

Different dimension? New world? Where was I?

I felt anger and fear rising inside me. “Stupid machine!”, I yelled, picking it up and smashing it to the floor. Only then did I realize what I had done. I just obliterated my only hope of getting back. I sat down. I had no idea what to do. I was stuck!

I sat there till evening, watching the 12 suns slowly sink. Suddenly, my stomach started rumbling. “GREAT”, I yelled, as I got up. There was a forest behind me, which I was trying to avoid since the time I got there. It looked like a normal forest, but the trees were weird shades like purple, blue, white and gold. I might as well try to get something to eat. I was really hungry. So I walked in, looking around for…….well, anything. Suddenly, I heard a low growling noise. Normally, I would just try to get away, but any sign of life there could help me. I tried to follow the noise. Finally in a few minutes, I found a small area full of weird creatures. They all looked identical. Hovering, thin beasts made of what looked like floating black ink. Long crooked arms, two crab-like legs, and a round dark head. One of their eyes shifted to me and stared, Slowly, the others started staring at me too, and gradually they inched towards me. Did I do something wrong? The creatures started speeding up. Then, one of them dashed right at me, but I luckily dodged. The creature smashed into a thick tree behind me, roaring in pain. Why did it attack me?

I ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I could hear them rushing at me from behind. One of them sped at me, and I could see it right next to me. As it was about to charge at me, I jumped aside, grabbing a branch on a nearby tree and started climbing up. I jumped from branch to branch, terrified. When I reached the top of the trees, I saw them all circling me, I didn’t have time to think. I leapt at the tree in front of me, which was right at the edge of a waterfall. I was about to land on the top, but my arm skimmed through the white leaves and I landed on one of the thick branches below. I was about to slip off, but I grabbed the branch and was now hanging from it, tightening my grip as much as possible. The sinister creatures were slowly approaching me.

I had no choice. I let go and fell down from the tree, rolling into the river which tossed me right down the falls. I was dropping through the air, thrilled and scared at the same time. But that ended too quickly. SPLASH! “OOOWWWW!!!!” I howled. I had crashed into the water. Tears rolled down my eyes as I tried to pull myself deep into the water to hide from the ghostly creatures. One of them had come down to me and was face to face with me. As the creature raised his sharp arm high and was about to strike me, I closed my eyes in fear. And when I reopened my eyes, I was back in Uncle Tony’s attic! “What!!!” I got up and looked around. The gadget was on the table right next to me, where I had found it in the first place. I quickly picked it up and smacked it on the floor and stomped over it. It was completely crushed. Hearing all this clatter, Uncle Tony walked into the room. “What was that noise?” he asked. “THAT THING just teleported me to a deathly dimension and I almost DIED!!!” I yelled.

“You must be sleepy kiddo” Uncle said. “That gadget was an advanced music box. Plays up to 503 lullabies. One of my simplest inventions. Well, I don’t blame you. It is almost midnight” he said. I froze. “So, all that was a dream?” I asked. Uncle Tony smiled, “Yup, whatever it was. Now time to go to bed”, he walked away smiling and yawning.

“WHAAAAT??????!!!” I groaned, following him to the bedroom. It was all just a big bad nightmare!

Or was it…….?

The Clumsy Witch

By Anika Shukla

The large creepy house was filled with a funny smell. What is that smell? A smell of burning cigar which was slowly getting mixed up with an unpleasant acrid smell of something rotten. This smell was coming from the house of the clumsy witch. People often called her a clumsy witch due to her continuous misadventures. But actually her name was Christina Oiler. She was a young witch with a pointy hat, black robe and gloves. Usually she wore a Navy Blue dress with Scarlet red bellies. She had a prominent crooked nose, light blonde hair tied in a tight bun, a pale face and a crow perched on her left shoulder. She was a happy but funny witch, who could never get her spells correct, due to which she was landing in one trouble or another.

That day she tried to make a potion, which when drunk could make a person vanish. But as usual, she ended up mixing the wrong ingredients and set her pot on fire which smelt like a burning cigar and produced choking fumes of pungent gases. She shrunk on the floor with a handkerchief on her nose as everything seemed about to explode. Her husband Mr. Mathew Oiler came rushing into the room as he heard a large BOOM ! followed by a couple of sneezes and screams for help. Mr. Mathew Oiler was the exact opposite of his wife. He was a wizard. A highly - proficient wizard. In fact, he was a very disciplined wizard and principal of a magic school. He cleared up the mess with a casual flick of his magic wand. Then picking up his wife he mumbled, " My wife is a messy one. Never gets anything right." Christina heard this and broke down. “I’m just trying to be a skillful witch, just like you”, she wailed.

Mathew then said," Ha Ha Ha! An expert like me? That's going to take a lot of time."

"How much? " she asked.

"At least a few years" came the reply.

"But I can’t wait. I want to become a professional witch just now."

"Then you need to go to the library. Probably the book "Tips to become a professional witch-wizard by Godric Banashree” may help you."

"Okay"

And so off she went. After reaching the library she asked the woman behind the counter, "Hullo! I'm Christina. Can you please tell me where to find the book 'Tips to become a professional witch-wizard by Godric Banashree'?"

The woman behind the counter gave Christina a long look and said "You please, go to the third shelf on the right and look in the topmost rack"

"Thank you."

She went and found the book and while holding it, she started day-dreaming. She imagined herself as a famous talented witch , who was applauded, respected and held in awe by all. She felt like she should dance, sing and do a little jig. But alas! The book fell from the hand and all the pages came out as it was a very battered old book. The woman at the counter came running and shouted at her, "Look what have you done! Pay $30 for it!"

''Sorry, I am just paying," said the witch in a petrified tone and took out her bundle of notes.

But the window was open and suddenly a strong wind gusted inside and blew all her money. She followed her money running and cursing under her breath. But the money flew and fell in a muddy pond which was actually quicksand. To retrieve her money, she jumped and started sinking down. She got frightened and started to shriek for help "HELP ! HELP ! SOMEONE !!! ''

Hearing her screams for help, some people along with Mathew came and pulled her up. She was highly shaken and injured. Mathew took her home. Then after having an hour of bedrest and a hot chocolate Mathew told her strictly," You will never venture into magic and potions again" . She thought it was better to stay away from those things and leave them to her professional husband and till her old age, people still called her a clumsy witch.

My Pet Putty

By Rishaan

Cassie was sitting on her back porch. She was waiting for her Uncle Tyler who was visiting them from NASA, Florida. He always brought her some gifts from his work. Cassie was delighted when he came. As soon as she saw him alight from the car, she rushed over, hugged him tight and asked, “What did you bring for me this time?”

Her uncle chortled, “This time I have something unique for you!”

Cassie’s mom exclaimed, “Cassie! Uncle Tyler has just arrived. You need to be patient.”

The whole family got together to catch up on old stories and share new ones. After their dinner, Uncle Tyler brought out a shoebox which was decorated with some ribbons and construction paper.

“This one's for you Cassie,” he said. Cassie’s eyes lit with joy and she smiled from ear to ear as she held the box in her hand. Cassie was expecting a memory box with old photographs and keepsakes but when she opened it, all that she saw was dust. Cassie's smile drooped. She had a container of dust now! Uncle Tyler explained “This is a container of moon dust and dust from Mars. ”

Cassie quickly put on a fake grin and thanked Uncle Tyler. She went to her room disappointed. To keep herself occupied, she picked up her box of Silly Putty. She kneaded the putty for a couple of minutes, made some figurines and then yawned. She was extremely tired. Her head hit the pillow but her thoughts were spinning, thinking about her day at school and her friends.

Suddenly, something glistened in her room and caught her attention. The shoe box had an aura around it. She thought she was so tired that she was hallucinating. It seemed real that the moon dust was glowing! She leaped out of bed and tried to grab the moon dust, when some of it fell from the shoe box and on to her putty. She was all the more disappointed that her favorite figurine was now covered with dust.

The next morning when she woke up, she saw her putty was not in the same place as the night before. It had moved! Cassie prodded the blob but it was not a blob anymore. It had a shape and form. Not only that, it was alive and it spoke! “Blurb?” the cute creature murmured.

Cassie’s joy knew no bounds when she saw her new toy. She decided to name it Ginger because it had an irregular shape like ginger root.

She ran down the stairs two steps at a time to let Uncle Tyler know what just happened. Uncle Tyler was busy reading the newspaper. Cassie ran up to him and gave him a big hug. She couldn’t stop gushing about the wonderful present he had given her. It appeared that the changes in the putty did not stop at exhibiting human-like characters, it had a bit of extra-terrestrial genes as well.

Cassie decided to take Ginger to school. She would use him as a companion for the long day ahead. For once she would have a friend to share the time ahead! Who knew what the future held for this friendship? All she knew was that there would be many more surprises coming forth!