Category Archives: 2017-2018 Excellent Work

The Necessary Disguise by Camille Kistner

The Necessary Disguise

By Camille Kistner


I stepped to the edge of the worn concrete steps leading up to our apartment. Warm, dust-filled air lifted the hair off my shoulders and my hair danced in front of my face. I tucked my hair away behind my ear and bent down to pick up a dirty newspaper that was dated July 17th, 1992. A bolded headline read, Hekmatyar Refuses Peshawar Accords. Bombs Falling. As I turned to walk back inside with the bucket of water I had filled at the faucet, I heard a whistling sound that had become all too familiar in recent months. There was an ear piercing explosion and the ground beneath my feet rumbled. I hurried inside. My parents had moved our family to Kabul during a time of peace, but things had changed quickly. Rival militias had begun to fight for control of the city and it was no longer safe to be outside. Women and girls were not even allowed to walk the streets without a male relative.

For months, I had been cooped up in the small apartment while my father attempted to arrange our family’s passage back to the U.S. Then suddenly, my father didn’t return from work in the evening as usual. We spent days wondering if he was alive until a man he had been working with stopped by to inform us that he had been arrested. We were practically starving and had already consumed all the food we had stored.  My little brother and sister were so hungry they had stopped playing and spent the days just laying around. We had a small amount of afghani but it would do us no good since my mother and I didn’t dare to venture into the streets alone to purchase food. If we were to be seen, we would be arrested, beaten, and most likely killed. I couldn’t just stand around and watch my family starve to death. I had to figure out some kind of plan.

Sitting on the pile of blankets I sleep on, I watched out the hole in my wall where a window once was. Black puffs of smoke linger in the sky where puffy white clouds should be. All I could see from here was a city in ruin. I knew that there was a market nearby where men would sell and trade food. I’d seen a boy named Khalil who lived on the floor above us bring bread and rice back to his family. I didn’t think it was fair that he could go out and earn food when I couldn’t even leave my apartment. My mother had a few items I could trade if I could just get to that market.

“Mom, I need you to cut my hair short. Like a boy.”

She was confused at first, then quickly understood that this was probably the only way we could survive until my father returned. I convinced Khalil’s little sister to give me some of his clothes. The clothes hung loosely on me which worked well to hide my feminine body. I selected a small, exquisite vase that my parents had been given as a wedding gift and tucked it into the waistband of my pants. My mother handed me the small pouch of Afghanis that she had saved, kissed my forehead, and told me to be careful. My legs trembled like those of a newborn colt as I took the first few steps outside the safety of my home.

I tried to appear confident as I made my way to the marketplace. I walked down the narrow streets, brushing shoulders with men of all ages and climbing over debris from recent bombings. I kept waiting for someone to stop me, but apparently my disguise had worked. I made it to the market and my stomach lurched at the thought of speaking with one of the strange men selling food. My nose was filled with the scent of fresh bread and my hunger overpowered my fear. I casually strolled up to a man behind a table filled with dried fruits and bread. I handed him the pouch of afghanis and the small vase. He studied the vase carefully and counted the money. He held out a small loaf and two packets of of dried fruits. I bowed my head to him and tucked the bread and fruit into my waistband. Then I ran as fast as I could back to my apartment, my heart beating like a bass drum. We were going to be okay.





Lost and Found by Emma Hutchinson

Emma Hutchinson

Mr. Bearson

Honors English 1

5 September 2017

Lost and Found

I step out of the cab that I picked up at the airport, and a wall of heat slams into me. I toss a few pesos in the metal tin hanging off the back of the seat, and I hear them clatter against the bottom.

The man murmurs “Gracias”, and departs. As I drop my duffel bag and backpack on the road, a dust cloud rises into the hazy sky. I wave the dust away and see that I stand in front of a small shack with jagged holes cut into the adobe, acting as windows. A curtain hangs in place of a door. A piece of cheap plywood hanging next to the curtain reads, “Casa de Maria”. The sign indicates that I am in the right place to see Maria Ramirez, the head of the orphanage in the poor, violence-riddled sectors of Ciudad Juárez. She is supposed to tell me how I can help the children in the orphanages maintain hope. Pastor Kiernan chose me for my joyful spirit and ability to make people smile. However, now that I am here, seeing all of this poverty, I feel my positivity waver. Nonetheless, I take a deep breath and move towards the house.

I reach the door, and suddenly realize I don’t know what to do. There’s no door! Should I yell, walk in, knock on the brick next to it? What if no one’s home? I consider my options and finally decide to yell into the house, “Hello? Is anybody home?” There is no response and all I hear is the taxi moving further down the street. I yell again, this time in Spanish. “¿Hola? ¿Hay alguien en casa?” Still nothing. As I lean towards the thin curtain, however, I think I can hear a baby cry. I pull the curtain to the side, and peek into the house. It smells musty, like it hasn’t been aired out in a while, peculiar, considering the windows are open to the outside air. I call out again as I walk down a short hallway, which opens into a large room that appears to be the kitchen. I look upon a chaotic scene. Dishes are strewn on the dirt floor, one is shattered, a chair is tipped over backwards, and a tattered moccasin lies in the middle of the floor. The disarray makes me uneasy; I remember scenes like this from movies I’ve seen, and they don’t have happy endings. Something must have happened here, but what?  I hear another cry which seems to be coming from somewhere else in the house and instinct urges me to investigate. I tiptoe around the corner, though there is no one to hear me. As I step into a small bedroom, I look at my surroundings. Against the back wall is a plank with some threadbare blankets on it, passing for a bed. A cardboard box sits next to it, supporting a Bible and a glass of water. Along the side is half a dresser, nothing more than just a pile of wood and some knobs. There is a cradle in the corner, and it catches my eye. I peer over the edge, and discover a tiny baby wrapped in a thin, pink blanket. By the looks of her bright red face, she has been crying for a while. She whimpers, and I reach down and stroke her cheek. She blinks at me through tears and begins to cry again.  The baby’s mother must be the owner of the moccasin and since she’s not here, this tiny human being’s life is in my hands now.

My thoughts race.  What? I can’t take care of a baby. I don’t even know how to hold a baby! I don’t want to hurt it. Not it, her. What happened to her mother? What do I do? Where do I go? Why me? As these thoughts scurry back and forth, tears run down my cheeks. This poor child will probably never know her parents, and there’s nothing she can do about it. The baby startles me out of my grief by starting to cry again, so I reach into the cradle and pick her up. I hold her close to my chest, and sway back and forth, the way I’ve seen other women do, trying to soothe her. She calms, but still whines, and I realize she must be hungry, and I have nothing to feed her. I turn, and retrace my steps until I am outside; then I begin my search for help. There is no one in sight. I start to walk toward town, looking for someone who can help me. I know the general direction from my drive in from the airport.

Before long, the baby’s cry becomes desperate, she is wailing now, her hunger intense. I start to panic, and quicken my pace, disturbing the dirt and creating dust clouds with every frantic step. I bounce side to side as I walk, so it looks like I’m ballroom dancing. This time it doesn’t work, and the baby just cries louder, demanding food faster than I can supply it. I stop my bouncy walk, clutch the infant to my chest, and break into a cautious run.

Eventually I make it to town, sweaty and covered in dirt and tears, but relieved to have resources in the form of people, buildings and businesses. I see a large building, a church I presume, and I go up the steps and inside. I find a young woman with olive skin and long, dark hair who looks up when I enter.

She looks up at me, inquiring, “¿Este bebé es tuyo?”

I shake my head and say, “No ma’am, she’s not mine, I found her in an empty house. I believe something awful happened to her mother.”

She nods, changing to English when she realizes I am American. “Oh no, here, let me take her.”

I hand the baby to her, relieved of my tiny burden. She tells me that there was a young woman who was abducted earlier that day from her home and they found her body a few hours ago in a ditch. This woman must have been the baby’s mother. Tears stream down my face, not only for the baby, but for the woman, who would never get to see her daughter grow up, never see her take her first steps, tie her shoes, dance at her quinceañera, or get married. The woman from the church goes to get the baby some milk and some water for me. I collapse onto one of the pews, overcome with exhaustion and emotion, and I fall into a fitful sleep, my dreams haunted by thoughts of orphaned babies, grieving communities, and how I will ever be able to complete my original mission of delivering hope in the warring Ciudad Juárez.


Adventure in Afghanistan by Molly Ford

Molly Ford

Period 3

Adventure in Afghanistan

Emma steps out of the airport and is confronted by the smell of smoke. The atmosphere is hazed by a thick layer of dirt and dust. The city looks torn apart, buildings are half collapsed and people with dirty faces scurry around chaotically. The rest of the bus full of medical undergraduates follows behind her. The leader shouts, “Everybody, follow me to the hospital!” Emma grabs her suitcase and trails behind the large group of adults.

After forty-five minutes of walking through dirt and debris, she ends up at a building with decaying stone and windows cut out of the walls. She steps through the broken door that is half off of its hinges. When she steps in, she sees a room full of broken down hospital beds and skinny, grimey kids. She sits one down on a bed and looks at the nametag, her name was Ara.

As she checks all of Ara’s vitals, she notices that she is malnourished and nearly starving. As she looks at the other patients, she realizes that they are all lacking proper nutrition. Her coworker comes up to her and says, “Emma, I was looking over the results, and this is going to be more difficult than we thought”. But Emma knows that this is what she was here for. She and all of these other students were sent on this medical mission to save these children. No matter how long it takes, she is ready to take the time and help these children get better.

As the days progress, she realizes that the illnesses that the children require much more than vitamins. These children have very serious diseases, many of which have not been able to be treated. Majority of them have been diagnosed with pneumonia and diarrhea. It will take many months to help them, but Emma and her team work very hard to help them.

Suddenly, as she is giving the medication to one of the children, she hears a sharp cry come from outside the building. Emma steps cautiously toward the window and peers out. Through clouds of dust, she sees a large group of of soldiers clothed in all black enter a building. After cries of pain, they leave the building with around ten people with their hands bound and gagged. It did not take long for Emma to realize what is about to happen.

Emma has to think quick about how she is going to help the people in the hospital. This is what she came here to do, to save the children. Emma scans the room, looking for a way to escape. The windows are too small to fit through, and if she walks through the door the soldiers would see her. Come on Emma, Think. She looks around the room once more, this time she notices something, another door. She sees the medical supply closet. “Everybody follow me!” she exclaims. The kids and staff scurry after her. As she gestures toward the cabinet, the staff finally understand. But, Emma feels a tug at her shirt. Ara looks up at her with wide eyes and asks, “But Emma, what about you? What’s going to happen to you?” Emma kneels down and wraps her arms around Ara says, “Don’t worry Ara, I will be okay, just make sure everyone stays in that closet”. Ara nods and tears well up in her eyes. Emma directs Ara toward the cabinet and she jaunts over.

Emma stands up, closes the door, and locks it. After she takes the lock out she slides it under the door. She stands up just as she hears shouting from the doorway. Emma takes a deep breath as she slides her and up and down the door. Emma slowly moves toward the shouting, as a tear rolls down her cheek. As soon as the soldiers see her, that grab her arms and ties them then puts a rag in her mouth. Emma does not resist or make a sound. Although she is sad that her life has come to an end, she gets dragged outside with a smile on her face. She will always be reminded that Ara and all of the other children are safely locked in the closet.


Green by Amelia York


By Amelia York


Green was always one of Amber’s favorite colors. She admired the hue, even when she was merely a little girl. She loved the appearance of glossy green apples, the pigment of shimmering emeralds, and the tone of viridescent treefrogs. Maybe that was why she was so fond of the sight of grassy green hills decorating the earth in front of her. They gave her a sense of calm, especially when placed against the pale, dull mist of the morning sky. Her imagination lit up, as it created images of sheep and deer grazing along the untrimmed rolling hills. However, her favorite part of the premises was the view that was behind her. Tan, brick buildings lined open streets, castles were scattered around, and heavenly churches were everywhere- it was Rennes Le-Chataeu, France.

Amber wouldn’t be able to look at the village or the mountains for much longer though. The twenty four year old had decided it was time to return to the tragically compacted and never ending list of responsibilities called her life. She had already graduated from Cornell, had already made cash off of computer engineering, and had already found her New York City life incredibly boring. She completely despised having such an average routine: waking up in her expensive, modern apartment, taking the taxi to her job, going back home, binging Netflix, and going to sleep. So, she took a break. She grabbed a backpack, a plane ticket to Europe, kissed her dog goodbye and took off. Rome, Paris, Barcelona, you name it. Amber didn’t quite end it with a bang though. Although the views were enchanting, and the mysteries were amusing, Rennes Le-Chateau was more of a tourist trap than an awe-inspiring adventure. That didn’t matter though, because no matter where her last location was, she would still have to backpack back home.

And that’s what she began to do. Despite the sky being grey and the winds still whisping her ginger curls back, she walked with her chin up and her backpack on. Except she didn’t have her backpack on. She ran her right hand up her back to feel for the bag material, but it wasn’t there.

Nice. Cool,” Amber mentally sighed, spiraling around. Her brown eyes scanned the entire pathway. She noted a few overgrown weeds growing off the sides of the stones, dust, and no backpack. “Really cool,” She sarcastically thought to herself. “Well, this backpack isn’t going to find itself.” Reluctantly, she backpedaled into the very village that she was just walking away from.

As she walked through one of the many openings of the small community, she was enveloped by familiarity with the streets. Within the week that Amber had resided in Rennes Le-Chateau, she had already roamed every corner and mysterious twist and turn that were shrouded by trees and crumbling walls. She had grown to find comfort in the off colored houses that ran up the streets. Their chipped roofs and the uncut weeds surrounding them gave her a cozy, warm feeling that her cold and compact New York apartment could never give. She even knew most of the residents. There were only about one hundred or so after all. So of course, she recognized the young pig-tailed girls who were skipping and giggling down the path.

“Bonjour Adeline et Madison!” She waved to the two brunettes. They both flashed toothy grins upon hearing their names mentioned. Madison flailed her arm in an excited wave back.

“Bonjour Amber! Comment allez-vous?” Adeline responded, doing a small curtsy with her lavender skirt. Absentmindedly, Amber exchanged the basic French smalltalk that she was taught from Cornell with the two young ladies. Before they said their goodbyes and parted ways, Amber realized she should ask if either of them had seen her backpack.

“Oh! Avez-vous vu un sac à dos sarcastique?” Adeline had to articulate before beginning to shake her head, but Madison interrupted.

“Juste là!” She shook her index finger towards what was indeed Amber’s backpack- being carried by a hooded stranger.

“Hey!” Amber broke out of her French and back into the English voice that she usually only used when she had to scold her dog. Her lengthy legs broke off straight into a sprint, one shoe moving right in front of the other. The thief attempted to throw her off by zigzagging through the sharp turns of the village, but she wouldn’t let her eyes wander off the bandit, like how a mother keeps her eyes on her wild child. And just like that same mother, Amber eventually grasped the wild child by her clothed arm. It was hard to keep a solid grasp because the figure kept wriggling around in the manner of an undomesticated creature. She held strong, forcing them to turn towards her. She yanked the hood off only to discover that this was no creature.

It was a girl. A little girl. A little girl with ratted orange hair, disembodied freckles, and green eyes.

“Why…” Amber trailed off, her pupils nearly dilating in shock. The girl shook her fists, the backpack weighing her down. This snapped her back into why she was in the situation she was. “Give me my backpa- I mean, donnez-moi mon sac à dos.” There was a moment of silence where the thief scanned around the niche between the church and the decorative wall where the two stood, almost as though she was paranoid of someone else creeping around the corner. She looked like someone who was used to having to do this. Reluctantly, she shook the backpack off and shoved it into Amber’s arms. She quickly dug into the bag as to make sure nothing was stolen from the inside. “Thank goodness..” She thought with relief, feeling a sigh escape her lungs. “Why would a kid do this?”

She looked up only to see that the girl was looking up at her. At a second glance, there was something else besides a lack of hygiene that the raggamuffin carried. There were scratches. On her pearly skin lied bruises circling her knees and shins, and even some lines on her angular face where deep cut wounds must’ve been. But that wasn’t the only place the scratches were. They were internal. The wounds rested within the green eyes of hers. The eyes weren’t the shade emeralds, or treefrogs, or apples. They were the hue that an abstract artist would use to paint his feelings of sorrow. They were the favorite color of someone who could only find comfort in their own pity. They were the eyes of someone who had nothing, nowhere, and no one.

Amber dug into her bag once again, and she had something in her mind that she was looking for. She dropped a handful Euro’s into the girl’s cold palms, and pushed her hands close to her chest. She wanted to wish her good luck, or at least farewell, but just as rapidly as the bandit had appeared, she ran away. So, Amber decided it was probably her turn to do the same.

A few minutes later, she had reached the same entrance she was at less than an hour ago. Despite the short time frame, it seemed the view had already changed so much. The wind was blowing the trees around. The sky had transformed into a blueish color hidden behind clouds. But, the hills were still green. Amber knew that she still had to leave Europe and continue her life as a busy New Yorker, but Amber also knew that because she had a home and people there for her, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.


The Treasure of Rennes Le-Château by Margaret O’Brien

Margaret O’Brien

Honors English 1

Mr. Bearson Period 2

30 August 2017

The Treasure of Rennes Le-Château

Parker walked the dirt path up the clifftop. A bare blossom tree hung over the road. The church towers above everything surrounding it. The looming church looked like it was about to topple off the face of the cliff. He reached the church at last, and looked back at the green countryside. Shafts of light shone through the rolling, puffs of cloud and onto the ground below. Parker turned around and headed to the church, excited to discover the secrets hiding within the weathered stone walls. He entered the church.

The inside was dark, but he could still see the beautiful architecture. The pillars were painted in bright colors that curled in delicate designs around the intricate carvings in the stone. A round window let in rays of light from the blue ceiling that shone upon two lifelike sculptures above the altar. The statues were so realistic, that they looked as though they were alive and praying. Parker walked up the old stone steps to get closer to the altar. As he stepped up, he passed the flickering votive candles that created a foreboding feeling. Flowers adorning the altar were dying, in desperate need of water. To Parker, it looked as though no one had set foot in there for years. After all, it had been a hundred years since the famed priest of the church had died, Francois Berenger Sauniere, the man of myth. One hundred years since he had taken the secret of the Treasure of Rennes Le Château to his grave. The legend was, that Sauniere found buried treasure somewhere in the church, but died before he could tell anyone where it was. It’s said that the treasure is still somewhere in the church. The story was widely believed and drew many people to the small town of Rennes Le Château at first, but they soon came to think it wasn’t true. But not Parker, he wasn’t ready to give up yet.

Parker searched the rest of the church to no avail. He had not found any sign or indication that there was a mythical treasure hidden there. Hoping to find something outside, he went around to the side of the church. Parker came across the graveyard, the sun getting lower by the minute. Cross shaped gravestones marked the final resting place of the people in this small town. The ground was still soaked from the heavy rain that came the night before. The trees surrounding the graveyard were barren, the leaves having been ripped off by the bitter, winter wind. A mist was starting to settle over the little village making the sinister scene even scarier. At the far end of the graveyard, he came to a crypt. A marble headstone read:

Francois Berenger Sauniere

11 Avril 1852     22 Janvier 1917

A stone arch framed the marble casket that held the famed priest. The area had become overgrown with weeds. It looked neglected. The flowers by the grave were completely dead, obviously laid there long ago and forgotten.

With the light constantly getting dimmer, Parker hurried to the other side of the church. He went in through the side door and saw a library of sorts. He looked around for a while, searching row by row, book by book, until finally, he came across a curtain. “What’s behind the curtain?” Parker wondered to himself. It wasn’t a window, so what was it? He carefully pulled it back at the corner. It was very dark, but he could just make out the figure of a door. He grasped the brass handle, his beating heart drowning out all other noise. Parker went into the hidden room, hardly containing his excitement. He looked around for the treasure he had spent years obsessing over, but the room was empty. Completely empty. He was shocked, there must be some sort of mistake. “There must be a treasure somewhere in here.” He thought. He examined every nook and cranny in the bare room with no luck; it was just an abandoned room.

Feeling defeated, Parker walked out to the edge of the cliff. He leaned against the wrought iron fence that separated him from the plummeting drop down to the fields below. The mist had become dense now, utterly encircling the clifftop village. The fog threatened to swallow up the little bit of land not yet devoured by it. The plateau town resembled a ship on a stormy ocean of cloud. Parker couldn’t believe that a place like this had disappointed him so much. His life’s work – all of it was for nothing. Had the whole story been a lie?

Parker started his journey back down the cliff, and into the encroaching fog below. As he made his way along the dirt path he had climbed with such high hopes earlier, he felt a drop of rain on his face. He looked up and saw the sky light up with a crack of light. The rain started coming down harder as he reached the road. Parker jumped into his car and laid back in his seat. As exhausted as he was, he couldn’t help but wonder what he would do when he got back home. Continue to study history and hunt treasure? Parker wasn’t sure anymore, not after such a discouraging adventure as this. He looked up at the dark, rainy sky. The occasional flash of lightning would illuminate the church at the top of the cliff, and Parker couldn’t stop thinking about what could still be up there. Little did he know, that if he had just pulled the curtain aside a bit further, he would have been greeted by a second door. Behind that door was the gleaming, gold treasure of Rennes Le Château.

The Riches of Saunière by Acacia Rains

Acacia Rains


Honors English 2

5 September 2017

The Riches of Saunière

She was sitting in a cafe.

She sat next to a dirty window with a black coffee, laptop, notebook, and the picked over remains of a mediocre pastry. She pressed a few keys on her laptop, scrolled down a page, scribbled in her notebook – researching, maybe? You shifted in the ancient burgundy booth to better see what she was doing. She switched through several sites and forums, and you could see the name Bérenger Saunière repeated consistently across multiple pages. You leaned a bit further, and noticed that name again, written in big block letters in her notebook. It was underlined and circled, above a couple dates and numbers – 1892, 660,000 F, 1910-1911, 105 F. You looked down, thinking. Was she researching for a book? Was she an author or something? Or did she know? Maybe she was just a harmless cryptid hunter… Rennes-le-Chateaú did seem to be attracting a fair amount of those these days… You scratched the back of your neck under your hoodie, and your musing was abruptly interrupted by the sound of the girl jumping up and throwing her chair back in the process.

Your head snapped up – this couldn’t be a coincidence. She slammed her laptop closed, and clumsily shoved both it and her notebook into the messenger bag leaning up against her chair. She fumbled her bag onto her shoulder, and threw a twenty franc bill onto the small, unstable table. On it sat the long-cold coffee, whose cup was in turn balanced on the crumb-ridden pastry plate. You slid out of the booth, quickly, but being careful not to get up so fast that it would call attention to yourself. You fished a bill out of the pocket of your dark jeans, tossed it onto your empty table, and strode out the worn, once artificial-cherry-colored door.

You emerged from the café, and squinted in the piercing midday sunlight. You turned your head left and right, blinking and trying to pick out which way she went. You caught a flash of a dark blue flannel disappearing into a dingy alley, and ducked after her, flipping up the hood of your sweatshirt.

She wandered through the cramped alleyways, prowling past neon signs and boarded up stores, which slowly but surely turned to cobble-paved lanes and century old roof tiles. You followed her past the old stone brick walls, down the street, and into the Rennes-le-Château.

Once inside the dimly lit castle, she ducked around worn stone columns of dubious structural integrity and passed under equally trustworthy arches. She snuck through the hallways, pausing to inspect every crack and oddly shaped scratch on the wall. Yeah, you thought. She definitely knows. There is no way this is a coincidence. You reached into your back pocket and retrieved an ornate dagger, with a gilded handle and an edge so sharp it could cut a single blade of grass laid on it. You slid it into your sleeve – you might need this very, very soon.

You suddenly noticed that the doorless, windowless passageway you were following was getting brighter. Please let her be leaving, you thought, but you knew this castle too well to believe otherwise. Sure enough, she turned a corner, and there it was. The door. You sighed quietly. Now you had no choice.

From inside the door, there emitted a golden glow, throwing exaggerated shadows onto the walls behind her. She gasped, and slowly approached the door, with one hand resting on her messenger bag and the other outstretched. As her fingers grazed the doorknob, a hand whipped out of the shadows to grab her wrist. Your hand. You pulled her sharply away from the door, and she stumbled backwards. “I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in there,” you murmured sympathetically.

She spun around, and for the first time you saw her face. She was pretty, with messy, soft looking hair and striking emerald eyes. It really was a shame that she had gotten involved. But who were you to decide who to spare? She drew in a sharp breath and her eyes darted frantically around the room, from your hand on her wrist, to the glowing door, to the exit. She tried to tug her arm away, but your grip was too tight. You flexed your wrist, allowing the knife to fall from your sleeve down into your hand. She struggled even harder, straining and pulling more and more in a frenzied panic. “Nothing personal, it’s just that you know too much,” you said apologetically. “If it helps, I’m sure you’re a lovely person…” She fruitlessly attempted to yank herself away one last time, and her phone fell clattering out of her pocket and onto the cold stone floor. “Goodbye,” you said simply. You raised the knife, and she screamed.


You knocked on the door, and a frail but authoritative voice from inside said, “You may enter, and approach the throne.” You pushed open the door, and fell to one knee. “It is finished,” you stated. The voice laughed softy. “Well done, my child. You may rise.” You raised your head to see your leader, clothed in elaborately embroidered robes and a mask of gold. The man sat in a throne hewn from a solid block of marble, inset with precious gems and metals. Around him were piled riches expressed in in every way one could imagine – jewelry, candelabras, crystal goblets, oriental rugs. You met the dark eyes behind the mask, and the man said once more, “My child, well done.”


Her phone vibrated, jumping up and down on the cold stone floor. It buzzed and buzzed and buzzed, eventually buzzing to a stop. After a few seconds, it switched to the caller, who began to leave a message. Through the muffled speaker of the iPhone, the most recent of seven calls and four messages from her roommate could be heard. “Uh, hey Maia, where are you? It´s like two AM and you’re still not home and I’m like getting really worried. If you’re staying somewhere else for the night I get it but like… you haven’t answered any of my calls from the past three hours. …Uh, I brought home takeout and I was gonna save some for you but uhhh, I got hungry again so I ate it. …Sorry. Um, if you get this- er, when- whenever you get this, gimme a call back or shoot me a text or something, but uh, stay safe, and I love you I guess. Seeya.” The phone screen went black, and never lit up again.


Auroville, India by Katie Sharp

Katie Sharp

Mr. Bearson

Honors English 2

5 September 2017

Auroville, India

A cool breeze blew through her window, shimmying the pale pink curtains above her.  She felt the wind slither up her arms in the form of a shudder.  She was awakened by the bright moonlight that stretched across her bed, and into her eyes.  She swung her legs over the side of her twin bed and stood in the small room.  Glancing over at the calendar that fluttered quietly on the wall, she saw that it was July 5th. She had missed her little sister’s 19th birthday.

It was 5:17 AM, so she got dressed, descended the stairs, and silently slipped out the back door.  She closed her wooden front door and as she turned around, nearly ran into a tall girl standing in the threshold. The girl was wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and red converse shoes, and for a moment didn’t look at all familiar.  After taking a closer look, she saw that this girl with sandy blonde hair was Adrienne, her little sister.  

For the past seven months, Lauren lived and worked in the quaint township of Auroville, India.  She wrote apologetically to her family, explaining why she loved living in the culture that lived so fluidly and purely, without conflict, but understanding, and how sorry she was for not coming home when she said she would.

Her plan had originally been to float around India and Sri Lanka for a year, photographing everything she experienced.  She passed through Rajkot, to Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal.  From there, she had travelled south to Sri Lanka, and stopped for a short while in Puducherry, but once she caught wind of the City of Dawn, she couldn’t resist seeing the town for herself.

Now, with Adrienne in front of her, she was speechless.

“Well hello,” said Adrienne with surprise, “I didn’t know if this little clay shack thing is where you’re staying, but I guess it is.”

“Wha-what are you doing here?” Lauren asked, still bewildered at her little sister’s presence.

“What?  No birthday wishes?  Nevermind, this can be your gift to me.  I’m here to take you back to Sacramento with me,” smiled Adrienne.

“What?  No way.  I came here to create a photo journal of “The City of Dawn” and I’m not leaving until I’m finished,” she stated adamantly.

Adrienne began to frown and said, “But, Lauren, this place isn’t what you need.  You hardly know anyone here, and you never visit home.  You need your family.”

“Sorry Adge, but I won’t be done for at least two more weeks, and I’ve been considering moving here permanently even after I’m finished.  I love it here.  The people are all so genuine and loving.  It’s perfect, and totally unlike Sacramento.”

“Oh.  I thought you would… Well, I’m in town all week, if you change your mind.” Adrienne said as she turned away.

On the last day of Adrienne’s visit, Lauren explored the town with her baby blue polaroid camera in tow, and captured the grimy side of Auroville found in the sector Tamil Nadu.  She walked up to an old building that looked abandoned and disheveled and pushed the metal door open with difficulty. As she entered, the graffiti covered walls appeared around her.

After climbing three flights of worn down, dusty stairs she found herself at another door, or rather, drapery.  Someone was whispering in the room behind the thin curtain, so she gently pulled it open.  A quick glance revealed a middle-aged man in slacks and a grey shirt clutching a knife that was thrust to the hilt in the chest of a young woman.  Her bright yellow t-shirt was drenched in blood.

With great effort, Lauren stifled a terrified gasp that tried to escape her lungs. She had never seen a dead body before.  She reached very slowly into her saggy knapsack for her camera and peered through the viewfinder.  Everything was distorted for a moment, but then came into focus as she took a deep breath and pressed down on the shutter release.  What seemed like a very loud click came  from the camera, breaking the silence, and the man snapped his head around in Lauren’s direction.  She turned on her heels, clambered down the stairs, through the hall, and past the heavy door.  After running for two blocks, she ducked behind a cluster of Neem trees.  She carefully peered around the branches of sticky, green leaves to see if she had been followed.

She located the man, who was nearly 300 yards away.  He didn’t see her until she moved from the protection of the greenery and raised her camera again to snap a photograph of his face.  Their eyes met momentarily, but then she broke into a sprint with the man pursuing closely after her.  As she glided back into the center of town, she was lost from his view.

She ran to the small town hall and delivered the photographs to the secretary sitting calmly at the front desk. The secretary hurried to the back room where she made copies of the photos, handed them back to Lauren, and told her that they would look for who was responsible, but not much could be done.

Back at home, she slammed the door behind her and sank to the ground.  Tears began to run down  her cheeks.  She began to realize that this place, her home for the past seven months, was not what it seemed.  She thought that this was a beautiful place of peaceful existence and freedom from religious prejudice, but this murderous, terrifying pit of despair she found herself in now was not what she had signed up for. After seeing the lifeless form of the young woman, she felt that there was no way to forgive this place for its violence.  She knew now that Adrienne and her parents were right about her need for support from her family from the beginning.

She stuffed her duffel bags full of the few things she had acquired over the past seven months and headed out the front door, still clutching the photos she had just taken.  With the hope that she wouldn’t be too late, she inspected the boarding pass that had been left on her doorstep three days ago.

At the airport, she rushed to her gate and saw that the door hadn’t been closed, but would be soon.  She hurried to the attendant and handed over her boarding pass.  She climbed on the plane and found her seat, but Adrienne wasn’t in hers.  Lauren sat down, and thought that she was just running late, like her.  She buckled her seatbelt and tried to relax, but was nervous that Adrienne wouldn’t make the flight.

Now that there was a moment to breathe, she glanced down at the photos in her hands, but this time, after looking a bit closer, she saw something she hadn’t seen before.  The girl in the photo was wearing red converse shoes and had sandy blonde hair just like Adrienne…

Lauren bolted up from her seat, but lost her balance as the plane began to move and a calm tone came over the speakers saying,“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be taking off now, so please remain seated, and we’ll be in the States soon…”

The Fearful Guardian by Sophia Karperos

Sophia Taylor Karperos

Mr. Bearson

Honors English 10/Period 6

5 September 2017

The Fearful Guardian

Jordyn steps out of the faded yellow building, roughly identical to the other squat structures on the street.  She strolls down the abandoned block to a dirt walkway, her black skinny jeans turning more brown with each dusty step.  Soda and beer cans litter the ground; candy wrappers and plastic bags flutter in the air.  Jordyn pads across the gravel as she begins her first-ever guard-patrol of the newly expanding Sinaloa drug base.  With every step, every rustle of rocks, dirt swirls upwards, shading the walls a dusty brown.  She drags her hand over the concrete symbol, over the graffiti marking the alley as Juarez Cartel territory.  Jordyn moves her fingers away, stained dark from the grime.  Hands clench, sharp fingernails dig into soft palms.  Tighter, tighter until wine-red blood breaks through peach-colored skin.  

Her feet, enveloped in once white Adidas, continue along the pathway.  The flat soles meet the ground with a crunch.  But suddenly, it’s not only her shoes disturbing the quiet alleyway.  The sound of nearing footsteps echo off the walls.  

She swivels her head around, searching.  Her eyes rest on a crack snaking down the concrete.  The footsteps come closer.  She reaches toward the crack, squeezing her body to fit in the tiny space.  Her shoulders rise as she struggles to breathe.  Jordyn tucks her bold blue hair behind her ears and stills her body to listen.  Whispers fill the alleyway.  Whispers about the Sinaloa Cartel, about its threat to the local Juarez Cartel.  She glances down at her forearm, inked with a cursive red S, a reminder of her loyalty.    

Her fingers fall to the gun on her hip, stroking the trigger to calm her shaky hand.  She steadies her breathing: deep breath in, deep breath out.

Placing a hand on either side of the crack, she pulls herself out of her hiding spot.  Jordyn sees the skulls on two of the men’s arms that mark them as members of the Juarez Cartel.  She grabs her gun, daring the surprised gang to run away.  Pausing, her finger dangles above the trigger, indecisive.  But then, Jordyn snaps her finger down and a bullet races towards the chest of one of the enemy.  The man presses a hand to the wound, but the blood rushes past his fingers and drips down his shirt as he falls to the ground, still.

One down, two to go.

A moment, a split second, and the others in the group charge at Jordyn.  The first of them swings his arm back to punch, but she smacks his chest.  The man falls onto the gravel, a loud crack echoing down the alley.  Jordyn’s eyes widen when she notices the blood trailing from underneath his head.  

Two down, one to go.  

A woman fighting unarmed approaches Jordyn.  She boxes Jordyn in, forcing her backwards into the corner.  Jordyn raises her hands and drops her gun as the enemy laughs.  The woman swaggers towards Jordyn, but, as she reaches to grab her by the neck, Jordyn swings her elbow at the woman’s face.  The woman ducks and wraps her arm around Jordyn’s waist, swinging her into the wall with a thud.  Jordyn whacks her head backwards into the woman’s jaw and follows through with a hard step on the woman’s foot.  The bones in the foot crack as the woman falls to the ground, fainting in pain.  Jordyn stares down at the woman, then picks up her gun and fires at the woman’s heart.  A final gunshot to end the battle.  

Jordyn walks slowly across the alleyway, surveying the members of the Juarez Cartel that she killed.  She brings a finger to her lips and licks it, using it to wipe the blood off her gun.  Then, reaching into her pocket, she pulls out a small can of red spray paint and draws a large S over the old graffiti, identical to the one on her forearm.  The red sprays on thick and drips down, spreading like the blood of her enemies.  

She gazes at her work a moment and starts walking at a brisk pace down the alley.  Chin up, shoulders straight, the corners of her mouth betraying the faintest of smiles.  This is Sinaloa territory now.  

ESCAPE FROM PENZA-19 by Jared Hamersly

Jared Hamersley

Mr. Bearson

Period 4



ESCAPE FROM PENZA-19: A descriptive essay of classmate Lindsay Whitworth in Zarechny Russia (formerly known Penza-19 before the fall of the Soviet Union)

Dreaming Big

Lindsay Whitworth aspires to win a gold medal in gymnastics at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.  Her mother, Victoria, the silver-maned matriarch of the Whitworth family is Lindsay’s biggest fan and would love nothing more. When she’s not in training, Lindsay relaxes in her bedroom after school listening to music—High School Musical is her favorite.  She also enjoys playing Hayday on her Ipad, and watching Sidemen on  On the weekend, she chills with her friends at the local burger joint, Willie’s.  She’s looking forward to wearing her favorite midnight black romper and beat up Converse All-Star high-tops this weekend.

Lindsay cherishes her family and simple life in Carmichael, California, but she dreams of bigger things.  She imagines herself driving her dream car, an iridium silver Range Rover with chrome 22s, and living a glamorous and exciting life far away from the humdrum of Sacramento. She has no idea just how to get started in living up to her grand aspirations.


World Traveler

“Beep . . . beep . . beep . . . OH, JUST GO AWAY! . . . I hate that stupid alarm clock!”  Lindsay yelps in her grumpy voice.  Okay, so she’s not exactly what you might call a morning person, but today is the big day.  It’s Friday, the twenty-second of September.  Lindsay and Marcie Joe Thomas, another aspiring Sacramento area gymnast, will be jet setting halfway around the world to a gymnastics event in Moscow, Russia.  Lindsay secretly views this as her first step to stardom.


Passport, tickets, itinerary…check, check, check. are all accounted for.  Lindsay’s  all packed, but she’s far from ready to go.  She still has a few mental loose ends to tie up.  Lindsay’s never flown on an airplane before.  The thought of flying 30,000 feet above the ground absolutely terrifies her.  She dreads the thought of being so far away from home in a strange land, but she also knows that she will have to overcome such phobias to realize her dreams.

“Three, two, one, blast off,” Marcie Joe whispers in her ear.  Lindsay is not amused.   “Ready or not here we come, Moscow.”  Marcie Joe proclaimed.  Lindsay slid her hand up from her mouth to cover her eyes, leaned forward slightly, and reached for the folded white bag inside the seat back in front of her.  A few hours later, when the nausea subsided, Lindsay nodded off.  


Prisoners in a Foreign Land

A tall, dark-haired man with ghost-like grey eyes is standing in the aisle of the plane shouting incessantly in a raspy voice.  It sounds like gibberish: “Ne delay nichego glupogo, i nikto ne postrada . . . . Ne delay nichego glupogo, i nikto ne postrada”   “Huh? What?” Lindsay was suddenly startled awake.  “What on earth is going on, Marcie Joe?”   “OMG!  He has a gun!!!!”  

Bronia Bierwicz, the Polish gymnastics coach traveling with Lindsay whispers in Lindsay’s ear “Please, try to calm down, I think we are being hijacked.” Coach Bierwicz explains that the man is speaking Russian and saying, “Don’t do anything stupid and no one gets hurt.”  


“Attention, this is your captain speaking.  The plane has been um, uh, diverted and will soon be landing in Zarechny, Penza Oblast.”  Lindsay thinks to herself, “Where on earth is Zarechny, Penza Oblast?  I’ve never heard of it.” She was not alone.  Zarechny, formerly known as Penza-19, is a remote closed administrative-territorial formation, commonly referred to as a “closed city,” in the former Soviet Union. No foreign visitors are allowed into Zarechny without the permission of the Russian government—and that never happens.  Zarechny’s main employer, Rosatom, manufactures nuclear weapon components for the Russian government.  


About thirty minutes later, the plane began its final descent into Zarechny.  The captain came on the speaker again, “Brace yourselves, we’re in for a bumpy landing.”  Apparently, the runway at the Zarechy airport had not been maintained for more than a decade.  The jumbo jet slammed to the ground and bounced like a yo-yo.  The reverse thrusters began to roar before the jumbo airliner finally bounced to a stop.  Before anyone could celebrate this miracle,  a group of ten or twelve men carrying what looked like AK-47 rifles boarded the plane and began placing canvas potato sacks over the heads of all the passengers.  Lindsay was terrified! All 96 of the passengers were all led off the plane and boarded onto a large tractor trailer truck.  After they were crammed in like sardines, the door was slammed shut.  The stench of livestock permeated Lindsay’s nasal cavity going directly to her brain.  The truck drove for nearly three hours before coming to a stop.   

Things Go From Bad to Worse

The close quarters made it very difficult to breath.  Lindsay struggled to expand her chest cavity and draw in enough oxygen into her lungs.  It grew colder and colder as the hostages remained in total darkness in that truck for more than a day.  The following evening, one of the armed men opened the door about twelve inches and slid in a tray of three loaves of bread and plastic liter jug full of water.   How would this possibly feed 98 people?  It couldn’t.  Lindsay privately thought to herself “I would die for a cheeseburger and fries” while the rest of the passengers were, no doubt, merely hoping not to die and would have gladly settled for one more morsel of bread just to stay alive.  


The crack of daylight soon shined through a crevice in one of the ceiling rivets.  Morning had arrived.   Lindsay had not slept a wink that night.  It was impossible to get comfortable on the cold and hard wooden floor and Lindsay worried she might never awake again if she closed her eyes.  Gore, a toe-headed eight-year-old lad and the only child among the passengers had no such problem.  This all must have seemed like a game to a child.


The lack of adequate nutrition was beginning to wear on us.  Most of the passengers could barely move a muscle that day as they sat motionless on the truck floor.  Lindsay could tell it was night again because the crack of daylight shining through the ceiling rivet faded and then disappeared.   A few hours later, Lindsay heard the sound of the men approaching the truck.  She crawled towards the truck door and leaned against it to listen in on what the men were saying.  Just then, the door sprang open and Lindsay plummeted to the ground nearly six feet below. “Umph!” You could hear the air rush out of her lungs.  A scrawny young guy with murder in his eyes quickly approached Lindsay.  He then pulled her up by the hair and pointed his rifle right in her face.  


“Cron!” shouted a big burly man with a black woolen beard. The other men froze in their tracks. It was clear that the burly man was in charge, as he waved his hand downward directing Lindsay to get down.  “Syad’te! Syad’te!”  he barked.  Frightened for her life, Lindsay dropped to the ground.  The big man then received a message on the radio attached to his belt. A raspy voice rang out.  It sounded like the tall, dark-haired man with ghost-like grey eyes who had hijacked the plane.  “Problemy bistro,” he shouted through the radio in a troubled tone.  The big man then pointed to the door and headed out. The others quickly fell in line.  The scrawny guy looked back at Lindsay on the way out and muttered “Durak,” which roughly translates to “fool” in English.  


Lindsay’s close call earlier that evening and the dwindling rations of food left the passengers with an increasing sense of urgency.  They knew that they would have to figure something out soon.  Staring up at the ceiling of the truck each night in her sleepless daze, Lindsay had somehow noticed a ventilation hatch.  


The diameter of the ceiling vent was barely larger than Lindsay’s shoulders and the ceiling was more than 12 feet high.  Lindsay asked two of the taller male passengers, John Peterson and Henri Lamond, if they could hoist her up to the vent so that she could use her gymnastics skills to open the vent and swing through the opening to escape.  A few hours later that evening, the plan was put into action. To her surprise, the vent came off rather easily and Lindsay was able to pull herself up and out of the truck.  


Lindsay laid frozen for nearly 20 minutes up on the roof of the truck as she tried to figure out the timing of the lighthouse-like spot light shining from a distant structure.  The search light shined upon a fence in the distance and large factory of some sort just beyond.  It was then that Lindsay saw a white metallic sign with large red letters that read “Опасность! Радиоактивная область за пределами. Нарушители будут расстреляны без предупреждения! “   She recognized the Cyrillic alphabet and knew that it was used by the Slavic people of the former Soviet Union, but she had no idea what the sign said.  Lindsay would later learn the translation to English “Danger!  Radioactive area beyond.  Trespassers will be shot without warning!”

Lindsay somehow managed to go undetected up on the roof of the truck.  When she was sure that no one is watching and the search line was shining the opposite direction, Lindsay leaped from the roof and stuck the landing as she had done dozens of times in her balance beam dismount.  

Lindsay’s hands were now trembling in the bitter cold, but her palms were getting sweatier by the minute.  Here mind wandered, “Where on Earth am I?  How on earth did I get to this wretched place?” She had to get a grip.  Run . . .  run” she thought, but her legs would not respond.  “Kerpow,” she heard gunshots ring out.  It jolted her into action.  She raced for the forest tree line like her life depended on it—because it did.  The forest was nearly two miles away, but the rush of adrenaline made it feel like a 100-yard dash.  


Grandpa Joe’s Training Comes in Handy


Lindsay heard the roar of a large vehicle approaching her.  The light shined just above her as she dove into the pile of leaves in the forest floor.  The smell of mildew was overwhelming.  Cold and afraid, she lied motionless as the light of the full moon glistened on nearby stream.  


When Lindsay was a little girl, her Grandpa Joe, a World War II veteran, taught Lindsay Morse code.  She recalled how she had once read an article in Popular Science which explained how to “hotwire” a mobile phone to send Morse code from any location in the world and turn it into a homing beacon for use in case of emergency.  Lindsay retrieved her rose gold Iphone 7 from her tattered pocket.  She pried off the with her fingernail, rerouted the microprocessor interface cable, and shorted the SIM card in sequence to squelch out an SOS signal in Morse code before converting the device to a homing beacon and hiding it under a pile of slate stones.  


Exhausted and starving, she started to nod off in her foliage cocoon.   “Rat, tat, tat.”  The sound of automatic machine gun fire rang out for nearly an hour off in the distance near the truck.  Lindsay is too tired and afraid to emerge from cover.   She fell asleep.  When day broke, Lindsay could see a red, white, and blue flag waving from an armored personnel carrier and a dozen or so Navy Seals surrounding the truck where the hostages were being held.  It was then that she realized that her plan had worked and the nightmare was finally over.  


Home Sweet Home


Two days later, Lindsay, Marcie Joe, and the rest of the hostages arrived home in Sacramento.  As the fierce Delta breeze whipped her long silvery locks across her face, Lindsay’s mom waited anxiously with the rest of the huge crowd at the SMF tarmac, She was so proud of her little girl.  Most of all, she was so relieved to have her back home safely.    


Lindsay got her wish that day. She is now quite famous, but not in a way she ever imagined.  The mayor of Sacramento presented Lindsay with a key to the city and American Airlines gave her a check for $100,000 to reward her for her act of heroism.   The next day Lindsay wore her midnight black romper and Converse All-stars on the Today Show. She had arrived.


A few weeks later, things began to return to normal.  Lindsay arrived home after school and was greeted by the aroma of fresh baked Nestle Toll House cookies. She grabbed a couple and headed back to her room to play some Hayday.  That next morning, she listened to High School Musical before heading out with her mom to the Roseville auto mall to get that iridium silver Range Rover.  


As she drove off the car dealer’s lot, she could hardly believe that she was really driving her dream car.  She pinched herself to make sure it was real, and then shouted out the window “Hey mom, come hang out with us at Willie’s for a cheeseburger and fries.”  Lindsay could not help but think to herself “Boring never felt so good.”