Everyone knows that student life is a golden age. In 2009-2013, I also became a student of a newly established foreign university in the capital of our country. The institute where I was studying was located 300 km away from my home and I lived in the dormitory of the institute. The conditions were very good, the teachers were mostly from abroad, and there was a bank, a food market, an amusement park and a big stadium near it. There was good neighborhood. In my free time from studying, I made it a habit to go to the market and observe people and help elderly people carrying heavy loads. When I told them that I wanted to help them, some people refuse, and some people willingly agree. Those who agreed always thanked me for my help, to some even tears come to their eyes. Those days, whenever I wanted to take a midterm or final exam, I used to call my parents first and ask them to pray for me and bless me. By this way, I always got high marks from any subjects. One day, I saw an old woman walking around the market carrying a heavy load. Of course, in order not to miss this opportunity, I offered her my help. She quickly agreed and I took her loads from her hand. On the way, we talked with the woman to her house. She gave me one red apple in return for my help and thanked my parents for teaching me how to help older people. And she told me that the reward of goodness is nothing but goodness. Couple of days later, I had to take a midterm exam. I called my mother as usual. My mother picked up the phone and said that she was returning home from the market and one young man had taken her heavy luggage and was helping her. She prayed for me and blessed me. Immediately, I remembered the woman's words whom I had helped two days ago: “The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness.”
I was in the computer science lesson, learning about speakers (devices responsible for amplifying sound) and microphones. When the teacher presented the features and components of the speaker, I had a brilliant and astonishing idea that we could generate electricity from sound. In reality, a speaker converts electricity to produce sound, while a microphone performs the opposite function. When we make a sound into a microphone, the diaphragm of the device vibrates and moves the coil inside, cutting the magnetic field within it. This process allows us to generate electricity, albeit in small amounts. Despite the low energy output, we discovered an almost unlimited source of energy. If we position the device in the middle of the walls of every room and connect them to a battery, we could obtain at least 480mW of energy. Although this amount of energy is relatively low, it can effectively recharge fitness trackers or smartwatches. Placing these devices in noisy streets, factories, or dance clubs could even allow us to recharge electric cars. Ultimately, we could generate electricity wherever it is needed. This highlights an advantage of sound energy over other sources like wind energy.
My interest in literature was not born when I saw the light for the first time or when I started writing. Literature was born when I learned that a simple action can limit your dreams and the emergence of your being. When I was a child I became ill with something that at first seemed to be nothing bad, but eventually pushed me to the limit of my hopes. I didn't know what I had and neither did my parents. That yellow tone in my skin distinguished me from the healthy ones. The illness was momentary, but at the same time hard. I began my rest by stopping going to school, abandoning my classroom and my siblings and parents with it. My illness prevented me from taking care of the children and my sister's childhood. I settled in a room with four walls where darkness and solitude were my best allies. My mother and father never left me alone, every breakfast, lunch and dinner I would lovingly observe each one's face, I could not eat with them but I could contemplate their existence. - This would not last long. My mother told me My believing self resurfaced with those words, hope returned from where it left off and the possibilities of moving forward arose as never before. But boredom took hold of me, I didn't know what to do other than sleep and play. Although I was very critical from a very young age, I attributed it to the debates that went on in my family and not to books, because I read them for school. As my greatest hobby was pottery, which I could no longer touch or look at. One of those cold and boring days. My older sister came with many books. She watched me and did not hesitate to mention that each book contained a world inside. I didn't save the best reaction because I always considered books as tools for school and not for a being who was locked up. As time went by my being sought the need for distraction but not with books. - Not with that. I mentioned madly Every moment was torture, until my curious instinct awakened the intention to see only the cover of the books and if there was the need to read, it would be the books with pictures. I started with the book "El chibolo Pilas", interesting, but very fast to read, that work, kept everything that its title says, a boy who was looking for happiness, but was misunderstood in the world. Then, I was interested in reading a story titled "The Dolphin", those pages full of letters and images awakened my desire to read even more, I understood how the human being seeks the meaning of life, the importance of perseverance and faith, that faith that I lacked and had to develop. Allowing me to know new worlds from my room was the beginning of the being I am now. Books introduced me to literature and the power to imagine a comfortable environment for myself. When I was able to heal and return to my reality again, I began to read not out of necessity, but out of interest for my personal growth. Books were not a problem, but a solution. Perhaps if I had not become ill, it would have taken me a long time to recognize the greatness of letters and images.
It had always been a charming town, a melting pot of diverse life bases stemming from various multi-religious, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds. The town thrived on a rich tapestry of multiculturalism, where people with distinct identities coexisted harmoniously. The weather was a constant companion, friendly and skin-chilling, complemented by the breathtaking landscape that adorned the town. Mornings were heralded by the cheerful crowing of hens, while nights sparkled with the celestial beauty of stars in the sky. However, the tranquility abruptly shattered one somber Wednesday morning. The town awoke to a cacophony of gunshots and bomb blasts, the air filled with the terrified cries of women and children desperately seeking safety. Initially, it felt like a surreal scene from a Netflix movie or a lingering dream. The reality, however, was starkly different as insurgents had mercilessly stormed the once-idyllic town. As a university student who had migrated from the state capital in pursuit of education, my concerns shifted abruptly from academic pursuits to a fight for survival. Amidst the chaos, I frantically sought safety, no longer preoccupied with the pursuit of a degree or the allure of the beautiful city. The pressing question loomed – would I make it out alive? The perilous journey revealed the harsh truth as lifeless bodies of fellow townspeople lay strewn along the path, victims of the insurgents' brutality. The urgency of my escape overshadowed the realization that I had missed a scheduled test that morning. my phone rang, jolting me into awareness. Should I prioritize personal safety or risk everything to save a loved one? The situation bore an uncanny resemblance to a modern-day Romeo and Juliet scenario, blurring the lines between fiction and the visceral experience of love and survival. Compelled by an inexplicable courage, I retraced my steps to rescue my girlfriend from the chaos. Upon reaching the university gate, however, I encountered an unexpected obstacle – it was firmly locked. Moments later, insurgents, resembling thugs in a dilapidated van, arrived, sending a wave of fear through the frozen crowd. Unleashing gunfire, they revealed their indifference to our plight, leaving us to confront the uncertain fate they held in their hands. Fortunately, their attention shifted elsewhere, sparing us from the immediate threat. As the insurgents departed, the previously frozen crowd dispersed in various directions, each person driven by the singular goal of survival. In the aftermath, I stumbled upon a young lady lying helplessly on the ground. Ignoring my lingering fears, I carried her to the university clinic, breaking in to access medical supplies and administer first aid. Despite the chaos, her survival became a testament to the resilience that could be found amid tragedy. The scenes mirrored those from harrowing movies and documentaries about conflicts in distant lands like Rwanda, Syria, or Libya. Yet, now, these experiences were our own, and we found ourselves grappling with the harsh reality of displacement, uncertainty, and the struggle for survival. The arduous journey through the bush spanned two nights, each step a testament to resilience and determination. Passing through villages, Encountering fellow survivors along the way, we exchanged stories that painted a grim picture of the atrocities committed by the insurgents. The heartbreaking journey prompted reflection on the state of humanity, questioning how we had devolved into a society where people were forced to flee their homes due to their religious beliefs and pursuit of education. We reached a temporary sanctuary, not quite home, but a place offering a chance to board a vehicle to a safer haven. The opportunistic motorists, indifferent to our plight, exploited the situation, inflating prices for transportation. The echoes of African slavery resonated as the gravity of betrayal and complicity within our own community became apparent. Finally, back in the embrace of my family, their joy at my survival was evident. However, the trauma I carried from the journey remained hidden behind the façade of relief. The question lingered – how many others had survived, and could the town ever reclaim its former beauty? The foundations of love, trust, and coexistence as a community seemed irreparably shattered. The cruelty of mankind had pierced the fabric of society, and those who had sold their conscience for temporary gains were now ensnared in the web of their own betrayal. The young generation, witnessing this betrayal, faced the daunting task of breaking free from the bondage inflicted upon them.As I sat in the cocoon of my family's living room, the weight of the journey settled upon me. The once-charming town had become a battlefield, and the scars of survival ran deep. The journey had forced me to confront the darkest facets of humanity, raising questions about the essence of our shared existence.
Living a somewhat predictable family life, while leading a nomadic life of unpredictability at the same time, forces one to live life in the moment. Moments often escape the mind as you move from one to the next, leaving others behind with the expectation of our brain to store them as memories, and the anticipation of our brain's ability to recall these moments when referenced. The ultimate trust we must all radically accept. Being recently disabled, it has been a struggle adjusting to life slowing down. Taking care of myself was always a last priority. Being diagnosed with PTSD, major depression, and an anxiety disorder became too much for me to be able to endure after the addition of a pandemic, mysterious illnesses, toxic relationships, and irresponsible decision making landed me in a week-long mental health hospitalization. Depression won't allow one to receive love and embrace it. It doesn't care how fortunate of a life the person has that it infects, nor does it care about the impact of one's life on others. My family is full of love, I have been able to rely on a handful of amazing friends throughout my life, I had an important job helping others, yet I still couldn't escape my depression. I remember the uber ride home to my one bedroom apartment in my clothes I arrived in a week prior, someone broken and incomplete, someone I am not anymore. I recall walking into my apartment, stale despair lingering in week-long stagnant air, dancing with the smoky notes of whiskey left dripping on the bathroom floor. All my things in disarray. 'What a shithole' I remember thinking to myself, looking through the eyes of this person I used to be, numb enough to gather everything in sweeping motions into trash bags. I was scared. I was disappointed in myself for how I left my home for anyone to have to see if I had been gone. I was sad, I was lonely. This was the hardest day of that whole experience. I'm a human being, I wanted a companionship. I needed that presence of another life in mine. With such trauma tied to so many relationships in my past, how in hell was I going to move forward in my life having companionship? I had been burned so many times with exes in such a variety of ways I'd sooner offer lucifer fellatio at their place than entertain a date of any kind. I was in outpatient therapy, quarantined at home, alone. Naturally, I was a codependent person historically. Shaken by anxiety every day, having crying spells, speaking to my therapist and mother led me to decide I was going to get a dog. For the first time in years, I felt the warmth of overwhelming love lift the weight off my heart for this new companion that I didn't even know! I was able to feel real excitement for something I wanted more than anything in that moment in time. My parents, siblings, friends all supported me; aiding in the search of my dog. I found the most handsomest little schmoop I've ever loved with my whole heart, Arthur. The second I picked him up, he melted into me for safety, and I never felt more safe and joyful. I have had dogs I have loved in the past, but with animals it's as if there are no rules, you can love them all the most and that's okay. I had met and held others, but he was the one that I needed to take home with me. From that day forward it was he and I against the world. He gave me a reason to wake up every day, because he would slobber all over me and tell me all about how excited he was for a day with me until I got up to take him outside. I was unable to sink into my deep, dark days of depression because this fluffy, happy little floof depends on me. He loves me and he wants to spend time with me. If he's awake, he expects me to be awake too. Not my favorite dynamic at first when it came to kennel training. Which is why I failed and let him sleep with me on the third night where we both slept the most peaceful sleep either of us had ever had. Arthur has shown me what it is like to be loved unconditionally. There is nothing he would rather do besides be with me. I had the opportunity to give him a great deal of exposure to others by getting my ESA letter from my psychiatrist. He was in the car with me everywhere I went from that day forward. He came to the office with me every day and sat faithfully by my side, comforting me. He lays with me when I am sick, sad, or anxious. He plays with me, even if I am not in the mood, he gets me up and moving my body around playing fetch and chasing each other around the house until my asthmatic ass turns into a kazoo. I'd like to say he doesn't judge me, but he does get awfully mouthy sometimes when I am hesitant to comply with his demands to push myself. He is everything that I need to be a better person. He is my best friend, my angel who saved me. He's my Boo Boo, he's a good boy. He's my dog, Arthur Lew, and he'll always be my favorite floof.
It was a damp cold inside the abandoned church, as I sat in the rotting pews. Staring at the beautifully broken stained glass windows, a depiction of a westernized God glaring down directly at me, his eyes burning so hot, it could have lit the cigarette in my hand. My eyes dart to my hand, almost certain the little, white cylinder has caught flame. It hasn't, of course, and so begins the search for my lighter in one of my many pockets. The search is over and the cigarette is lit. I watch the plumes of smoke drift into the ceiling beams that are barely holding up the weight of the church anymore. The roof caves in, on the brink of collapse and the floorboards have been ripped apart, now used as firewood inside someone's house on cold winter nights. I play with my lighter and the glow sets eerie shadows across the walls, the warm, orange light making the cold cower in the corners of the crumbling building. I stare at the lighter, thinking; what a beautiful ending it would be to go up in flames, engulfed in the heat of fire and the comforting warmth of slow burning. My dead body would be a new addition to the deceased building, adding onto the pile of history that seeps into the dark, oak floors. A mess of flesh and flame, rotting wood and the footprints of sinners and saints. I light cigarette number two, throwing the first butt to the floor, where it lay in its own ashes. I don't bother to stomp it out despite the small flame I can see catching on a splintered piece of the floor. I can feel the flame grow beside my foot as I hold eye contact with the stained glass God yet again calmly inhale my smoke. The fire snakes along the floor, creeping its way into the pews and slowly up the supporting beams. I can feel it enveloping me, the heat growing almost unbearable. The hair on my arms singes and my body starts to sweat. I can taste the salt on my cigarette, can feel it dripping down my neck, my back, my legs. The church's structure begins to fall from the sky, as if God himself is spitefully throwing flaming spears towards me. The already caved in roof crashes down and the flames rise higher, leaving behind a heap of burning wood and bodies.
Covid was a time of struggle for many, but it also brought people together. Whether it was finding a new hobby, or creating new friendships, there was a lot of good that came from it. I was one of those individuals who started a new path during lockdown. Like many kids, I was entered into a sport at the ripe age of four. Unlike other kids, I was not entered into soccer or gymnastics, I was entered into karate. Even though I despise the repetitiveness of sparring with people and memorizing routines, I was unaware I had the power to quit. I believed that I was stuck doing karate until I went to college in nine years. This all changed when Covid hit. Karate got switched to classes via Zoom, where instead of having a coach to teach you, you had to rely on watching others. Eventually, my parents realized how much I hated it. They agreed to let me stop doing online classes, and then return when they went back to in-person. Luckily for me, I found a better sport. I had just moved to a new school, one where I knew absolutely no one. I was not enjoying this new school because I didnt have friends. People were hesitant to talk to the new kids due to Covid. The only positive thing was, surprisingly, PE. Our first unit was swim and dive. I did not enjoy the swim part, but I loved the dive part. I enjoyed doing flips, jumping, and just having fun. To my advantage, I was not the only person who enjoyed it. A few other people in my grade decided to band together and ask the PE coach about her dive team. Before we knew it, we were all trying out our very first day of diving. Some of us loved it more than others, but I knew one thing for sure. Dive was going to be my new passion. Over the next few years, I started learning new diehard testing my major fear of heights. I loved the thrill I got when doing new dives, but also the joy I felt when I nailed one. Even with my history of ankle pain and injuries, I was still able to dive through it and enjoy every second of it. The only thing better than finding a sport I love is the friends I made. I've made countless connections with everyone on my team. Whether it's just that we are both scared of the same dive, or we hang out outside of practice, I love all of them. I do not think that me from before COVID would believe that I love going to practice and that I even look forward to it. I don't think that I who just started at a new school would believe that I made friends without having to intrude on someone else's friend group. All of these discoveries lead me to think that maybe everything happens for a reason. If not for covid, where would I be now? I probably wouldn't be diving, I probably would be suffering with a sport I hate.
“I'm looking for the thing that will fill the hole in my soul. I have everything— riches you will never comprehend. Men and women love me, the people want to be me, and I have endless companions. I can afford to adorn them with rare jewels and house them in my massive castle. I have a whole wing filled with wine older than my grandfather. I have a closet larger than town square. I have everything I want. “You have nothing compared to me. Your horse has one leg in the grave and my steed makes it look dead already. Your own home is crumbling and one day, it will crush you. The fireplace is more ash than flame and your carpet has withered. Your clothes are tattered, tarnished with the filth of a poor man's life. You survive, but I live. You will never understand my wondrous life. You clean up shattered pieces and try to save your life's wreckage but you will never be as close to this feeling as I am. But, how could you? You've been dealt a hand full of holes. You've lost. I truly pity you and these creaky floorboards and the crying ceiling and that moth banging on the windowsill.” The man goes to the window. Loving hands scoop the small creature and carry it to the door. He releases it and it flies to the sky. “It won't survive.” “Probably not.” “It wouldn't have lived much longer in here either.” “…“ “Why did you release it?” “Because that's where it wanted to finish life. In the sky, where it is free.” “I want to die embraced with warmth. The moth is a stupid creature, choosing cold over comfort.” “Why do you so strongly hate that which you cannot understand?” “I, well—,” “Do you want to feel complete? Think. Do you really have everything you want?” “What more could there be to gain?!” The man counts on his fingers. “Money, pleasure, friends, jewels— I have it all!” “Do you have love?” “Of course! I love tea.” The kettle is removed from the fireplace by the other man. He pours the boiling water into two cups, swirling crushed tea leaves. “I love my mother and father. I love my kingdom.” “Do you love yourself?” he asks while handing him a glass. “Of course…” The wealthy man pauses. “Well… What constitutes self-love?” “Self-love is not just treating yourself to your desires. It is to be confident, to seek validation from only yourself, to be virtuous, to know what you truly want.” “How will I know?” “First, realize the moth knows its wants better than you.” “Are you comparing your king to a moth?” “Second, realize you are just an animal serving its animalistic desires.” “Hey—“ “You need people to love you in order to love yourself. You lack the esteem to consider yourself lovable. You bring down others so you can rise up. You surround yourself in material value and gorge because you have no sense of reason. Your friends are slimy and they will leave you the second you cannot provide.” The man pauses his speech. He takes in the other man, glass in hand, eyes bent wide, brows furrowed. “You have to want to be good. Do good, spread good, follow your morals, be ethical. If you look deeper and inspect the waves of your mind, you will find completion.” The man drinks his last sip of tea. “I must leave.” He sets the cup down and the discarded tea leaves settle. “What will you do next?” He leans in to look and see the way the leaves have fallen. The man crosses floorboards worn from pacing feet. He takes a final look at shards lovingly collected and a carpet that has nourished. He grabs a copper handle that has worn away to gold, then opens the door. “I'll learn how to love.” He closes the door. In the stable, his horse has its head turned and resting on the back of the other. He gently wakes them. They exchange goodbyes and the man adds his fur coat to the blankets piling the aged horse, covering frost-tipped ears. They make it back to the main road. By now, the crowd has dispersed, and only the sound of wind and thumping gallops follow. The snow glistens from the rising sun, painting the man and his horse in orange and red. Something glows from the light on the horse's mane. He gingerly picks it up, delicate like glass. Its wings look shattered and broken, twitching as he cups it in his palm. “The moth died for what it wanted.” He leaves its body to rest in a bright place under the sun.
Beautiful tapestries woven with gold shimmer in the sunlight. Jewels sparkle with a million intricacies and purple flows along banners, finest of silk. Like rolling fields of golden hay, hills of treasure tumble to the floor. “A fine collection, your majesty.” “That diamond is lovely, your majesty!” “What will you do with it all, your majesty?” Asks the choir of envy. “It will complete me, of course,” the wealthy man replies. Countless women, as beautiful as Venus. They slide over each other, reaching out for the wealthy man. Countless men, as beautiful as Mars. They are adorned with diamonds and put on display. They are here for him, to serve him, “—To complete me, of course,” the wealthy man replies. A banquet table glitters with steaming pots of emerald kettles. Fancy leather chairs comfort his companions. They wear shoes he bought them, jewelry he purchased, even the clothes off their backs are from his wealth. “You all complete me too, of course.” The wealthy man smiles, but like a gap in his teeth, or childless mother, something is missing. Later that night the wealthy man lies alone in bed. “What am I missing?” he asks. “I have everything I want, everything I need— what else could possibly complete me?” He gets out of bed and stands next to the window. The glass is cold and he can see his breath from fog. He wipes the obscure away to overlook his kingdom. Hundreds of people, wandering his streets. Thousands more, tucked inside. They all have far, far less than him. Compared to his riches and wealth, their existence is nothing. They will never as close to completion as he is. Still, he grabs his red and white fur coat and stumbles into his boots. He rushes for the doorknob and glides down the stairs. Maids and butlers give him quizzical looks, but they don't understand. Tonight is the night he answers this question. His royal steed is woken by the weight of a saddle. He rides down snowy trails as knights shout his name and say he's gone mad. The horse trots into town. Turned up dirt is splattered over slush. Townspeople, his people, stare in awe as his coat flutters in the crisp wind. They eye his crown, the piece barely hanging onto his tousled hair. No guards, no armour, no sense of reason, and utterly defenceless. Filled with greed, the crowd inches closer. From the crowd, a man in rags pushes himself forwards. “Would you like to come inside for tea?” The poor man asks. “Will it complete me?” the wealthy man replies. “It will fill you for a moment.” “I've had enough of momentary bliss.” “Your horse is freezing.” “…” “I have a stable. Please, follow me.” The crowd lets them through and the wealthy man follows slow footsteps. He is lead into a dirtier part of the kingdom, where the buildings are squished and held together with chipped bricks and knotted wood. The “stable” is a tiny shack that is hardly big enough for the old, weathered horse already inside. The wealthy man dismounts and together the men shimmy the steed inside. The horses draw close together, sharing a tender embrace. The poor man tosses another blanket over them and the shivering slowly stops. “Let's get you some tea.” Inside he is greeted by a leaky ceiling. Dirt paints a carpet that has been eaten away by moths, leaving it hole-ridden and bleak. Shards of glass from a broken plate have been picked up and stacked on a rag, stained red from soft fingers. “Take a seat, I'll put the kettle on.” The wealthy man sits on a wooden chair and it creaks under his weight. It feels like a threat and another reason he's not supposed to be here. “What is this feeling you've been searching for?” The run-down house warms up as more wood is tossed into the fireplace. A dim orange glow lets him see the features of the poor man. He's smiling. Why is he smiling?
They look like zombies. Rotting, sick, and hopeless.A group of five animatoid German Shepherds come around the back of the truck and begin to scream at the children, “Get out now or we gonna cook y'all up ourselves!” The children begin to walk down the rows of pens in single file, watching in horror as the slaughterhouse operates around them. Conveyer belts move young children through the butchering machines one by one. The kids aren't strapped down but just sit there on the conveyor belt in pure acceptance of what their fate is to be. Few children scream as it happens, but most only have enough time to let out a yelp. Jasmine, who had talked to him on the truck, is at the very front of the line. She can barely walk from how much she's shaking. The animatoid German Shepherds encourage her to walk faster by striking her with their leather whips. She runs down the narrow corridor trying to get away from them but is caught before she can make it to the one and only exit in the facility. The dogs pin her down against the dirt floor and begin to shake her like a chew toy in their jaws. She lays motionless on the ground. “We're gonna make an example outa this one,” says the largest of the animatoid German Shepherds. He motions for his colleague to go into the back of the large warehouse. After a few minutes he returns with a large silver stew pot, firewood, matches, and some carrots. It's all too obvious to Henry what's about to happen. The kids who remain in between the stalls quiver and shake, trying to avert their eyes from the scene but the kids in the stalls aren't even fazed by it. The dogs begin lighting a large fire at the end of the corridor and place Jasmine in the stewing pot. She's still unconscious and is bleeding all over from what the dogs did to her. Henry musters a scream, “Somebody do something!” But no one moves. He can see that Jasmine is beginning to blink her eyes slowly and is regaining consciousness. The water begins to boil and so does she. Henry sits on the dirt floor and smashes his fists into the ground, tears pouring off of his face. He feels helpless. The other kids stare in horror as Jasmine begins screaming in pain. She struggles to try to get out of the pot, but the dogs hold her in until they can cover it with a heavy lead lid. She splashes and struggles in the pot but within minutes the room falls silent. She's gone. The other animatoid German Shepherds now continue to escort the children to their own stalls in the warehouse. As he walks to his stall, he looks over to his left and sees three large conveyor belts, all equipped with rows of knives and meatgrinders that are busy at work. He immediately glues his eyes to the floor and tries to block out his surroundings from his mind. Henry is swiftly shoved into his stall by an animatoid German Shepherd. The stall is just big enough for him to stand upright and there's no bathroom, not even a bucket. All around him kids stand with their heads hung low with looks of defeat on their faces. Some whine out of dread for what is to come while others just stare blankly in silence.‘Is this really it for me? Is this what us humans truly deserve?' he thinks to himself. Night falls and none of the guards are anywhere to be seen. Henry can't sleep like this, especially when he knows that he'll be the next to go. He reaches over to open the slotted metal door to his stall, but it won't budge. There's a heavy metal lock keeping the stall from being opened. He looks all around him for something to open the lock, and something catches his eye. It's a small butterfly barrette a little girl next to him is wearing in her hair. Carefully he reaches between the cold bars to get the barrette. He plucks it out of her hair and begins to examine it. Small text on it reads © Disney 2022. It must have been a family heirloom with how old it is but right now Henry doesn't care about that. He rips off the butterfly from the clip and begins to bend the teal metal into a hook shape. He doesn't have any experience picking locks, but he has to try to get out of here. He inserts the barrette into the lock and begins to jiggle it around. The lock finally clicks and the door swings open.
Revenge Is Savory The fields are baren, the Earth is hot, there is nothing left here. As far as the eye can see there is ashy black soil, smoggy sky, and the burned remnants of a few houses. His lungs burn from all of the dusty and polluted air. His sister is sitting next to him on the dark ashy soil. She's only nine but she is already destined for slaughter. Human existence isn't the same as it used to be. His mother steps towards him. “Come on o'er here Henry, I've got something to tell ya,” she says with hesitancy in her voice. Henry runs over to his mother who is in the small shack that they live in. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to all of the hurricanes they have had these past few years and now looks like a patchwork quilt of different building materials. The woven thatch roof above his mother's head is beginning to cave in again along with the clay walls supporting it. “Henry, I've got some bad news,” his mother says quietly. “They've chosen a date for you honey… it's today.” His mother's eyes well with tears; she never thought that it would come this soon. “When are they coming to get me?” Henry asks with a quiver in his voice. “In a few minutes,” she says, crying hysterically as she looks down at her son's face. His hair, the colour of a dark oak, partially covers his fear filled emerald eyes. Henry bolts outside away from the comforting eye of his old and frail mother. This is it for him. He rushes to the shallow dirt pit that he and his sister had been sitting in. “Goodbye forever Delilah,” he croaks, barely able to speak. “I thought you had more time,” Delilah says, her rounded face turning as red as a firetruck as she embraces him for the last time.“I thought so too. But I guess the time comes for everyone to go to slaughter,” Henry replies, barely able to keep his eyes open with the waterfall of the tears rushing down. “I just wish we hadn't done all this y'know. Treating the animals bad and wrecking the planet and all." “Well, I guess it's their time now. It's only fair y'know. I'll miss ya greatly,” Delilah replies as she dries her puffy eyes with the paw of her teddy bear. Henry quickly says his goodbyes to his family and his one friend, Jack. “The truck is here,” his mom yells over to him as he finishes saying goodbye to Jack. The hairy man in the driver's seat of the truck shouts in Henry's direction, “Get on in kid, I don't wanna have to chase ya ‘round but if I gotsta I will. I got those killer instincts and all.” The man in the driver's seat is an animatoid wolf, the modern-day version of wolves. After the planet was destroyed during The Great Nuclear War the surviving animals had to adapt to be like humans to survive in the baren, plant free landscape. Unluckily for us, humans are not at the top of the food chain anymore, they are at the bottom. Henry begins to slowly walk over to the rotting wooden truck. The grainy ashy soil crunches under his bare feet. He looks back at his mother, his sister, and Jack. This is all he's ever known and all he will know. The back of the truck drops open with a loud thud to reveal hundreds of other weeping children, all covered in dirt and flies like farm animals. The kids sit in piles of their own waste from the long journey there. He hesitantly sits down on the soiled wooden floor squished next to all the other kids. This is the most people he's ever seen in one place in his entire life. The door slams shut and the only light in the truck is from the gaps in its wooden siding. The sparse light casts ominous shadows over the other children.“What are they going to do to us?!” screeches Jasmine, who is about half Henry's height. They'd clearly never heard of the human trade back where she lived. She must be from one of those old human settlements that are still around. “We're going to be fed to the animatoids,” Henry says, unable to make eye contact with her as he speaks. “But why would they want to eat us?” she replies, dumfounded by his response. Henry lets out a long sigh and sits in silence. How ignorant could she be to not know about anything that has happened in the past sixty years. The truck comes to a screeching stop, throwing all of the children to the front end of the truck. Henry is thrown aggressively into the floor as they stop and finds himself with a mouthful of the droppings. He shivers in disgust and spits out as much as he can but he is still left with the taste of a barnyard in his mouth. The sound of poorly oiled machinery is all around them and faint, distant screams. Henry's eyes widen as the back of the truck falls open to reveal rows and rows of fat children in animal stalls. They're all filthy, covered in feces and the shredded remnants of their clothes. Barely any of the pieces of their clothes are recognizable because they have all turned sickly brown from the months the kids have spent here. The kids in the stalls stare blankly ahead of them, not recognizing the arrival of the new kids.
A child, 14, sits in his room. Quarantine has taken a toll, stealing away the ability to socialize with friends and the opportunity to learn at in-person schools. Life has begun to become boring, mundane, borderline useless. Being so young when COVID hits is a challenge. What are you meant to do? There wasn't much freedom to speak of before, and now it's all gone. One of the only things you can do at the moment, such an isolated time, is go online. He makes many online friends during quarantine that help sustain his wellbeing. Posting drawings on social media to show friends and mutuals replaces socializing in real life. The thing that's most different is that now, our hero enjoys learning. Research on Google becomes an outlet for him. He discovers a love for history this way, looking up facts about cowboys and about Victorian princes. He learns many interesting things and, in researching the late 1700s, discovers his new favorite thing; something that nobody in their right mind would enjoy. Tuberculosis. Everything about the pulmonary disease is extremely interesting to him. It begins with a fascination in hemoptysis, coughing up blood, then snowballs. Watching documentaries, reading informational books online, discovering more and more articles on the subject, the ancient disease becomes his lifeblood. He no longer feels so bored with life. He discovers that several fictional books about Tuberculosis exist, both contemporary and vintage, ones which tell stories about interesting characters in and out of sanatoriums. It inspires him to read again for the first time in three years. He has again found something worth spending time on. Learning about Tuberculosis becomes an unlikely source of happiness, one that will last for years to come. He finds a lot of enjoyment in researching the infectious disease, talking about it, watching videos that mention it. He has finally begun to discover himself.
Once upon a time, in a quaint coastal town, there lived a young girl named Lily. Lily had a heart full of compassion and a spirit that radiated kindness. She believed in the power of small acts of goodness and how they could create a ripple effect of positivity in the world. Lily's town was known for its picturesque beaches and vibrant community. But there was one thing that troubled Lily deeply - the pollution that was slowly suffocating the ocean. Determined to make a difference, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Armed with a pair of gloves and a determination to clean up the beaches, Lily started organizing weekly beach cleanups. She would wake up early every Saturday morning and rally her neighbors, friends, and even strangers to join her in her mission. Together, they would comb the shores, picking up litter and plastic waste, one piece at a time. Word of Lily's beach cleanups spread throughout the town, and soon, more and more people started joining her cause. What started as a small group of volunteers quickly grew into a community movement. People of all ages and backgrounds came together, united by their love for the ocean and their desire to protect it. As the beaches became cleaner, Lily realized that raising awareness was just as important as cleaning up. She started giving educational talks at schools and community events, teaching others about the impact of plastic pollution on marine life and the environment. Her passion and knowledge inspired others to make changes in their own lives, reducing their plastic consumption and adopting more sustainable habits. One day, a local artist named Mia approached Lily with an idea. She suggested creating an art installation made entirely from the plastic waste they had collected. Lily loved the idea, and together, they transformed the collected plastic into a stunning sculpture that depicted the beauty of the ocean and the importance of preserving it. The sculpture became a symbol of hope and a powerful visual reminder of the impact of human actions on the environment. It was displayed in the town square, attracting visitors from far and wide. People marveled at its beauty and were moved by the message it conveyed. News of Lily's efforts reached the ears of an environmental organization that was looking for young ambassadors to join their cause. Impressed by Lily's dedication and the impact she had made in her community, they offered her a position as a youth advocate. Lily eagerly accepted, seeing it as an opportunity to amplify her voice and create an even greater impact. As a youth advocate, Lily traveled to different towns and cities, sharing her story and inspiring others to take action. She worked with local governments, urging them to implement better waste management systems and promote eco-friendly practices. Her tireless efforts caught the attention of national media, and soon, Lily's message reached millions of people across the country. Years later, as Lily stood on a stage receiving an award for her environmental activism, she looked back at her journey with a heart full of gratitude. She realized that her small acts of goodness had sparked a movement that had transformed not only her town but also the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Lily's story serves as a reminder that every individual has the power to create change, no matter how small their actions may seem. It is through our collective efforts and the belief in our ability to make a difference that we can create a better and more sustainable world for future generations. And so, the story of Lily and her beach cleanups reminds us that the power to change the world lies within each of us. With compassion, determination, and a little bit of sand between our toes, we can create a wave of positive change that will wash away the pollution and bring back the beauty of our precious oceans.
At the start of this summer, I wanted to make sure I'd finally do more of the outdoor things I wanted. I'd bike more. I'd hike more. What I especially wanted to do was to take my kayak out. My hope had been to explore the local lakes and rivers of Northwest Iowa, and maybe take a bigger trip to a larger lake in Minnesota or float down the Niobrara in the Nebraska Sandhills. I was all set to begin my more outdoorsy life, but it all ended on a set of concrete stairs. I had gone on a bike ride with some friends. Immediately after we left the parking lot where we gathered, I took off. I then couldn't stop, raced down a hill and crashed. My ankle was shattered, and so were my dreams of spending more time outdoors. Instead of hiking the Loess Hills or Kayaking the Little Sioux River, I sat on my couch in a boot listening to podcasts and binging The Simpsons and King of the Hill. My only respite was my crummy retail job, and even that was a bummer. I had to ride around on a scooter all day, and then I'd come home and crash on the couch. For two months this was the routine. Work, crash, maybe see my family on the weekends I had off. I kept my spirits high, but still I was anxious to get back to normal, especially after the doctor told me I could start bearing weight. I still however was disappointed that I couldn't do more outside. While I could eventually walk, I got sore often and knew I couldn't hike, and I didn't want to risk going on a bike. Even my Kayak was risky as I thought I couldn't lift it on my jeep, let alone drag it to some lakeshore. I figured that I'd have to wait until next year to try any strenuous outdoor activities, and even that depended on if I healed up well. Labor Day weekend came around and I was finally at one hundred percent weight bearing. I had to work the weekend and was a little bummed about it as most other people were off three days, including my wife and her family. They too hadn't had much of a summer as they had been busy with a number of projects at home and didn't have enough time to make a trip to Lake Shetek, their preferred spot in Southwest Minnesota, worth it. My daughter had especially been bummed. While I was sure she couldn't remember our earlier trips, she always talked about "Minnesota" and how it had the "big water." She talked about it all the time, and how her Grandpa and Daddy were going to take her there. Well, once I was off work, I got a call from my wife to head up to her folks, about ten minutes north. I figured we were just going to have a small cookout and maybe enjoy what probably was our last big break for a while. I drove up, and that's when I saw my father in law and my daughter standing by his silver pickup. "We going to Minnesota" my daughter said. She excitedly repeated it a number of times, and then I asked my Father in Law what we were doing. He told me that he wanted my wife and daughter and my sisters in law to go to the local lake to grill some hotdogs and take my Kayak out. At that point I was still in a boot but could fully bear weight. "I'll even help you get in and out" said my father in law. Our local lake , Hillview, was basically just a large farm pond. It had been dry that summer, and the water level was down, leaving a ring of mud around some of the shoreline. It also was quite stagnant and stank a bit. However, it was the closest thing we had to "Minnesota" and we took advantage. My wife and daughter and I grilled some hot dogs and my sisters in law set up some blankets and we sat under a decent sized oak tree and watched the sunset. We all lamented how summer was over, but we'd have plenty more chances to go out. After dinner, I finally got my Kayak out. My father in law offered to help, but I was able to pull it out of the bed of his truck and safely drag it to the water, all the while conscious of my ankle. I then removed my boot. I but my bad foot in the Kayak, making sure it was balanced. I then put the other one in and found my paddle I'd folded inside and took off. I finally did it. Sure, it was the only real outdoor thing I did that summer, but it was also the most meaningful. I finally was free out on the water. I ended up kayaking around the lake for an hour. I mostly just circled around looking at the fields and groves of oaks and cottonwoods nearby. I even got to give my daughter a short ride. All the while she screamed "Thanks for taking me to Minnesota, Daddy." None of us corrected her. We didn't have the heart to tell her it wasn't Minnesota, but I don't think she cared. I was just happy to be free and finally go on an adventure, and I was happy to have another passenger on board with me for a short time.
Wayne started beating me five months into our marriage. Initially, it was simply an unexpected slap or a punch to the kidney. It was so unpredictable and out of character that I deemed it my fault. I reasoned that I must have brought it on myself, and that I deserved it. That naïve perspective changed when the abuse became far more regular and intense. After two further months of humiliating, soul-wrecking beatings, I finally walked out. I left with only the clothes on my back and firm resolve burning in my heart. I moved in with a friend, but I knew I needed help. “Speak to Mr. Eden,” Sinead advised me. “You know he's always been kind-hearted to us and helps everybody without hesitation,” she added persuasively. And that's how I ended up outside his office the next morning, clutching my college bag and courage firmly to my breast. Mr. Eden was the College Counselor, and one of the most unselfish men I had ever met. Not a single student had ever been turned away by this gentle, unassuming man. And I was about to ask him to not just go the extra mile, but to also go out on a limb for me. How classically clichéd. “Marina, come inside,” Mr. Eden invited me the minute he saw me. “Have a seat. How's life been treating you?” he asked innocently, but his tone and the innocuous question triggered a flood of sobs. I was embarrassed; I chastised myself for making such a spectacle of myself. Mr. Eden instantly took charge, soothing me with encouraging words and a soft tone. He offered me a bottle of water, which I gratefully accepted. I confided completely in him. I was surprised by the first words he said, but I shouldn't have been. “We need to get you into a women's shelter today. I know a place near the college. I will take you there after I've called them to give them a heads up, all right?” As if that wasn't enough, this amazing man then spread the word – with my permission – on the college WhatsApp group that a student needed donations of clothes, toiletries, food; the works. The response was overwhelming! Mr. Eden took me to the Saartje Baartman Women's Shelter, and they agreed to house me as well as try to resolve the problems Wayne and I were having by giving us marriage counselling. All absolutely free of charge! I received so many donations of barely-worn clothes, brand new underwear, toiletries and even money that I could give some of the things to Sinead to thank her for having granted me a safe haven when I had needed it. And the best thing of all? Wayne is a changed man. The couples therapy had opened his eyes, even bringing him to the point where he apologized tearfully to me for ever having lifted a hand to me. “You are a treasure, Marina,” Wayne said to me on the first night I returned home. He was holding me gently in his arms while he spoke in a voice shaking with emotion. “I nearly lost the most precious gift I had ever received, but I will never again be this careless.” “If not for Mr. Eden, both of us would have lost each other,” I said and smiled, feeling the heavy burdens lift off my shoulders like fog burned off by the warmth of a rising sun.