The Creek

The night air turned chilly as I took the long way home from school. I had stayed late for tutoring and knew that if I wasn’t home at exactly 8:30, I would be condemned to a life of after-school scheduling and constant disappointed eyes from my over-protective mother. That I wasn’t willing to risk, because even though I hated all the extra clothes on brisk days and the first-aid kit that was packed into my bag every time I left the house, I appreciated the sentiment.

After nearly ten minutes of walking, I pulled myself out of my thoughts and heard the sound of running water, or rather, water running over rocks. Like a creek. I was near the housing complex, but I had never heard any sounds like that coming from it before; every natural piece of forest and brush had been wiped away in its making. The sounds were oddly soothing, and before I knew it, my feet were carrying me to its source. In the back of my mind, I knew that my mom would worry, but I didn’t care. My only purpose at that moment was to get to the creek and figure out how it got there.

I began walking faster. I was deep into the complex when I saw a small winding trail off to the side. There seemed to be some kind of oasis at the end of the road, begging to be discovered. So I followed the trail. Birds, trees, and even the wind, it seemed, howled at my entrance and urged me forward. It was as if I was meant to be there and something was meant to happen, but damned if I knew what it was.

waterfallFinally, after a long trail, I found the source and gasped. It was one of the most beautiful scenes the world could have conjured. A small waterfall fell over cascading rocks, and the water led down a stream to a larger pool. There were fish jumping out, and frogs leaping from rock to water, and there was even a bird on a rock in the center of the pond, just staring out into the night sky. I made my way to a series of rocks, each one just big enough for a foot to step on. I put one foot in front of the other and made my way to the center of the pond, where the bird perched. I was mesmerized. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to feel the feathers that had been everywhere. The feathers that had experienced no restraint. As I watched, the bird slowly turned its head and looked at me. I froze. Its eyes bore into mine and I needed to know the secrets it held. Without thinking, I sprinted across two more rocks, but stopped when I noticed my foot had crooked another way. I tumbled into that water, which was deeper than it looked, and all I could do was smile as I went down.

I knew that I was in trouble, but at that moment all I could think of was my mother. As cold water came rushing at my face, I remembered I had to breathe and began to push my way to the top, but quickly realized I couldn’t. All the extra clothes my mom made me wear were weighing me down. As my heart slowed and an inky blackness settled over me, I laughed. Even though I knew I was dying, I laughed the hardest I had in my whole life—the fact that my mom’s precautions were helping me drown made me giddy and hysterical. My last thought was of my mom and how she would take it when someone found my body and told her the reason I had drowned. I kept laughing. I no longer wondered what the creek was doing there or how I had tripped in. I only thought of her. My mother, the one who loved me so much she killed me.

Jennifer, eleventh grade, Travis High School

This week, we’ll be posting the finalists for the Rose Million Healey Award in Short Fiction. Come out to our community-wide reading Saturday, May 2, to meet the authors and find out who the winner is.


Dumb Luck Survives

“Sir, exiting subspace now.”

“Hot dam. . . .” Lt. Kari mutters as a battle unfolds on her sensor plot. Outside the Leviathan-class cruiser, lasers and cannons fire madly as missiles and flak light the darkness of space. On her plot, a wave of Basilisk- and Dragon-class destroyers crash against an equally formidable wall of the enemy’s Demon- and Relsh-class ships. As the bridge watches, the Gaians break off their attack as the Shelkn wall cruses more than half of them.

“Dear God,” a tactician officer whispers as crippled ships run into subspace, leaving the others to face the oncoming wave of Shelkn destroyers. Slowly, the green contact signatures disappear until only one remains.

Captain Helsh watches the viewscreen as a single Dragon-class destroyer breaks through the line of enemy ships. Triguns, beam cannons, and turrets flare madly as she returns fire to those engaged with her.

Helsh acts quickly. “Get me the name of that ship as well as a link.”

“Aye sir!” shouts a young ensign, going about his new task. Already the deck vibrates as the Peacefinder engages a small Cain-class cruiser.

“Sir! It’s the Desertrunner. Comm link open now, sir.”

“Admiral Lish, are you all right?”

“What the hell do you think? We’re just eating ice cream and cake over here. Want to join us?”

Helsh smirks at the admiral’s reply. “Sir, come to point six-eight-one left down; we’ll meet you there.” The noise on the other bridge intensifies as alarms go off; then, “Understood. Desertrunner out.”

Helsh looks down at the navigations officer. The man salutes and says, “Six-eight-one left down, aye sir.” A Rakshema-class cruiser shudders on their viewscreen as missiles slam into its engines. The burning hulk sinks beneath the Peacefinder as it plows through a field of expanding atmosphere and scrap metal, the roar of weapons ringing in everyone’s ears as the sound crosses the debris field.

The Desertrunner reaches the meetpoint just as three bright lights herald the coming of Demon-class destroyers, eager to rip the damaged Dragon apart.

“This is bullshit!” Helsh looks up at Kari’s outburst. She notices his cocked eyebrow and says, “Sir, we are arriving at the meetpoint, but there is no way we can take on three Demons!” Helsh sighs. “Call for fighter and bomb escorts; we can’t leave the Desertrunner.”

Already missiles scream toward the Demons, shattering armor plating and ripping apart vital systems. The tactician looks up and shakes his head. “Not even good enough, sir. Reading a two percent drop in hull integrity for that destroyer.”

Helsh shakes his head and turns to the communications officer. “Tell the Desertrunner to make for the nearest safe zone. All hands full ahead!”

The eight-thousand-ton cruiser speeds forward, spewing missiles, laser, and flak. Three thirty-four-thousand-ton destroyers fire back at the Peacefinder in one violent wave.

The cruiser tries desperately to evade the deadly attack, reaction thrusters lighting its hull, but is too slow. The bridge shakes violently as the ship absorbs part of the attack, shields flaring. The crew drops to the deck as a missile slams into the forward shield quadrant, the explosion ripping through and tearing the hull apart.

Helsh hears a strangled curse above the alarms and explosions as his own voice shouts, “Jump out now!”

Slowly the proximity alarms fade as more and more of the Peacefinder slides into the blessed abyss of subspace.

As the last thud of weapon-fire fades from the deck at their feet, Helsh looks around the bridge. The communications officer lies on his back, blood seeping from a hole in his chest. Looking at his console, Helsh notices the sharp protrusion, slick with blood.

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Two More Minutes; That's All We Needed.

an excerpt

It was midnight on a Friday night. I was doing what I would normally do on nights like these—get the house all cleaned up and ready for when my girlfriend came over. My parents usually left the house to me from Friday morning till late night Sunday. I used to have a babysitter come stay and watch me, but that stopped after I told them I was old enough to watch myself. I mean, come on now, what kind of eighteen-year-old needs a babysitter? As for my girlfriend coming over, my parents loved her. We’d been dating for nearly a year, and I saw us going somewhere. She normally stayed the weekends with me, but since her mom left out of state for business, leaving her with her stepdad, she wants to stay every night she could. It didn’t bother me. The more she stayed over, the closer we got, the more my heart knew she was the one for me.

I was done straightening the house up, taking a shower and cleaning my room by 1 a.m. She normally walked over; she didn’t really believe in wasting gas, especially since we lived not even ten minutes away. Driving to go and get her was out of the question. She was an environmentalist, which I thought was really cute. I peeped out the window, hoping to see the silhouette of my baby at the front door.

She was standing in the little glow of my porch light, so I went to open the door.

She came in without a word spoken, which was highly unusual. I leaned in for a hug. Just like any normal couple would. She went around me, so I just played it off and closed the door—locked. She took off her shoes at the door before she stepped onto the carpet, and continued to my room. I soon followed.

I sat back down on the floor, and continued watching the movie I had started, before I started cleaning. A couple of scenes had gone by before I even remembered Mina was still not there with me. I looked over at my room door, and she was just standing there looking down.

“Crap babe, you scared the hell out of me. You okay?” I asked her as I turned the movie off. “Hon, what’s wrong?”

She didn’t know what to say. I could tell by the look on her face as she glanced up at me. I got up from the floor and started walking towards her. I broke midpoint, and she fell to the ground. I took a huge step towards her, as if I could catch her before she hit the floor.

“I have—,” she took a deep breath in, “I have something to tell you. I-I’m just so scared,” she said in a soft tone, almost whisper-like. Her voice was cracking every other word.

“Mina, baby, what’s going on? Please don’t tell me, you cheated on me.” It had to be something that bad—if not worse. She tells me everything, as I do her. We have an open relationship.

I was standing directly in front of her. She was wearing her favorite pair of skinny jeans, deep blue, and I loved her in them. She had on her little green jacket, with pink and white strips on the shoulders,unzipped half way. She wore two hair clips to pin the sides of her hair back—her grandmother gave them to her just before she passed away—but her bangs were just hanging there like wind chimes, blowing softly from the AC vent above her. She was my everything and it was killing me to see her this way.

I bent down to her level, and leaned in closer. I put my arms around her half-frozen body. “C’mon. Let’s get you warmed up.” I spoke in a normal tone as I helped her up to the bathroom. I noticed her clothes were damp, “it’s not raining outside is it?”

redhandShe shook her head “no,” removed her jacket and threw it on the bed. I looked at my hands and noticed it wasn’t just wet, it was also red . . . I didn’t know of anybody who sweat red.

Ali, eleventh grade, Manor Accelerated Academic Recovery Center

This week, we’ll be posting the finalists for the Rose Million Healey Award in Short Fiction. Come out to our community-wide reading Saturday, May 2, to meet the authors and find out who the winner is.

At the Flea Market

He was tall, the cutest guy I’d seen that hot summer. He had the most beautiful smile; his lips looked like two of the softest rose petals. He was wearing a white shirt and some navy blue jeans. We hadn’t talked at all that summer. We would only see each other.

We had the same boss, Laly, who was always singing some bippity-boppity-boo song, but we didn’t work together. He worked installing car stereos and I sold girls’ accessories. Sometimes Laly would need a bag of earrings or change for a twenty over near the stall where he worked, and Laly would call me over to go drop it off. When I saw him, we would only smile at each other. I would look away but hope he was looking at me, thinking am I wearing the right outfit are these the right jeans do I look all sweaty is my makeup smeared? I know he looked awesome holding those car stereos, flexing his muscles.

I used to ask my best friend if she thought he liked me. Yes, she would tell me, but she didn’t really like him. She’d tell me he was too much of an ass, that he wouldn’t take me seriously, that he looked like the kind of guy who would only play with a girl’s feelings.

It didn’t matter. I’d get excited whenever Laly called me over to say that she needed something, cause that meant I’d get to see him. One day as I was getting change and pretending I didn’t see him, I heard his voice. He was talking to me.

“Hey Yvonne, you like my hair?” I looked up from getting change.

“Yes,” I said, blushing with a shaky voice. “It looks badass.”

He started laughing and said, “Thanks, but you don’t have to lie.”

I said I wasn’t. I had to get back to work so I told him, “I’ll see you later.” As I walked away, I looked back smiling and he was smiling at me. I felt like skipping all the way to my booth.

The end of the day came and the flea market started looking dark and empty. He showed up where I was working, but we didn’t talk. I could tell he was hot ’cause I could see the sweat on his forehead running down his face. I gave him a nervous smile, but he just walked away. We didn’t have a chance.

Yvonne, eleventh grade, Del Valle Opportunity Center

This week, we’ll be posting the finalists for the Rose Million Healey Award in Short Fiction. Come out to our community-wide reading Saturday, May 2, to meet the authors and find out who the winner is.