I wrote a story for Miya Ayala, and she created a piece of art to accompany it. Both are titled Noah
“I can do that, too!” Noah yelled after me, stumbling over the rocky path.
“No you can’t, kid. Your legs are too small and you don’t have the same motor control I do.” I kept walking, waiting for someone from Noah’s family to grab him. They didn’t. “Wait up!”
“Ugh, go back Noah!” I yelled at him, “I didn’t give you permission to come with me!” If only that would stop the toddler. Noah kept marching towards me, grunting as he struggled up the tall steps. He was panting. “See. I can. Climb this. Too.”
I shook my head. “Noah, you’re already exhausted. We’ve only moved about 4 meters from where we started. Call for help, and go back.” I should clarify that he’s actually 7, not any younger. He certainly acts like a toddler, though. Despite how unfriendly I’ve been to my cousin from day one, he still thinks he can appeal to me and make me like him. The kid needs to get used to disappointment.
He caught his breath after a few seconds. “See, I’m just fine. I’m not tired, my legs aren’t even scraped!” I sighed, and sat down on a rock.
“I’m not going anywhere with you, Noah. You’re going to get hurt on this trail.” I told him as firmly as I knew how to.
He sat down next to me. “Then I guess we’ll just sit here then. I’m okay with that.” I sighed once more.
“Noah, where do you even get this determination? You’re just so stuck on this idea of pleasing me, and I don’t get it. What do you have to gain?” I held my head in my hands.
He just gave me a weird look. “What do you mean? I thought friends did things together.” I shuddered inside. Friends? “I just trying to be a good friend.”
I held my breath. Noah waited in anticipation. I exhaled. “Noah, why do you think we’re friends?” At this point, I was actually curious. Who told him we were friends?
He shrugged. “We’re cousins, and cousins are supposed to be friends, right? I thought that family was supposed to stick together.” This didn’t surprise me. It was the same thing my parents told me as a kid. That was a long time ago, and things have changed.
I picked up my head. “Alright, Noah. You think we’re friends. But what if I told you you weren’t my friend?” Noah laughed.
“No, we are friends. That’s how families are. You’re my family, so you’re also my friend.” There wasn’t a doubt in this kid’s mind. Honestly, I kind of respected that. Everything was so certain to him.
“Fine, Noah. You win. We’re friends. As my friend, I would appreciate it if you let me walk up this trail alone. Okay?” I looked at Noah.
He shrugged. “Okay. I’ll go color while I wait for you.” Then he left. That was it. Did he just win the battle? I was determined to get him away, and he was determined to be my friend. And he left by his own choice. It was that easy.
I got up and started hiking. Is the world that easy for him? Does he just think everyone is his friend? I sat down after a little while. I remember when the world was that easy for me, too. I remember when I thought that the world would be my friend. Now, I’m just some angry teen who doesn’t want anything to do with anyone. When did I lose the light in my own eyes?
I looked down the mountain. Noah was totally content with everything. The only things he looked for to make his life better are material things that he doesn’t need. He’d gladly just wait for me, no matter what it takes. I wish I had that kind of motivation.
I shook my head. I stood up and made my way back down the mountain.
Sabrina Tellez created a piece of art, and I wrote a story to accompany it. Distraction is the art, and Sage is the story.
The bustle of the streets was drowning out any other noise. I could barely hear myself think, there were so many cars and trams running up and down the road. The sun had begun to set an orange tinge over the horizon.
I took a sharp turn into an empty alleyway. “Here I am.” I looked down the dirty and beaten path that lay before me. I felt nostalgic. Tentatively, I stepped further into the alley. This was where my sister had been shot four years ago. I was almost twelve at the time.
I kneeled next to a building, and pulled a brick out of the wall. This was essentially my sister’s grave, because I couldn’t actually afford her a spot in a graveyard. Not in a city this large, anyway
Inside the wall, there were a few things I had left there for her. There were old, dead flowers, a few fake ones, and a couple notes I had jotted down previous years. “I miss you…” The words barely fell off my lips. I felt tears well up in my eyes, and I decided that it was time to leave.
I took a few tiny crystals out of my pockets- most of them were a blue variety of quartz- and placed them into the wall. I replaced the brick and walked away. Within moments, the crowds and the noise of the city had overtaken me once more.
I wove my way through street after street, pushing past crowds going through their day just like I was. They were going from their works to their homes, and vice versa. The sun was on the brink of setting, and my day was just beginning.
I finally got back to my workplace, which doubled as my home. I went to the door around the back, and slid inside. The bar was fairly empty tonight, so I shouldn’t have to worry too much about the police arresting me for being a minor.
I took my place at the counter, already in my uniform, and readjusted myself to the bottles and glasses that surrounded me.
“Hey, kid. Get me a drink, will ya?” I turned and looked at the drunk sitting at the bar. The only one who wasn’t with a friend or at a table. He was here before I left, too. He would probably still be here after I left. “Sure. What do you want?”
The man shrugged. He didn’t have a large build. Then again, neither did I. The tie and shirt he was wearing let me know he probably worked an office job or was a salesman. His wife was probably cheating on him, so he came here to drink away his worries. “I’m getting a little sick of hard liquor. It doesn’t taste that great. Could you mix me something a little better?”
“Right on it, sir.” I pulled a cocktail mixer and some liquids off of the shelf, and started to mix him a drink.
“I actually don’t like alcohol that much. Funny, considering my high tolerance. I’m actually quite sober right now, even though I’m a few shots in. Damn my Irish heritage.” I put his drink in front of him. “Then again, a true Irishman would be furious to see a martini.”
He took a few slow drinks. I stood in front of him. There wasn’t anyone else at the bar, so I needed to tend to this patron. “How did you get in here, kid?”
I shrugged at him. “Push came to shove, I guess.”
He nodded. “I had parental issues myself. I get it, you just need time away. Do you go to school?”
I shook my head. “I tried for a while, but school clashed with my time working here. This is a night shift, and school happens during the day” The stranger nodded.
“Ah, so you’re already quite a hard worker. That’s a wonderful trait to see in our youth. See, most kids just complain about how unfair the world is. I used to be one of them, so I know. Listen, you want off of the streets? You want out of the bar? I’ve got a deal for you. You want to hear it?”
This man had misinterpreted what I said. I didn’t have parental problems. It’s hard to have parental problems without parents. I didn’t just run away from some random home, and I’m not just here to get away for a while.
“Sorry, sir, but I’ll have to deny your offer.”
He laughed heartily. “I haven’t even made an offer yet. Hell, speaking of things I haven’t offered, my name is Guy. You mind telling me yours?”
“Quartz. My name is Quartz.” He finished his martini, then slid the glass to me.
“That was a marvelous drink. Make me another, will you?” I nodded, and mixed him another. “So your parents must enjoy gems. Are they hippies?” He chuckled, “All joking aside, do they?”
I shook my head. “My sister named me. She was a few years older than me. I didn’t actually know my mother. She gave birth to me outside of a hospital, then left me on the porch of a fire station.” When I thought about it, I didn’t actually know if my sister and I were really related. Neither of us had last names, and she was named by another stranger. “I met my sister in an orphanage.”
The man had a more serious look to his face. “I apologise for my rudeness. I didn’t know.” Neither of us spoke. He took a few more sips of his drink. “That’s kind of ironic. You go to the orphanage to get adopted, and yet you two adopted each other. Did your sister have red hair, too?” I nodded.
“Rough situation, friend. Where is your sister now?”
“Dead. She was shot in an alley. The police called it gang violence. Really, none of us know what it really was.”
“Real sad. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she adopted you when she was eighteen?” I nodded. “You know something most of the other saps around here don’t. True loss. I could see it in your eyes when you walked in. Did you just finish visiting her grave?” I looked at my feet, nodded weakly. “That’s tragic.”
The man finished his drink. “Now I’ll ask again. Do you want to hear my deal?” I shrugged.
“I don’t see why not. Fire away.”
“I’m looking for some kids to help me out with a certain project; Adults have developed physically too much for what we’re trying to achieve. You look perfect for the part. What do you say?” He put out his hand.
“I’m not gullible. You haven’t told me what you intend to do with me. It’s probably shady.” He pulled his hand upward. “Right, I forget that not everyone knows what’s going on with us. Have you ever heard of migrant workers? Well, we’re doing a similar thing. We get some young, fresh bodies to do migrant work. It pays great, and you get three square meals a day.”
I saw the owner of the bar, Ted, tapping his hands impatiently on the table he was sitting at. He established direct eye contact, and held it. His tapping got a little faster. “Hold on, sir, I think my employer wants to see me.”
“Hold on a minute, Quartz. This is a rare opportunity. I’ve seen plenty of youth pass up this chance, and they all ended up on drugs and alcohol. Every kid that I’ve taken in has thrived in an excellent working environment. You’ll have the chance to make your sister proud. Wouldn’t you like that?” Guy looked at me directly. I couldn’t tell if he truly believed what he was saying, or if he was just saying it to attract my attention. Either way, I found my myself enjoying the idea that was being pushed to me.
“What kind of work would I be doing with you, Guy?” I leaned forward onto the counter. “I might consider it, but only if I know what I’m doing.”
Guy laughed ever so slightly. “You won’t be working with me, sadly. I’m just a recruiter. However, you will be doing all sorts of things for all sorts of people. Believe me, it looks great on a college resume. Oh, look at me, I even forgot to mention the higher education opportunities.” Guy was drinking with more confidence now. He was really trying to sell me this job. Issue was, it was working.
I saw Ted lean forward in his seat, and give me an even harsher look. Was he trying to scare me out of this offer? I thought about talking to him, but I think Guy would end up trying to distract me from him again.
“Guy, my boss is getting pretty impatient. I can give an answer, but only after I see what he wants. Sound good?” I offered my hand to Guy. “Yeah, alright kid. Just make it quick, please.”
I stepped away from Guy, then out from behind the bar. I moved over to Ted. He motioned for me to sit. “I don’t know who that guy is, Quartz. He’s been here every night for the past five days. I don’t know what he wants, but I wouldn’t trust him. He’s been making some sort of “tantalising deal” to everyone who bothers to talk to him. It’s incredibly suspicious.” I nodded.
“I don’t trust him either, but this could be my chance to get out.”
Ted nodded. “Aye, lad. This could be a chance for you. But at the same time, the worm looks attractive on the hook.”
I had a lot to consider. Should I trust this stranger? This well dressed man who seemed to have everything in order? Or should I trust the bartender who has taken care of me the past four years? There was way too much to consider here, and only so much time.
I took a deep breath. “Ted, what do you think you would’ve done at my age?” Ted leaned back and shook his head. “What I would’ve done doesn’t matter. I wasn’t orphaned at birth. I didn’t have so little to lose. Honestly, if he would just say exactly what kind of work you’d be doing, I might have recommended you join him.
“He just dances around the questions, and quite skillfully at that. Most people who he had talked to previously were drunk, though. I hadn’t seen his real persuasion skills until just now. It makes me just a bit uneasy, knowing he was trained to sucker in depressed sods to do whatever he’s trying to get them to do.
“I would’ve denied him, but I also had a happy house and home to return to. You only have me and your sister’s brick. I love you, but I still know what’s best for you. It might not always going to be this bar. In the end the choice is yours.” He put his elbow on the table, with his hand extended above it. I clasped it, and he squoze my hand in a way that reminded me he cared.
“I think I need some time to think about it. This is a lot all at once.” I stood and pushed my chair in. “Either way, he’s still a customer, and I still need to serve him.” I marched back to the bar.
“Quartz, perfect timing. Could you mix me a different drink? Thanks.” I grabbed his glass, put it aside, then got him a new one. I mixed something new, and set the glass before him. “So what do you say, bud? You in?”
I kept direct eye contact with him. “You haven’t told me what exactly it is that I’ll be doing. You’ve just danced around the question.”
Guy sighed. “Yeah, I know. Honestly, I don’t know what work you’ll be doing exactly. I just know that you’ll work under a few different employers, and each of them is basically random. I’m just one way that you can get in. I know some facts about the guys who leave after they’ve finished their work, and that just about sums it up. Either way, you’ve gotta take the first step to get in.” Guy thrust his hand forward. He looked at me with a gleam in his eyes.
“I have to deny you, Guy. You’re not looking very trustworthy right now. This is all very tempting, but the worm often looks tempting on the hook.” Ted held back a laugh.
Guy just shrugged. “Suit yourself. There are plenty of fish in the sea.” He placed a wad of bills on the bar, then walked out.
“I’m proud of your choice, Quartz,” Ted began walking towards me, “You could have very easily walked into that strange unknown, but you chose to live only with the most secure choices. That’s important in a world like this.” I nodded at him.
“Tomorrow, Quartz, we’ll see what we can do about achieving your aspirations, eh? All else fails, this bar will still be yours one day.
I wrote Sabrina Tellez a story, and she created an art piece to accompany it Entrapment is the story, and Sage is the art.
I woke up to my abrasive alarm forcing itself into my ears. I turned it off then stretched. There was a brand new day ahead of me, and I wanted to get as much done as I could.
I got out of bed and got dressed. I was ready for whatever came my way. Nothing could stop me from eating breakfast and brushing my teeth! The world was my oyster, and I could have whatever I want!
“Sage, are you ready to get to work?” I heard Mother’s voice call to me from the next room. I followed the sound, and told her yes.
Mother must have been up fairly early, as all of our gear was set up. I immediately got to work. “Thank you, Mother, for preparing our tools without my help.” She smiled, and began to work.
We had only been working for somewhere around an hour before Mother cut her hand. She covered the cut with her other hand, and told me to go downstairs and find our first aid kit. Luckily, she had shown me it before, so I knew exactly what to look for.
I went to the basement level, and began to look through cabinets for the kit. However, after only a few moments, I noticed a small door that I had never seen before. It was only about as tall as my knees. I wondered to myself what it could be for, but I ignored it. Mother’s hand was still bleeding, and I needed to get her bandages.
I looked through another few cupboards before finding the kit, and rushing back upstairs to give it to Mother. She told me where the bandages were, and how to apply them to her hand. Only ten minutes had passed between the initial cut and it getting bandaged. We spent another six hours completing our work.
After our work, Mother congratulated as usual. “I appreciate your efforts, Sage. You may return to your room, and spend your time as you will. Our work shall continue tomorrow.”
I replied in the way I had been taught. “Thank you, Mother, for providing me with fruitful work.”
I returned to my room, and turned on the light, expelling the pitch blackness within. I sat upon my bed, and reflected the knowledge I had. I have been alive for 17 years. I have always been within this home. Mother loves me. My work is appreciated.
Once again, I found myself questioning the knowledge I had. Why did I work? All I’ve ever known is myself and Mother, and she never seems to acknowledge our work outside of when we are working. She never explains the work, and she never tells me about anything. In fact, I don’t even understand why our lights turn on when we press a switch. I don’t actually know anything.
Suddenly, my mind drifted to the tiny door I found hidden in the corner, behind the cupboards that always obstructed my ability to see it. I had never known of it before today. Why was that?
I turned off my lights. “Goodnight, sweet Mother,” I whispered out of habit. I didn’t actually plan to sleep. I was going to enter that door.
I opened my door quietly and barely, then snuck out. There was no light in the hallway. The only reason I could see was because of the dim glow of lights lining where the floor and walls connect. I walked, quietly and crouched, toward the stairs leading down. I snuck down those stairs. This time, it was utterly pitch. There weren’t any lights in the corners like there were everywhere else. I wondered how I never noticed it before.
Still crouching, I used my hands to follow the walls and cabinets, following them until I felt the light divot between the wall and door. I pushed on it. It didn’t move, so I felt for a handle to pull it open. Of course, there was. I found myself crawling through it before truly understanding what I was doing.
It was still just as dark in the other room. I had to crawl blind. I tried to move slowly and keep my head down, just in case I ran into a wall. Eventually, I did.
My head pushed the wall open. It was another door, and it wasn’t closed very securely.
Light fell through the gap. It was a bright light that I wasn’t used to. It was brighter than anything I had ever seen before. I squinted and pushed the door open the rest of the way.
It took at least a couple minutes for my eyes to adjust to the intimidating light. Once they had, however, they couldn’t stop staring at the source. It was a clear wall above me. I looked for a switch to turn it off, but there was none. The light couldn’t be turned off. I looked about the room, and saw colors I had never been familiar with. I only recognised white amongst the rest of strange items. I put my hand onto one of the white ones. It was soft. I felt like I could destroy it by holding just a little too harshly.
Suddenly, I heard a door shut. It was a door I couldn’t see. I froze in place. “Sage, Sage, Sage. I should’ve guessed you were reaching that age. In fact, I thought you would never discover this place. All of the other ones found it after about thirteen years of life. I did think it was strange that you were four years late, but alas, you are here now.”
I turned toward Mother. “What is this place? Why did I never know about it?”
Mother pursed her lips. “It’s a garden. These things are flowers. I use it to disguise the scent in the room beyond. I presume you want to see that room, too?
I nodded. She took my hand, and pulled me around a corner and into a door. Suddenly, the sweet smell of the previous room became apparent as it was wiped out by the rancid one of this room.
This room contained a color I was more familiar with. Red. The color of blood. My heart pounded in my chest. “Goodnight, sweet Sage,” I heard behind before feeling a sharp pain stab into my neck, before everything became the same pitch as the rooms before these.