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By Sara Xu, age 11
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“I then felt a pang of familiarity that disappeared as fast as it came. When the little girl ran into the small cabin the whole vision flickered into a dark, cloudy scene with demon-like arrows flying into people’s hearts, but then the beautiful landscape came back.”

Chapter 1

I admired the little brown houses as I walked through the quaint village. I stopped at the end of the road and saw a beautiful valley in front of me with a tiny stream. I could smell the jasmine and honeysuckle in the air.

Then a stranger with silvery blond hair approached me and with a welcoming smile. She said, “Welcome to the City of ––

Suddenly, she got shot in the back with an arrow. Slowly her eyes turned black, her skin turned grey, she looked at me with a disturbing smile and ––

I jolted up, banging my head on the wooden headboard of my bed. When, I wondered as I rubbed my throbbing head, are these visions going to stop? Although the beginning of the vision felt safe and slightly familiar, I did not like the end when the lady transformed into a creepy creature. Out of all the visions that I’d had, I felt that this one was the worst. Many questions started popping into my mind. How come these visions only started two months ago? Where was the beautiful valley that I saw? And most importantly, what do the visions mean?

“Kayla, the school bus is here!” yelled my mother.

I groaned. Those six words were the words that I dreaded the most every morning. The thought of walking into a seventh grade classroom full of judgmental kids and strict teachers made me shiver, especially when I could have a vision at any time. I grabbed my schoolbag and headed downstairs. Of course my brother was already waiting for me, tapping his foot impatiently when I walked into the tiny kitchen. Why was he so excited about school? I guess because he still was in first grade, and in first grade all you do is play games and read books. Sometimes I wished I was still a little kid: oblivious, carefree, and vision-free.

“Hurry up, Kayla!” My mother snapped me out of my thoughts.

“Yeah, Kayla, hurry up!” Henry (my brother) mimicked. Rushed, I shoved

a muffin in my mouth, grabbed Henry’s small pudgy hand, and hurried toward the dreaded school bus.

I dragged him into the seats in the front row as fast as I could. The kids in the back could be dangerous. They had bullied Henry before (he is very gullible) and I wanted to keep him as safe as possible. The ride to school seemed to go on for a long time, even though it was actually quite short. As we passed the fountain near the park, I thought about the memories of my father there when I was just a little bit younger than Henry.

In books where the protagonist’s mother or father dies, the character always remembers only a snippet or two about their parents. But I could remember every little detail about my dad. Weirdly, my mother never appeared in these memories, it was just me and my dad. Me and Dad racing down the streets of New York. Me and Dad sliding down the slides in the park. Me and Dad reading a book together. I also remembered the night he left. Before he drove off into the foggy night and left me with my mother he said, Reach deep down into your heart and remember.

Before I knew it, hundreds of children were rushing out of the bus. Grabbing my brother’s hand we pushed our way to the exit.

“Bye Kayla!!! See you after school!” Henry bounced away into the small building on the left side of the field of grass. Sighing, I waved goodbye to him and walked to the huge building on the right side. After putting all my books away, I found the English classroom. It was covered with school projects and decorations that brought back bad memories of the past years: Ms. Gutter’s attempt to make the classroom seem like a ‘happy environment.’ Ms. Gutter finally walked in, wearing her long weird robes (where did she buy those from?) and lipstick. Even though she was very cheerful, she always gave us a quiz every three days.

“Oh no! I forgot the classical music today! Why didn’t you kids remind me?”

… No response.

“I see, aren’t we all tired today!”

… No response. That’s basically how the whole class went.  

The morning flew by and soon it was time for history class. History class was the most boring class ever!! Ms. Rath drones on and on during the whole class, so you would understand my ‘excitement’ for history class. I walked into class and took my usual seat in the middle. Ms. Rath started her lecture about World War II (or something). She started talking about the book we were going to read when I felt a nauseous feeling in my stomach and the desks in front of me started fading to white. The whole world around me changed into diluted colors. I always felt this familiar feeling in my stomach when I was about to have a vision. Panicked, I stumbled out of my seat and trudged to the corner of the faded room, attempting to hide from the other people in the room. I looked out the window and saw…

the same breathtaking valley. But this time a dark, curly-haired little girl pranced through the green grass and spun in circles. Then another figure appeared beside her and lifted her up on his broad shoulders, let out a deep rumbling laugh that vibrated through my chest. I then felt a pang of familiarity that disappeared as fast as it came. When the little girl ran into the small cabin the whole vision flickered into a dark, cloudy scene with demon-like arrows flying into people’s hearts, but then the beautiful landscape came back.

A moment later, the desks materialized again and then the shocked faces of my peers popped out from the fog, and lamely I replied, “I have a stomach ache.”

… Silence.

“Of course you do!” Ms. Rath cut in, “Let’s get you to the nurse. Don’t worry, Kayla!”

Ms. Rath dragged me into the enclosed hallways and once we got to a small corner she stopped and faced me, her cheerful and serene smile twisted into a dark frown. “What were you thinking, going to school without consuming the right medication this morning? You never had a vision before during school, are you running out of the pills?” She scolds, looking down at me. I was shocked.

“Uh, I, um, what?” Ms. Rath’s anger bubbled down to confusion.

“Your medications, the one you take to prevent the visions. Your father gave them to you! You will obviously be getting visions when you are this far away from the City.”

I paused for a second, the shock of finding out that Ms. Rath knew about my visions faded away and was replaced by the realization that the question that had clouded my mind for almost a month had been answered.

“You know why I’m getting these visions? You know?”

“Of course I know! I was assigned as your father’s advisor when he took you and left the City. You grew up there, that’s why you’re getting visions. Why didn’t your father tell you all of this?”

“My father left me and my mom, and from what I remember, he never told me anything about this ‘City’!” After saying this, it felt like ten weights were dropped on my heart; I couldn’t take all this information. “Okay, I think I feel a little — ” I searched for the right words to say to Ms. Rath’s impatient face, “overwhelmed.”

Without saying anything else, I pushed past her to get inside the classroom to grab my stuff, ignoring the weird looks with confidence. Then I called my mom, saying that I had a headache and I wanted to walk home.

I finally took my first full breath of air walking outside onto the bumpy sidewalk; watching the big puff of air dissolve into the cold winter sky. This was how I escaped: I had to be by myself, outside with no walls surrounding me. I started to think about what Ms. Rath had said. She used to be my father’s advisor in this whole different city (that I didn’t remember), why would my father need an advisor? She had also mentioned that I grew up there.

That was why these visions seemed so familiar! There was also a medication I could take to prevent the visions? How come I didn’t remember all of this? By the time I passed the Choo Choo Train Park, where I had fallen and broken my knee a while back (I never played in there ever again), I figured out the answers to my questions, I needed to see my father.

I climbed up the stairs two steps at a time up to my room and flopped face down onto my old worn quilt. My aura of peace quickly faded away once I was inside my room. After a few minutes of silence, I heard the steps of my mother’s soft slippers climbing up the stairs. I sighed ready for her to interrogate me. She walked in and looked at me for a good ten seconds and then walked over to sit beside me. Her blond hair tickled my cheek.

“How was your walk?” She looked at me with kind eyes. I laughed. My mother always asked the smart and unexpected questions, I loved her personality.

“It was relaxing and it cleared my mind,” I told her, smiling. My mom nodded with an understanding face and we just sat there quietly. I then thought about my idea to find my dad. Should I tell her? No, then I’ll have to tell her about my visions and I can’t do that, there must be a reason for why my dad left. I then crawled into my bed to lay down and calm my pounding head. Soon after that, I felt the weight of my mom leaving the bed and walking out of my room.

 

Chapter 2

I loved little children. They were so innocent. Henry was innocent but he was also very smart and educated about the world. Kids were not judgmental at all. That was why I was excited when my mom told me that my baby cousin Maureen was coming over to barbeque with us. Finally, I had somebody to spill my problems to! I felt like telling Henry about our dad might be too overwhelming. I didn’t want him to feel the same way I felt and I didn’t want to frighten him.

After hearing the shrieking of my two little cousins entering our quiet house, I rushed downstairs. Immediately guilt crept over me when I saw Henry realize that he had gotten home on the bus by himself.

“Oh Henry, I’m so sorry I didn’t come down earlier when you came home!” I reached over to ruffle his fluffy blonde hair.

“That’s okay, I know you have a bad headache,” he replied. I felt lonely realizing that he and my mom didn’t know about about the visions, or about this whole other life in this crazy demonized city that our dad potentially lives in. A high-pitched squeal broke mye away from my thoughts ––

“Maureen!” I looked to the doorway and saw my tired but bright-looking Aunt Pearl (I had always loved that name) and Uncle Thomas carrying little two year old Maureen and her brother, Peter, who was two years older than her.

My mother shrieked as she ushered the small group of people into the living room.

“Hi! Come in, come in! I missed you so much.” That was probably true, my mother’s whole family lived in Brighton so having them come to visit us in New York state was only a once-in-awhile type of thing. Aunt Pearl nodded and followed my mom into the cheerful room chattering excitedly and admiring Henry’s artwork from school hanging on the walls. Henry makes a beeline to Peter soon after the family settles down. I think Henry liked to boss him around after being bossed around by me (I tried my best to not tell him what to do, but sometimes the orders just slipped out!) so he chosed to play with Peter. I brought Maureen to the small playroom filled with random toy trucks and cars that Henry played with. I watched her grab and whack a small purple car. I sighed remembering the happy carefree times before I got my visions, two months ago, I didn’t have to take some medication to be able to go to school and there were no gaping holes in my life.

“Maureen, do you know who my father is?” I asked her.  Her little blonde head perked up after hearing her name and she stared at me blankly. “That’s okay, I don’t know who he is myself. I don’t even know where he lives. I mean, is he still alive?” I rambled on and on about my dad not caring about what the little girl next to me was thinking. Suddenly, Maureen pointed at the window behind me, her face pale. Whimpers started to come out of her tiny mouth. I stopped, my mouth seeming to zip up like the jacket hanging on the wooden rack. I turned around slowly, this was probably how the characters in horror movies felt; that rush of panic in your stomach.

The person standing –– no, floating –– was smiling at Maureen with black, empty eyes. His skin was grey, and there was a black arrow that seemed to vibrate stuck in his back. A picture flashed through my mind: the woman who approached me in my vision. I shrieked when I made eye contact with his ghostly eyes. Weirdly, fear appeared in his eyes and the man started to disappear, limb by limb. I looked at Maureen, she stared back at me, and screamed.

My mother rushed into the room. She stopped when she saw my eyes. I looked at her, scared and confused. After she grabbed Maureen she walked toward me slowly and almost cautiously. I followed her gaze to the antique mirror that hung above the small table on the wall. I rushed to it and stared at myself. Frizzy brown hair, pale skin, orange eyes –– WAIT! I do not have orange eyes! I started to panic, I looked down at the scratched wooden floor and then stared at the mirror again. The fiery orange faded into its usual, normal, dull brown color that I saw every time I looked at myself in the mirror. I heard Aunt Pearl and Uncle Tom walk over and turn silent in the back of my mind. I looked to the left and saw Henry staring at me, his mouth wide open. I just stared at the mirror in horror, what am I? What thing did I become?

 

The night went by in a blur, and all I saw was the fear in my mother’s eyes, imprinted in my mutant eyes. Never in my life, had I felt so terrified and uncomfortable. My visions started to come into the world; they were actually real. So that meant that this city was actually real, this whole mess was real. There was a hole in my chest –– you know, that sour feeling that you get when you drown in panic and confusion. The feeling that I got when I was lost in the new gigantic building in the beginning of middle school? That feeling was taking over my heart.

My mother stopped talking to me altogether. I think she was still trying to wrap her head around the idea that I’m a creepy mutant person with wonky eyes. I’m also trying.

I realized that I was the only person in this realistic world who knew about these visions. Except… except for Ms. Rath. Ms. Rath knows about the City. She was my father’s advisor. It seemed like my teacher had more to tell me before I ran away.

 

During the evening, we went out to our well kept lawn to stargaze. I tried to make out each constellation but failed. How are you able to organize so many stars into one constellation?

I sighed when I went under the covers. Another day of potential visions. Another day of fear. Another day of confusion.

 

Chapter 3

My next mission was to find Ms. Rath and make sure that she told me everything she knew about my dad and my eyes. Without going to school. Do you really expect me to be able to go to school the day after having a frightening (and embarrassing) ‘stomach ache’? No you don’t. That was why I was never going back to that history classroom. Fortunately, I didn’t have a vision last night, and I was granted permission miss school. That means I had a whole day to think about my eyes. My weird eyes.

My mom and I were both a little bit rattled after the incident last night and I got a refreshing vision-free night to let the idea of my mutant facial body part sink in. I hoped my mom was as understanding as she always was. I sighed as I walked down the hall to the bathroom. It seemed like I’d been sighing a lot lately. I wondered why. I was stopped by Henry.

“I have been having dreams.” That sentence that came out of my brother’s mouth stopped me on my tracks. “Weird dreams. Weird dreams with big orange eyes staring at me, with Dad telling me to ‘remember’ or something like that.” Henry seemed to get more frightened with each word.
You have been having dreams about my eyes? Since when?” My brother may know more about me than I do.

“The first dream started two months ago, but I have only gotten three in total.” Henry paused, it seemed like he wanted to tell me more, but his emotions were holding him back. A few seconds later Henry whispered in a timid voice “I’m worried, Kayla.” My insides crushed. I was able to deal with my visions but the thought of Henry having to go through them too made me feel horrible.

“It’s ok to be afraid, Henry. I’ve been having visions too. They’re about our dad and a city where demons are invading. I’m trying to find out more about this mess and I think I know someone who might know more about our dad and my abilities,” I told him, trying to help Henry understand.  His eyes lit up, he probably saw this as some sort of adventure in the comic books… Kayla and Henry’s Adventure to Find Their History Teacher to Find Out More About Their Father!!!

I want to read that comic.

“Kayla, you may not think so, but I think your powers are really cool. In my dreams, your eyes have saved lives, actually, they called it Kratos?” Henry said thoughtfully. I saved lives? Me?

“You know what? We are going to find out more about this whole situation. My history teacher, Ms. Rath, knows about our father and ––

“Wait, your history teacher, the one who is friends with Mom? She babysits me while you’re gone!” Henry interrupted me. Ms. Rath babysits Henry? Knowing that she has been inside my home for something not related to school creeped me out. A lot. But that also meant that I could talk to her about everything. Finally, I felt so relieved to talk to someone about my visions.

 

Chapter 4

I stared at the demon towering over me, trying to get into its ugly mind. I snapped my fingers and the demon, with the five demons behind it, disappeared into ashes. I felt a fraction of my energy fade away as I stumbled to the safe house nearest to me. My energy seemed to be dissolving more and more every time I destroyed demons. I moved around the many injured people and went to go find my sister who told me specifically to meet her in the safe house near the Lily River after three in the afternoon. I heard shouts from out of the window and the whistle of an arrow. I wanted to scream in frustration. Why wasn’t General Lucien sending in the city’s powerful troops? Was he only relying on the talents of the Mutatia? The General’s intelligence seemed to be dimming after his advisor left. Our proud and beautiful city cannot be turned into a wasteland of demons.

“ Clairementine! Over here!” I turn my head to my sister sitting on the bench, finishing up wrapping a big bandage around a wounded Mutatia. I sighed at the sound of her childhood nickname for me. “Finally, I was so worried after the General sent the alarm to the Mutatia and you didn’t come back!” Her gentle face was eerily calm as she stared me down. I avoided her look by looking at my small signal panel on my wrist that was buzzing with an alert –– ALL MUTATIA MUST RETURN TO THE SAFEHOUSES BY THE FOURTH HOUR.  –– General Lucien. Oops. That’s why I did not recognize anyone on the battlefield.

“How did you even know about the alert, Grace?” I interrogated my sister. She sheepishly pointed at the wrist of her old Mutatia patient. I sighed and slumped into the dated, out-of-place, armchair. The springs squeaked under the new weight. I ripped of the silver mask that proved my status.

“Claire!” I just closed my eyes, not wanting to deal with anyone at this moment. “Claire! Wake up!” I inwardly groaned and opened my eyes. I see Brendan’s concerned face staring down at me. “Oh, good you’re awake.” I really wanted to laugh but I knew it would be unseemly for this situation.

“The General wanted all the captains to repower in the safehouses.” I nodded and dismissed my messenger. He still lingered. I turned my head and was about to question it when he said, “Most of your Saplings died overusing their power and the general was very angry.”

WHAT!!! Okay, calm down. I’m the leader I have to stay calm. “Oh! That’s awful! I will have to speak to him later to get some advice. Thank you so much for the information.” I said through gritted teeth. Brendan seemed to be disgusted at my lack of sympathy for the young Mutatia who died, but still understood my cue to leave. Even though he was almost a year older than me, it didn’t matter, he would still take my orders –– I was his captain. All of us trained and fought together equally. Anyone could also be your group’s captain, if you worked hard and wanted the responsibility. The responsibility. That was probably the worst part of my job. I was good at battle plans and organizing everyone and I loved being a leader; someone people could respect and look up to you, but I disliked having to always be bothered, always having to discuss things with other leaders, saying the right thing to be a good role model for my Saplings and, of course, making sure that they were trained the right way and using their privileged powers correctly. The young fighters were always so passionate about defending their city, they overused their talents, some were more powerful than others, and didn’t get to recharge in the madness of battle, therefore, they died.

I was used to all these tragedies –– people dying, turning into demons, etc.

I followed the signs of the safehouse to the repowering station, slipping my mask back on, and feeling a bit self conscious, as I do each time I put it on. Once I saw the small enclosed room, I waited on the line of Mutatia. Energy was extremely important to us. No energy? No powers, and no defending our city. Some Mutatia used different types of energy, but most used electricity. The general tried to experiment with other types of energy; water,  fire, wind, and solar. Different Mutatia reacted to different types, so the General decided to just use all of them. I was assigned to do tests on the energies for my project as captain last year. It took maybe about ten million years and ten million pounds of hard work to complete it. But the outcome was useful for my group and my battle friends. I figured out that the most powerful type of energy is electricity, and the least powerful was solar power. The line shuffled forward.

When I finished charging up I set off to find the General to talk about the situation. I tapped my wristband on my arm to to turn on the green light in the corner of the screen, to turn on my tracking device so my leader can know where I am. (You have to turn it off while in the power station). Every time I saw the lime green light flash on, I  felt a vibration between the vertebra of my neck which sent shudders down my spine. I seemed to be the only captain who has not adapted to this feeling, the feeling of people watching you and your every move. Maybe if they had chosen somewhere else to place the device, like my arm, I would not feel the vibrations.

Even though the battles outside my window are ruthless and bloody, the enemies do have some sort of organized plan that we have learned to live around. It goes mostly by hours. Because I have gotten used to the war scene after many years, I had learned the “schedule” and memorized it. I had to, all captains had to. Out of all the inhabitants of this city, the ones I pitied the most were the newborns, the toddlers. They have to grow up and figure out who they were while this war was raging outside their windows. While they took their first steps, and babbled their first words, there would be sounds of battle and demons in the background. Their first memories would be of having to hide in their shelters, and they would not be able to enjoy the amazing landscape of the city. While my childhood was full of oblivious, carefree, and battle-free memories: bounding down the valleys with Grace and spending time with my mother baking goods for our neighbors, (our city prides ourselves on the value of community that all children are being taught in their daily lives). There were little of these precious memories but I kept them close to my heart.

Sometimes I wondered if inhabitants of this city were actually going to experience that kind of life now that it has changed so much. Instead of superiors being the mayor, politicians, educators, the most important leader of our society was the General and people here looked up to the military: the fighters and their captains, and at the moment it was the Mutatia.

I wondered what the change “back to normal” will be like. Hard? Quick? Or will things slowly start to change. How will we ever forget the hours of when the demons will strike or when they rest and we can finally run back home that are lodged into our brain? I would never be able to stroll across town in the middle of the fifth hour (when the demons fight their second to last attack) calmly, weaponless.

Getting rid of these thoughts that came across my mind daily, I readjusted my mask that never seemed to form comfortably over my skin like it did for my fellow leaders. I then took a sharp turn left in a small alley way, ducking my head to avoid eye contact with anyone else.

 

Chapter 5

The General’s office was right in the middle of the city, for easy access. Usually he had many visitors, but at that hour, most inhabitants were “enjoying” their time in their homes. As I walked up the steps, a figure came into view. She had a silver mask on, covering her face the same way mine covers my face. The long dark braid that tumbled gracefully down her back was the only way I recognized the captain. Rayna. Funny how it took so long for me to determine who someone, that I have worked with for many years, was. She rudely bumped into me to acknowledge me.

“Oh, Claire, I did not see you in any of the safehouses. I was worried,” she said in a polite manner (but fake), even though she was obviously trying to embarrass me for not paying attention to the alert. She had always been like this, since we were younger and we just started learning how to be captains. Once, I smuggled in a bag of chips during a training to eat during break and, of course, Rayna was there and saw me take a bite out of a crunchy, greasy potato chip. She immediately told our trainer and he has hated me ever since. I have hated her ever since.

“I did not notice the message,” I replied stiffly. I did not want to give her any satisfaction with my tone.

“I heard what happened to your group,” she smiled. Wow, she just went straight into it. She didn’t even try to be polite this time. She was with me during the lecture about how keeping the fighters in your group safe and by saying that, she reminded me of why I should be ashamed. For once I was glad my mask was over my head because I am not good at hiding the emotions on my face. I roughly shoved past her, and strode up the rest of the stairs.

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