Today's Tomorrow By St. Joan of Arc Class of 2018

Fighting to keep my tears at bay, I raced up to my room on the second floor of my house. I slammed open the door, leaving a mark on the wall, but I didn’t care, I didn’t care about anything anymore. I didn’t care about school or friends or my life, I just was done with everything wrong with my life. I threw the door closed and locked it, the click of the lock ringing in my head. I leaned against the door and slowly slid down. I drew my legs close to my chest, clutching them so hard I knew I’d leave marks, like I’ve done so many times before.
Today's Tomorrow
Today's Tomorrow By St. Joan of Arc Class of 2018

All the tears I had been holding in all day swelled in my eyes. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to rid myself of the voices screaming in my head, but I could not drown them out; I never could anyways.

The voices knew me better than all of my friends; they knew my fears, weaknesses, and insecurities. They exploited these things, telling me no one cared about me and constantly telling me how worthless I am. At first I refused to believe them, but then I realized how right they were.

No one even noticed when I suddenly became distant or when I started wearing long sleeves all the time. They only asked me if I was okay, to which I replied, “I’m fine,” or “I’m just tired,” because I knew they didn’t actually care, they were only trying to be polite. Eventually though, they stopped asking, they stopped caring altogether.

I pushed people away because I didn't want anyone to get hurt if I killed myself. If no one cared, it would be easier if I came to the point where I couldn't take life anymore, at least that’s what the voices told me. Looking at it now, I realized how wrong the voices were.

I was sitting on the floor in a puddle of tears, and no one even realized. I was weak. I wasn't strong enough to fight against the demons in my mind, if I hadn't given up I might not have been in this situation. For some reason this thought caused even more tears. It was my fault I was depressed. It was my fault no one cared about me anymore. I was weak. I was pathetic. Everything was my fault and I just wanted it to be over.

Finding the strength to stand, I got up and walked to my vanity across the room. I opened the last drawer and pulled out my childhood jewelry box. Memories of the little girl I used to be floated in my mind, and began rolling down my cheeks, as I looked at the tiny painted fairies standing out against the faint pink box.

As a little girl I was always happy and smiling. I had endless hope in the world and thought everything about it was perfect. But when I started hearing stories about people killing themselves, I couldn't understand. Why would anyone want to kill him or herself when the world was so wonderful? But as I grew up, I soon realized the world wasn't such a wonderful place. People only truly care about themselves and will do anything for their own self gain.

I opened the old box and pulled out an object covered in cloth, my most prized possession. I carefully unwrapped the object to reveal a dull blade. When I took it from my father’s arsenal of hunting knives, a year ago, it was shiny and sharp, but after a year of using it, it quickly became worn down.

Ever so carefully, I positioned the blade above my forearm. I welcomed the faint pain like an old friend, but it wasn't enough. I pushed the blade harder against my skin causing more blood to come pouring out, spilling down my arms and onto the wood floor.

When I first took the blade to myself I did not find the pleasure that others had found, the pain was unbearable, but when the blood began to clot I knew what the pleasure was. For the first time I forgot about how worthless I was. The pain distracted me and offered relief, even if it was only temporary. I did it more and more until I was doing it every other day. Soon it stopped hurting, so I began going deeper. It was like taking a hot shower. At first it burns, but then your body adjusts to the heat so you turn up the heat some more. You keep doing that, but then you get out of the shower and see how red the heat made your body. You promise yourself not to do it again, but you can't help turning up the heat in your next shower.

I took a towel from one of the drawers and started cleaning my wrists and the ground. I wiped the knife and covered it again before I tucked it away. In my heart I knew there were other, less harmful ways of coping with the pain, but this one offered me the risk of dying. For some odd reason the chance of killing myself comforted me. I wanted the pain to be gone forever, but for some reason I was still alive.

I didn't know why I was still alive, I guess the thought of the unknown scared me more than tomorrow did. I was worried I’d miss something or one person might actually be destroyed by my death. I’ve been told that suicide is never the answer but it felt like suicide was the only way to rid myself of all the pain. Maybe I would be happy again if I killed myself, I was already dead inside anyway. I had stopped living years ago. There was no reason for me to be happy anymore, and what’s life without happiness? Everyday I survived, I didn't live, there was nothing in my life worth living for. And I was done just surviving. I wanted it to be over, I wanted instant results.

I sauntered over to my desk and pulled out a sheet of paper and a black ballpoint pen. I pulled out my chair and took a seat. The moment the pen was in my hand, I was writing. Words were flowing out out of me like a hole in a dam. Everything I had been bottling up came pouring out, except it wasn't in the way I had become accustomed to. Instead of tears, my emotions and thoughts were being released through words.

Dear whoever’s reading this,

If you are reading this, that means I am dead, hopefully. If I am just unconscious then life is very, very cruel. I will just have to assume I am dead and that is the reason you are reading this.

I have been depressed for as long as I can remember. I have never had a best friend who I could trust with a secret this big, so I kept it inside until I couldn't take any more, until now. I wish someone had noticed the pain I have been in. No one noticed the fake smiles and every forced, “I’m fine.” No one bothered to look into my eyes and see the sadness I could not hide. I wish someone knew before I did this, but I thought keeping it to myself was the best option. I didn't want anyone to worry about me.

I constantly struggle with self-doubt and self-esteem issues. There are voices in my head that know every little thing about me and make me feel awful. It all started the beginning of seventh grade, that’s when I realized I had depression. I tried telling people, but no one cared. One person I told asked if I was okay then didn't make sure I was okay again, and the other just told me she was depressed too, except she could turn hers on and off at will. I knew no one would understand, but if they did I would only burden them. I learned early on how to hide my true emotions and suppress them until I could let them out secretly.

Everyday is a constant struggle. Some days I can't even get out of bed, yet I somehow I do. I feared someone would notice my absence and assume there was something wrong with me, and there is. I wanted people to know, yet I didn’t. I wanted people know and help me, but there was always the fear they would not believe me and not care. Sometimes I skipped meals to feel skinnier and when that just left me hungry, I'd binge eat. Binge eating made me feel even fatter, so I skipped meals again, continuing the vicious cycle, yet I could not stop myself. I wanted so desperately to be desirable. I didn't necessarily want to be skinny, I just wanted to be pretty because I wanted people to come up to me and genuinely want to be my friend. But when that didn't work, I thought something was wrong with me.

Depression is confusing. It jumbles up my thoughts and clouds my better judgement. In my heart, I knew the voices were wrong, yet my mind thought what they said was true, and treated their words as such. Depression is a weird thing and only those who have experienced it can truly understand it. It is one thing to read about it or have a loved one go through it, but to actually feel the weight of it and experience the mind-numbing pain is a completely different thing. Most of the things I feel contradict themselves. I feel like no one would miss me if I was gone, yet one of the only reasons I lived so long was because I feared someone might miss me.

I know everyone will call me selfish for this, and it is nothing but selfish. I'm sorry I was not strong enough to fight the war raging in my head and I'm sorry I was a coward for running away from it, but let me just say this: suicide is not the cowards’ way out. You have no idea how much courage it takes to end my life and head into the unknown. I'm scared, but anything will be better than this.

I know you will miss me, but honestly you cannot cry over my absence. That sounds harsh but it’s true. You never bothered to make sure I was okay or make an effort to make me feel loved when I was alive, you just thought everything was normal because that’s what I wanted you to think, yet you didn't realize anything was wrong. Don't you dare miss me because I'm dead, I've been absent a long time and you didn't miss me then so there is no difference. But don't blame yourself, this is my fault, everything is. It's my fault I was too scared to ask for help and it's my fault I was weak enough to succumb to the demons dwelling in my head in the first place.

Please remember me fondly,

Annabelle Browne

I hadn't even realized how powerful words were until I read back what I had wrote. I fixed my spelling and grammar and put the pen away. I got up from the chair and left the note on the desk.

I went back into the drawer and pulled the knife back out. I twirled it between my fingers as I stalked over to my full length mirror across the room. As I came to the mirror I saw a reflection I had grown accustomed to. The girl in the mirror had tear-stained cheeks with her mascara running down them. She had red marks on her arms, her body slouched, and had eyes that anyone could tell had cried many, many tears. The girl in the mirror was ugly and fat and disgusting. The girl in the mirror had nothing to live for and constantly wanted to die. The girl in the mirror was me. I was ugly and fat and disgusting and all I wanted in the world was to be happy again, but I knew that was impossible, so death was my only answer.

I positioned the blade right about where I knew my ulnar artery was. I didn't care that my death might hurt people, not anymore; I didn't care that things might get better in the future; and I certainly didn't care about my life. I looked into the mirror one last time to look at the suicidal girl I had turned into, but the reflection I saw surprised me. It wasn't me.

Standing right in front of me was an old woman, her long gray hair pulled back into a loose bun at the back of her head. She was beautiful in the way old people were, how you could just tell they had lived through many hard times and all you wanted to do was listen to their stories. Just looking at her, I could tell she was wise beyond her years.

In my state of confusion, I dropped the blade onto the ground. The deep thud the knife made when it hit the ground was the only sound I could hear, besides my own breathing, as I stared at the strange woman in front of me. She stood still, and I began to extend my arm to touch her. I could see her chest rising and falling, yet I did not hear the inhale or exhale of her breath. My hand neared her hit, but I hit the glass of my mirror. This strange woman just stared at my hand resting upon the glass. I wanted to scream, but I remained silent. This was probably a hallucination from too much blood loss.

As I slowly pulled my hand away from the glass the woman spoke. Her voice was deep, but feminine.

“What do you think you’re doing?! You’re getting fingerprints all over the glass. How am I supposed to see clearly if all you want to do is touch the mirror?”

I opened my mouth, but I could not find any words to convey all the emotions running through my head. Who was this woman and why was she in my mirror?

After a moment of awkward silence, I finally found my voice.

“Who are you?” I stumbled backwards at hearing the shakiness of my words. Usually I could hide my true emotions easily, but I couldn't help but stumble over my words.

“I’m your fairy-godmother, of course! I saw that you’ve been cutting for awhile now. I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. The laws of my time are different than yours. I had so much paperwork to fill out just to look after you, and I had to promise not to do anything to interfere with your fate, but I can’t let you kill yourself, you’re not supposed to die yet.”

My jaw clenched tightly as my anger boiled up inside. Why did this stranger come into my life now? If she wasn't allowed to interfere with my fate then why was she stopping me from killing myself? Who was she to tell me it wasn’t time for me to die yet?

This was my life, not hers, and I wanted to kill myself. Nothing she could say would convince me my life was worth living. She didn't know all the pain I was in, both physically and mentally, she had absolutely no idea. She was an old lady, she grew up years before I was even conceived. Things were different back then. I hated her. I hated her for thinking she knew everything about me when she didn't, not really.

If she had been telling the truth about watching over me then she just knew of the cutting, she did not know of the depression I constantly struggled with. She did not know how many times I had considered killing myself, and how many times I had remained strong. She only came to talk to me now.

Not everyone who cuts is suicidal and not everyone who is suicidal cuts, a voice in my head whispered cutting through all my thoughts. Maybe she didn't know for sure if you were suicidal and she was just waiting to see before she risked helping you.

I decided to give her a chance and started to put my feelings into words for her.

“You don't understand. I want to die. I don't care if it’s ‘not my time yet’ or whatever, I just want the pain to go away, I just want to die. My life is worthless and no one loves me, not really. No one notices how sad I’ve become and it hurts to know I’m actually alone in this fight against the demons. I want someone to see past this mask I’ve grown accustomed to wearing and ask me if I’m okay. I don't want it to be just a polite question though, I want them to mean it. I want someone to hug me and tell me everything’s going to be okay, but no one ever will because I pushed everyone away and everything’s my fault and it would just be better if I was gone.”

I didn't realize I had started crying until a single tear fell onto the ground. I had never been able to say what I was feeling to anyone, especially a stranger, but something about my ‘fairy godmother’ was comforting. I felt like I knew her, maybe I had met her in a previous life, not that I believed in that sort of stuff, but it was possible.

“I know exactly what you're going through, believe me, I do. I was once where you were right now. It gets better. I promise. It might not feel like that now, but it does. I know killing yourself is an option, and I'm not going to tell you it's not because it is, but it’s not the only one. You can tell people and get help, that’s what I did. It seems hard, but once you do it, it's the easiest thing in the world. The most difficult part is trying to silence the voices and demons long enough to tell someone. Worrying about the future isn't going to change it, you must stop overthinking and do it if you ever want to see results and get better.”

“I want to tell someone. I really do, but I don't want to be a burden. I want to save myself, and I've tried to, but I have no one to rely on. I can't tell anyone though because I don't want anyone to worry about me. In my heart I know I have to tell someone in order to heal, but I can't find the courage to do it. I'm scared of being labeled and an attention seeker or having no one who actually believes me. I want people to know, but I don't want to tell them. If I tell them then that means they didn't notice; but when they do ask about it, I can't say anything. I'm broken and I need help, yet I can't tell anyone because no one will care. So I will suffer in silence if it means no one will worry about me.

“But what if you killed yourself?” she countered. “Then all you did was cause someone else even more pain. Suicide isn't the answer, even though it feels like it is. There will always be a way to overcome those horrid thoughts. By killing yourself, while you end your pain, you end up passing it along to someone else. You say you don't want to hurt those you love, yet by killing yourself you'd be doing just that. It’d destroy them, all of them. It's better to burden them now, while you're alive, and stay alive. They’ll get over the sudden shock eventually, but they will never get over the pain of seeing your body limp in a puddle of your own blood. They will never forget the shock of seeing the blade, red and sticky, still in your hands and the dried blood surrounding the place where you slit your wrists open. Your father’s eyes will never stop mirroring the way your body lied on the ground. Your mother will often stare off into nothingness, imagining bringing you home from the hospital after they saved your life. Your sister will wake up every morning and look at your closed door, hoping you're just sleeping silently. She’ll pray that one day you wake up and come downstairs for breakfast, just one last time. Your friends will never stop blaming themselves for letting you kill yourself. And your favorite teacher will look at your desk everyday and wonder when you'll come back, he’ll do this even past the time everyone else in your class graduates. Your death would break everyone who loves you, and I know you don't want to hurt them.”

I opened and closed my mouth, trying to force out words, but I couldn't find the right ones. Your death would break everyone who loves you, and I know you don't want to hurt them. Her words kept repeating in my head. I forgot about the depression and the voices, the only thing I knew was that I couldn't hurt anyone who loved me. I had to keep being strong and fight. There was a war raging in my head and I would not lose. I was not only fighting for myself anymore, I was fighting for everyone who loved me.

I buried my head into my hands and sobbed. I could not kill myself, not after learning how deeply it would affect people. I could not let anyone go through what I was going through. I promised myself I would tell someone about my depression and self-harming habits. I looked up to ask my fairy godmother what to do next, but when I looked into the mirror, she was gone. A new figure had replaced her.

This new woman was significantly taller than my fairy godmother and had jet black hair like my own. She looked exactly how I wanted to look: perfect figure, perfect complexion, perfect hair, perfectly content with herself; and I could tell she knew it too, by the way she stood up straight and looked me in the eye. She was the type of woman who could get anything she wanted, not because she was beautiful, but because she’d work hard to make sure she did.

“Let me guess. You're my Guardian Angel?” I asked, my words dripping with sarcasm.

She let out a cackle and started wheezing. Somehow, she looked even more perfect, if that was even possible. She didn't give a care in the world if anyone judged her.

“Heavens no! That would mean I died and I certainly would want that. No one would be there to take care of my children except my husband. I love that man more than I love myself, but he would not be able to handle our children. He’d probably be able to take care of our son, but certainly not our daughter. Whoops! Sorry, I got sidetracked. Where were we? Um. Yes! I am not your Guardian Angel. I am you as an adult.”

I went into shock for the millionth time in the past hour. This woman could not be me. She was confident in her own body and had a husband and children. No man in his right mind would marry a girl like me, much less have children and raise them with me.

“What do you mean ‘I’m you as an adult’?”

“Exactly what the statement implies. I'm future you. And yes I didn't believe it either when he asked me to marry him and start a family with him. And before you freak out I know what you're thinking because this is the night that changed my life forever, I was once you. I remember everything I was told, everything I'm about to tell you: you're going to live a hard life; people are going to judge you and question you, but you'll rise above, just like I did.”

“But how exactly do I rise above that stuff when I can hardly tell anyone about my depression?” In the back of my mind I still believed no would believe me, or care.

I didn't doubt she was me. Our hair was the exact same shade, except her’s was cut mid-length opposed to my long hair. Our facial structures were similar, we had the same strong jaw and prominent cheekbones, the only difference between us was her eyes. There was life behind those eyes. I could see the joy and sorrow in her vibrant jade eyes. Looking into those eyes I saw the reflection of my own. I saw my eyes’ reflection melt into her eyes, and for the first time since my childhood, I let myself hope that I could get better, and my life was worth living.

“The first step you need to take is to accept that what you're feeling is okay. Many people are going through what you are, but that doesn't mean what you're going through is less than them. You need to tell someone who you know you can trust, not your friends though, not unless you want to. You need to tell someone who can assist you in getting the help you need. I told Mr. Jones, he took me to see a counselor who told me I needed to see a therapist. He helped me research local therapists and find a good one. He told mom and dad too, after I asked him to. They were hurt that I felt I couldn't talk to them, but they made sure I went to therapy. I still see a therapist to this day. I find that talking to someone about my problems helps make them feel lighter.”

“Oh I love him! He’s my favorite teacher. I love learning everything he teaches me. I know I can trust him with anything, I’ll tell him, in person, on Monday morning, right after class, I know he has a break second hour.” I thought of how I'd tell him, but I couldn't focus with my future self staring back at me through my mirror. I'd have to think of how I'd tell him later, when I wasn't distracted.

“I know when I was your age I thought I was ugly and looking at you right now, I can see how wrong I was. You're beautiful, but not in the way most people can see. You have a grace that surrounds you, a grace that draws people to you. I can tell how strong you are and your scars only prove that. The tear stains on your cheeks are not permanent and I can promise one day you'll learn to love the scars I know you hate now. You'll look back at this time and ask yourself what you were doing. What were you thinking cutting and trying to kill yourself? But I promise you'll realize how this has shaped you. Yes, it has helped you develop the skill of wearing an invisible mask and hiding your emotions, but you'll learn to trust people again.

“This experience will teach you how miniscule your problems are compared to the wonders you have yet to experience. You already know how much life can hurt and take from you, so when life gives you all the joys that are coming your way, you'll forget all about the pain you once endured, if only for a moment.

“I cannot promise that you'll forget all of this, I know when I was you I tried to implement everything all at once but that didn't work. I wanted instant results and when that didn't happen, I got angry. I snapped and lost most of my friends because I was in a constant state of anger. When I found the source of those feelings I was able to overcome them and take my life back.

“If you can only take one thing from this, I hope you take away that your life is worth living. You are too smart, too beautiful, too cunning, and definitely too kind for the world to lose you. And once you realize how loved you are, you must learn to love yourself. You cannot expect people to love you and live off their love, that’s one way to self demise. You must learn to love yourself for who you are, not who you want to be. If you cannot love yourself, then how can you expect someone else to love you?”

I stared at her, trying to take everything in. Here was this amazing, successful woman giving me advice to keep me here, trying her hardest because if she could not convince me then she'd cease to exist, altering the future.

I believed everything she said. I believed that in order to find happiness I had to accept that I was not perfect, but love myself nonetheless. I hoped I turned out to be like this powerful woman standing in the mirror, I hoped I could one day find it in myself to be her.

I looked in the mirror and saw my reflection standing in line with hers. They blended together seamlessly and I realized that this woman was inside me, waiting to be let out.

Tears started rolling down my cheeks, but for the first time, they were not of sorrow. The tears that rolled down were filled with doubt, finally being released, but they were also filled with hope. Thinking about the future always worried me because I never knew if I’d survive another day, but now I could only imagine the endless possibilities of what was in store for me.

“Tell me about the future, please,” I merely whispered.

“What do you want to know about it?”

“I want to know about my future, not in detail though, I want to be surprised when it happens. Can you tell me some of the things I can look forward to?”

“Well after adult me showed up, I told Mr. Jones, but I already told you that. Um. Mom and dad let me get a tattoo.” She raised her right wrist and pointed to the small design there, “the semicolon, to represent the depression I went through, and the lotus flower above it, to represent the healing. I got the semicolon when I turned sixteen, it was something that helped me get through the harder times. The semicolon represents a point where the author could've ended the sentence, but decided to keep going instead. The author is me and the sentence is my life. There are many times I could've ended my sentence, but I decided to persevere and keep going.

“When I finally got over my depression and negative thoughts, it was a year before I met my future husband, many, many years from now. I got the lotus flower right above the semicolon, connecting the flower to the dot above the comma. The lotus flower grows from dark muddy waters, but blossoms into a beautiful flower. It reminds me that there is a light at the end of the journey, if I choose to blossom instead of dying under the dark surface.

“You'll graduate high school top of your class and the same in college. You'll become a Fortune 500 CEO, creating a business that helps others. This business will offer you great fame, and you'll use your platform to stop stigmatizing mental illness. You'll create many places where people can go and find the help they need.

“You'll meet your future husband from this. You'll see him and know you want to spend your whole life with him, except your first thought isn’t as partners. You'll become best friends first, then realize he's the only person for you. Within your first year of marriage, you'll have your first child, a beautiful boy with his eyes and your smile. Two years later when you adopt a little girl, you'll realize how much love the human heart is capable of.”

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to imagine this. I would be successful and have a great family and I would be happy. I found myself longing for this future, not wanting to mess it up. If I had killed myself, I never would've had the life I was supposed to live. I tried to wrap my head around what I was just about to do.

I almost killed myself because I thought my life wasn't worth living, when it was. I was so young and I still had so much left of my life and I almost threw it all away. It hurt, but suicide was not the answer, and I knew that now.

In that moment, I promised myself I would never purposely harm myself again and I would never, ever, be on the verge of committing suicide again. I would move past this time in my life towards better ones, ones where I would be happy.

I opened my eyes and found her eyes staring into mine.

“Goodbye, for now. I will never see you again, but I will always be inside you, waiting for you to become me.” She raised her right hand and waved, showing me the tattoo that gave me hope for my future.

“Before you go, I have one question. If you’re future me, then who’s my fairy godmother? Is she someone important in my life, later on?”

“She didn't tell you? Oh. If she did not tell you then it is not my place to tell you. You'll learn who she is later, but for now, do not worry about it.” And with that she was gone leaving me staring at my own reflection.

I turned away from the mirror, but caught a ripple in the corner of my eye, and turned back. My fairy godmother was in the mirror again. She smiled at me, causing her face to become more wrinkled.

“I’m glad you have a reason to keep living again. Remember to keep living no matter how hard it gets and be caring towards everyone, in case they are going through what you did.” And with that she disappeared, but before she did, she waved, and I saw a semicolon and lotus flower on her right wrist.

I stumbled backwards. Was that old woman me? I tried to think about it, but my brain could not handle any more information. I was just visited by my future self and that was sort of scary to think about. Knowing my future might be dangerous because I might accidentally change it, but it gave me hope for my future and a reason to live, so I would deal with the consequences later.

I bent down to pick up the knife off the ground. I started at it wondering how I had been in so much pain emotionally to harm myself and even consider committing suicide. Never again would I touch that knife or any other for the rest of my life. I looked at the scars covering my arms and for once, was not repulsed at the sight of them. For the first time I saw them as battle scars, reminding me of the battle raging in my head, the battle I was going to win; and for the first time, I thought they were beautiful.

I walked over to the trash can next to my vanity and chucked the knife into it. It felt strangely empowering to get rid of the thing I thought I could not live without. I would be dependent on nothing and no one but myself, and I certainly would not be dependent on a knife that only harmed me.

As I got ready for bed, I went over what had just happened. I would live by everything my fairy godmother told me and would look forward to everything I was going to grow up into.

As I layed in my soft bed, I thought about what the future might hold for me. Maybe I would not be a Fortune 500 CEO or have a wonderful family, but I decided that was okay, as long as I had a reason to keep living. Never before had I thought of the future as a good thing. I used to lie awake at night and wonder if I’d live to see next week, I used to dread the next day. I let myself hope for the future. I hoped I could live up to future me and the life she described. But above everything else, I hoped for a future where there were millions of reasons to be happy again.

For the first time in forever, I did not cry for hours into the night, I fell asleep within minutes. Not only was I exhausted physically, but mentally as well. My head hurt from all the new information I had been told meer minutes ago. I found it strange that a person’s perspective can be so small and when someone widens it, how easy it is to see the bigger picture. I was a small design in the fabric of life and over time my design would be sewn into other designs. Without my design, others’ might never be completed. Before I could even begin to wrap my head around this, my consciousness tumbled into the dark great abyss that was sleep.

In my dreams I was sitting at a picnic table with a man who looked eerily familiar. I looked at my hand on the table and noticed a heart-shaped diamond attached to a thin rose gold band and a matching wedding band sitting on my ring finger.

“I can't believe it either. It’s been ten years since we met and exactly five years since we were married. Everyday when I wake up next to you, I look at your sleeping face and love you a little more than I did the day before. I'm so lucky to have you in my life and I couldn't think of anyone better to spend the rest of my days with,” said the man. He took my hand and intertwined it with his. I saw the thick rose gold band on his other hand as he ran it through his dirty blond hair.

I didn't say anything, I couldn't, out of fear I might disrupt the beautiful scene. Instead I just watched two children running around the table and laughed when they made jokes. The little boy looked about four and had my jet black hair and the man’s facial features. The little girl looked about two and nothing like either of us. She was Asian-American and a little too small for her age. I knew with all my heart the boy would protect his delicate little sister when they grew up.

I felt my consciousness stirring and took one last look at the scene in front of me. I tried to memorize their faces, but they were already slipping away as my vision went black. I refused to be saddened though, for I would meet them all soon, and get to spend the rest of my life with them.

— Angelina L.

The Picture

By Esteban C.

The future. How do you get there? You may think you need some type of magic or technology to get there, but what you really need is something simpler, more modern, like a picture. Nathan Dante was a photographer; he was really good at what he did. But all of that changed after a day that he’ll never forget.

Nathan awoke to his dad yelling, “Nathan breakfast is ready.”

“I’ll be down there in a second,” he replied, jumping out of bed and rushing to wash his face to wake himself up. He put on his black jeans, dark red t-shirt and jean jacket, before heading downstairs.

“Took you long enough,” his dad said.

“Sorry. What’s the plan, dad?”

“Well, I have to leave for a work trip; I’ll be gone for the weekend. Now come on, it's time for me to take you to school.” Nathan slipped on his dark blue shoes and grabbed his black backpack.

At school Nathan gathered his morning books and met up with his friend, Malik.

“Hey, Malik, what’s happening?”

“Nothing much, man,” Malik said with tiredness in his voice. Just then, the first bell rang and the boys headed to English class, which Nathan often dreaded because he sat near his archenemy, Amy. Nathan and Amy had been enemies for a long time. It started in grade school, where Amy had said something nasty about Nathan and his friends. Naturally, he wanted to get even and did so by pouring a bucket of paint over Amy’s brunette hair. The rivalry only grew worse from there, to the point now that they openly sabotage each other during competitions. As Nathan walked to his seat, he met eyes with Amy, the two glances flushed with anger.

During class Nathan’s teacher made a comment that stuck with him. “Don’t always assume that the future is what you think it is.” For some time after class, Nathan wandered the hallway, pondering its meaning, until a flyer on the school activities board knocked him off his philosophical quest. The flyer advertised a "Best Picture Contest."

“I should totally enter,” said Nathan.

"Maybe you shouldn’t," said a familiar, nasty voice.

“Let me guess, you are entering the contest too, Amy,” Nathan said, angrily.

“I’m going to win and smack you down,” Amy said as she walked away. The competition had begun.

Hours later, school finally ended, and Nathan walked home, taking a slower pace than normal to gather his thoughts about the contest. No luck. As he arrived home he opened the front door and ran up to his room to think more. Still nothing. Frustrated and tired, it happened; something had occurred to him. The city is an endless collage of wonders. It'd be perfect! Excited, he grabbed his phone, his camera and rushed out the house.

While in the city, scoping out his opportunities, Nathan stumbled into an abandoned building. The ridged wooden door opened to a long, winding staircase. He walked up, his eyes growing wide as he reached the top. The city. The cars in the street. The splendor of it all from his viewpoint. He immediately grabbed his camera and started shooting. Click! Click! Click!

Satisfied with his night's work, he turned to walk down the staircase and missed a step. He rolled and rumbled and bumped and banged his way to the bottom, losing consciousness at the impact of it all. As he laid unconscious, one of his pictures from that night landed beside him.

Nathan awoke to a headache and soreness, brushing himself off as he recollected himself and attempted to stand. He grabbed the picture beside him, and as he headed to the door, he stopped in confusion. The ridged wooden door now looked more futuristic—the knob was made of metal and the door glistened. He opened it.

The city wasn't at all as he remembered. To the right he saw robots in the streets, and above him were flying cars and a welcome sign saying, “Welcome to Next Gen City.” Driven by a mix of confusion and intrigue, Nathan stepped out and continued to explore. In his wonder, he didn't realize someone in front of him. “Sorry, sir.”

As the stranger turned, Nathan began to recognize him. It was Malik.

“Malik, how did you get here, man? You look ten times older.”

“How do you know my name? Who are you?"

“Dude, it's me, Nathan Dante, your friend.” Malik suddenly grabbed Nathan and took him to Malik’s car. “Get in!” Malik started to drive and suddenly the car elevated to the sky.

“What year are you from,” Malik asked.

“The year 2017,” Nathan said, confusion in his voice. “Where are we going?”

“Well, we're going to the White House to see the mayor of Next Gen City. You see, this is a rare instance, and our citizens start to get scared when they either hear about this or see it in person.”

Nathan glanced out the window and saw the new White House, a magnificent building of curved glass stretching the entirety of it, and as they drew nearer, Nathan noticed the city below had a darker light than the futuristic White House. Malik and Nathan walked in and Nathan is overwhelmed with the variety of futuristic artifacts and tools. Before they could enter the mayor’s room, someone stopped them. “Malik, who is this kid?”

Malik ignored him and the two entered the room. Hours later, the mayor appeared, and as he does, his curious eyes focus straight to Nathan. “Why is there a child here? Who is responsible for this action?”

“I am," Malik said. “This boy claims he is citizen 17, Nathan Dante.”

The mayor glared at Malik. “Citizen 17? What makes you think this is the kid we all know as the young photographer who tried to leave our facility and take out our last city mayor?” As the mayor finished his question, all eyes shifted to Nathan, fear starting to take hold of everyone in the room.

Malik exhaled. “It's him.”

“Take him to the lock up cell!” the mayor yelled. The guards grabbed Nathan and started dragging him away, all the while Nathan pleaded, “please, no, let me go!”

Nathan was thrown into a cell with lasers guarding the door. “Can you guys tell me what’s going on, and whatever it is, I didn’t do it. You’ve got to believe me.” But the guards ignored him.

Hours past. Trapped, the same thought cycled through Nathan's mind, the thought that he might never get out. It also occurred to him that the photo contest ended tomorrow and that Alex would win if he couldn't get back to submit his picture. The combination of escaping and the contest panicked him and just as he was about to lose himself, the lights went out.

“What’s happening!” Nathan heard a scuffle and a thud, and before he had a chance to realize what was happening, a flashlight shined in his face. “What's going on?” It was Malik. “Malik, what are you doing.”

“There was only one person I ever trusted, and his name was Nathan Dante,” Malik said, releasing Nathan from his cell “Look, there is only one way for you to get home. Give me that picture that you had.” Nathan handed him the picture. Malik studied it intently. Seconds later he asked, “are you from the year 2017?”


“We need to get to the file room, because I think the mayor is hiding something that the city doesn’t know.”

The door burst opened to a gang of guards. “The prisoner has escaped!” Nathan and Malik ran until they found a space to hide. “Well, now that they know I’ve escaped, do you even know where the file room is?” asked Nathan.

“No,” said Malik. “How are we going to do this?”

“Well, do you have a phone,” asked Nathan.

“Yes,” Malik said, taking out his phone and giving it to Nathan.

“Good. We'll use this to draw out a map of the place and go from there.”

Nathan and Malik stealthily stepped out from their hiding place and began checking each door. After what seemed like hours, they reached one that opened to a hallway full of filing cabinets. In the middle of the room, Nathan noticed a book lying on the ground. He walked over and picked it up.

“It looks like the mayor’s journal.” In it, they discovered the mayor had lied to the city about his motives and that he would run the city as a dictator.

“What do we do?” asked Nathan.

“I think we made need to take out the mayor.”

The two heard a fumbling at the door, like someone was trying to unlock it. “Crap! Hide!” Nathan hid under some boxes near the corner while Malik hid by the bookshelf, close enough to see that as the door opened, it revealed the mayor. He walked to his book, suspicious it was on the ground and looked read. His suspicions were interrupted as someone burst through the door. “Explain to me again how we are going to take over the city.”

“It's simple. At midnight we take out the guards and blame it on our little intruder, so not only are we looking for him, but we can program the machines to attack and to look for Citizen 17.”

The mayor and mystery person leave the room. “What do we do now?” asked Nathan.

“First, I need to get you home. This future we're in now doesn’t have to be the future you end up with,” said Malik.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, this future is the one I’m stuck with forever, but you don’t have to end up with this one. We need to find the laboratory.”

Nathan and Malik sneaked out the room and dipped and ducked and dodged their way to the laboratory.

“Why are we here, Malik?” Nathan asked.

“This is where we time travel to other dimensions and parallel universes. I need to set this up. Make sure you barricade the door, buy us time.”

Nathan barricaded the door without hesitation. “Put these fingerless gloves on,” Malik said.

“What are they for?”

“They're magic gloves to enhance your fighting ability, and they're also something for you to remember me by. You didn’t make it to this future, and I’m lucky that you’re here now,” Malik said.

“Thanks, dude.” They both smiled at each other, a moment short-lived as an explosion at the door jolted them from their happiness. Mayor stood at the doorway, pistol in hand.

“You thought you could get away that easy? Do you know the best part about running a city? You have an army.” Suddenly, an army of robots floated in through the celling. “So, boys, what are you going to do now?”

Without thinking Malik put his combat gloves on and started punching at the robots, destroying them into bits. Nathan followed suit, teaming up with Malik to take out all of the mayor’s robots. At the last punch, Nathan dropped to the floor.

“Nathan, what’s wrong?” Nathan showed him that his picture for his contest was ripped. “Well, we can fix that later. Now come on, we need to catch the mayor!”

Nathan wiped the tears from his eyes and joined Malik in the search for the mayor. They caught up, but as they did, the mayor pulled out a ray gun from his jacket and shot Malik in the arm, the pain dropping him to his knees in agony. “I’m fine,” he said, noticing the concern in Nathan's face. “You need to catch up with the mayor, okay? Don’t worry about me, Nathan, I’ll be fine.”

Enraged, Nathan catapulted him toward the mayor, tackling him to the ground. The two engage in a scuffle, relentless in their attempts to overpower each other. Nathan gained the upper hand, throwing the mayor into the wall, again and again, adding force with each throw. The mayor begged for mercy, apologizing for his attempts to take over the city.

A flood of people, led by Malik and an officer, poured into the room. “Official Future Forces, Mayor of Next Gen City, you’re under arrest for potential murder, potential destruction of Next Gen City and the citizens,” the officer said.

As the officer cuffed the mayor, Nathan fainted.

Nathan awoke to the familiar surroundings of his bedroom. He reached toward his nightstand and grabbed his laptop to watch YouTube videos. Suddenly, he received an email.

“Dear Nathan, thanks to your help, I’m the new mayor of Next Gen City. If you ever want to see me again, just call me. Sincerely, Mayor Malik.”

Nathan welled up and decided to go to bed. The next day Nathan received another letter, this time from the contest judges.

“Dear Nathan, you won first place in the Best Picture Contest. Your picture was so sophisticated and well done. We congratulate you on this accomplishment and have enclosed a monetary award of $150. Congratulations! Sincerely, The Judges.”

Excited, Nathan rushed to his room, grabbed his laptop and started writing: “Dear Malik, Are you ready for company?”

— Lainie B.


By Peter W.

Owen Thorston ran through the store with his best friend, Percy. Alarms blared and echoed throughout. Owen and Percy were failed experiments from Project ScAr (Scandium and Argon). Owen had blazing blue eyes, bright blonde hair in a military cut, and perfectly toned muscles. Percy had startling gray eyes, black hair with the same style, and same muscles. They gained pyrotechnics and were transformed into pyromaniacs and kleptomaniacs and were currently trying to steal a jade diamond from a jewelry store built five years before in 3025.

Even though the store had tractor beams, lasers, traps, and holograms, it still couldn’t stop Owen and Percy. They reached the diamond and grabbed for it, but their hands went right through. They knew what that meant: Kofi, their archenemy, stole it. They quickly lit the store on fire and ran toward Thunder Alley.

As they walked down Thunder Alley, they found Kofi and yelled, “Where is it!?” “Stop playing and give it to me!” screamed Kofi.

“We thought you had it,” they said, confused.

“Well, if none of us have it, then who does?” said Kofi. “We have to work together if we want to get it.”


“Ya, truce.” Suddenly, ten people appeared on the rooftops surrounding them. Nine of them dressed in neon green and black and looked like ninjas. The other one was clearly the leader. He had an air of confidence and arrogance about him. He was dressed in aqua blue with a water drop in the middle of his chest. The exact opposite of Owen and Percy’s bright red and orange suites with a flame in the middle. Owen suddenly yelled, “Percy! He’s the fourth!”

There were two other experiments at Project ScAr at the time of Owen and Percy. When Owen and Percy woke up, one project was found dead, but the body of the second was never found… Until now.

“Yes, I am. Good observation...Heatwave,” the leader said.

“Nick!?” said Owen in astonishment. “I thought you were the one who is dead. Why did you become a…”

“Because I grew up and saw that the world was evil!” roared Nick. Then he turned to his henchmen and said, “Bring them alive, I want to kill them slowly and painfully.” The ninjas sprang into action and jumped off the roof. They fought like a well-oiled machine, attacking as one. Owen and Percy shot fire at them. But, as it turned out, their suites were flame-retardant. Kofi, on the other hand, was doing something useful and calling his henchmen.

“Wow! There will be a lot of men henching,” Owen said. And at that, somehow, the ninjas fell down laughing and crying. Aware of the effect, Owen continuted. “Hey Percy, what do call a bunch of crying ninjas?”

“I don’t know.”

“Sama-cri.” The ninjas were now laughing so hard they could barely breath. Nick jumped and landed with a deafening boom. Owen and Percy jumped in to fight. There was fire, water, and steam swirling everywhere. Suddenly, they all heard the last thing they wanted to hear… police sirens wailing in the distance, drawing closer with each passing second. They fled. As he was running, Owen tripped over a shiny object. He looked down and couldn’t believe his own eyes, it was the diamond. They took it and ran back to their base. “Finally!” said Percy. “We have it!”

“Great! Now let’s book it!”

“Good idea.”

They met up with Kofi at their base. “Great job, Owen and Percy! Now give me the diamond! And if you don't...well then…” Kofi snapped his fingers and 50 guards surrounded Owen and Percy.

“Owen, I have an idea. If we start singing Justin Beiber, then he might fall on his knees begging for us to stop.”

“Good idea!”

“Get on the ground with your hands behind your back!” screamed Kofi. Owen and Percy both looked at each other and nodded.

“What do you mean?”

“Please stop singing, you sound like someone who's…”

“Having a Baby, baby, baby, ohhhh!” Then Kofi ripped his ears off and screamed, “I hate Justin Beiber!” Out of nowhere the Beiber Police showed up in their blood-red hover cars stamped on the sides with their motto, “Baby, you should go and cuff yourself!”

Kofi was sentenced to jail for life after dissing JB. Since then, all of his guards started to work for Owen and Percy. Then, Owen and Percy became mini Al Capones with superpowers. They then took over the city, and then the world. Good luck to the people who live in 3060.

— Christopher N.

Closet Machine

By Christopher N.

Don’t you ever wonder what’s behind the janitor’s closet? What the buzzing sound is when he is just getting a mop? Hi, my name is Max Wells. I am a scrawny 17-year-old high schooler, and this is the story of what I found behind the janitor’s closet. It was a normal day when this whole terror started. The hollow breeze blew in my best friend George’s face and my own as we drove down the long roads to get to school.

“I hope Tony isn’t at school today” I told George.

“Me too,” he replied.

Tony is this super rich punk that goes to school with me, and just because his parents control the bank, the fire department, the police department, and the little league baseball team; he thinks he can do whatever he wants to everyone. He also wears this solid gold ring and attracts his friends with it.

“Maybe karma will stop sleeping and give him a big punch in the face!” said George.

“Yeah,” I said chuckling in my head the things that could happen to Tony.

We got to Rosa Parks High School, which might I add, is the best school in the state of South Carolina. We walked inside as quickly as possible, just in time to escape a tardy. George and I said our goodbyes as we went to our separate classes. Now, you could call us melodramatic, but I believe we are just really good friends.

My first class is Literature, then Spanish, where all I do is count down the minutes because after that I have English. I love to write, so English and myself just mesh well together. I write all types of stories especially, stories about the future. I love the future, like how mysterious it is and how everything affects what happens. In fact, I have written so many stories on the future that my teacher, Mr. Delphious, has told me I can’t write about it anymore. Well, of course, I had to listen to him because he’s the teacher and I didn’t want to get on his bad side. But all the stories just got worse from there.

It was lunchtime and George and I were sitting alone in the corner of the lunch room. A minor piece of my ear heard a clapping noise, like a ticking you could never miss. I looked around the bend only to see none other than Tony stomping across the floor in his brand-new boat shoes right towards George and me.

“Hello, Max” he said, “I suppose you have something of mine”.

“What would I have of yours, Tony?”

“You know what you have. You took my gold ring!” I had no idea what Tony was talking about.

“Why would we steal your stupid ring?” said George.

“Because you’re jealous of me, you always were, and if you don’t give it back to me then you’ll be sorry”.

“What are you going to do to us?” said George in the most sarcastic tone that I’ve ever heard him use in. Tony then snapped his fingers and, like they were there the whole time, his goons appeared. “Get them!” Shouted Tony.

The goons chased after George and me. We booked it down the halls, cutting through some classrooms. We got to the end of the hall and ducked into the janitor’s closet. “I can hear their footsteps outside.” George said fearfully. The janitor’s closet is really huge and long because of it being the only one. “Let’s make our way to the back. I believe that there is a backdoor exit,” I said. We found a flashlight hanging on the door so I picked it up. We carefully walked through the darkness making sure not to leave a trace of our presence.

“Ouch!” “What’s wrong? Where did you go, Max?” cried George. “I tripped on something.”. But what was it? I shined a long hard gleam of light on it and found it to be a cord. I followed the long snake-like object to its starting point, only to find a large out-of-place machine. “What the heck?” asked George “What is this thing” “I don’t know?” I replied. The object had a metallic covering, with a glass tube in the middle, and a keypad with a bunch of different years inscribed on every button.

* * *


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