By Elena Van Horn
Bright streaks of light jumped across the sky as Hannah watched. It was two in the morning. Her father and mother had told her that if she couldn’t find anyone to go with her, then she couldn’t go. If they really cared, they would have offered to go with her themselves. Friends? No one would go climb a mountain with her at two in the morning. Siblings? Hard to ask when you didn’t exist to them.
As she sat with her back against a tree, Hannah was amazed by furious brilliance each falling star had. It made her imagine that each was a sentient thing, desperately grasping for life as it fell.
How brave these stars were as they fell.
She wanted to be like them, brilliant and powerful even as they remained separate from the other stars in the sky. She imagined that if a star were a human it wouldn't care about sitting alone at lunch. That wouldn’t matter to them. They were bright, even alone.
It was a luminescence she didn't quite understand. It was so hard to shine bright when hardly anyone noticed she was there. Everyone was too busy looking at popular kids—like her brother and sister. Hannah scowled, hunching her shoulders.
Something rustled, and Hannah’s head snapped towards it. The lumpy bush didn’t move, so Hannah turned back uneasily.
Her father had told her horror stories about people falling off cliffs or getting eaten by bears. Geez, it had scared the freakin’ coleslaw out of her.
She had tried to get someone to go with her. She really had. Her sister, Vickey had been too busy making monster faces in the mirror to practice for a play. Her brother, Justin, hadn’t even heard her the first three times she’d asked him. He’d been playing games with his friends. He’d blinked, pulled off his gaming headphones, and given her a questioning look. She’d just snorted in frustration and walked away. What was she supposed to do? It was like when she tried to approach them at school. She was invisible.
Hannah touched the taser she had stolen from her mother's lingerie drawer. She didn’t need them. She could protect herself. She was like a falling star, brilliant in her solitude.
A particularly bright meteor flashed across the sky. Two bright stars happened to be above it, and they formed a giant frowny face across the sky.
Hannah scowled. Leave it to the universe to contradict her.
Sour at the emoticon in the sky, Hannah got up. Maybe it was time that she went home.
Hannah pulled out her flashlight and clicked it on. The forest blinked into detail.
She heard another crunch. Her flashlight swung towards the sound, her other hand on the taser. The bushes stopped moving. Hannah abandoned any pretense of searching for the source of the sound and ran down the trail, her light bobbing.
Her foot hit the edge of a root. Hannah caught herself on a tree with a crunch. The woods plunged back into darkness.
"Oger snot." She lifted the broken flashlight grimly.
Glancing forward, Hannah realized that she was staring over the edge of a cliff. She scooted back quickly, gasping.
Fingers slid over her ankle. She caught a glimpse of a ski mask in the darkness. Hannah screamed. Yanking her leg away madly, she bolted away.
The next moment, a cliffside wall rose in front of her and Hannah skittered to a stop. She turned, gripping the taser, sure her heart had stolen all the blood in her body with its mad pumping.
“I swear, if you don’t leave me alone, I am going to…” Hannah looked around frantically. As always, the sky caught her eye. “Make you see stars,” she finished weakly.
She pressed herself against the dirt wall, the taser in front of her. “Just, don’t hurt me!”
“Hannah?” a low voice said. A feminine voice joined it, laughing.
A flood of warmth rushed through her body. “Vicky? Justin?”
A moment later, Justin emerged from the bushes, Vickey trailing him.
“If you don’t leave me alone, I’ll make you see stars!” Vickey mimicked Hannah’s motions, laughing.
Hannah scowled, so embarrassed she couldn’t speak. “You gave me a freakin’ heart attack!”
Justin folded his arms, one eyebrow raised. “Now, I wonder why that is? Could it be wandering around alone at three in the morning isn’t safe? Too bad no one warned you not to do that.”
Hannah gaped like a fish. “What are you two doing here, anyways?” she snapped.
Justin folded his arms as Vicky continued to snicker. “Neither of us like that you’ve been sneaking out.”
“We also knew that if we told you to quit it, you would just ignore us,” Vicky threw in now that she had her mirth under control. “So, we followed you up the mountain to teach you a lesson."
A bubble of pressure grew in Hannah’s chest. She noticed a ski mask in Justin's hand. The pressure grew. "You what?"
Vicky folded her arms. "Seriously Hanny, you could get yourself in real trouble out here. What if there was a real creeper or even just some dumb dog?"
Hannah glared at Vicky. "What if I accidentally fell off a cliff?" Vicky blinked. Something in Hannah snapped. “You know what? I’ve had enough of you two! You’re so wrapped up in your own worlds that you hardly even look at me anymore! Now you suddenly care? Without you two messing things up, I would have been fine. Go smell goblin barf.” She thrust her hands in her pockets and walked quickly away.
Vicky's brow went up. She pressed her lips together, looking embarrassed. Justin caught her arm as she passed. “Hannah,” he said, guilt in his expression. “We've always cared. It’s just been…busy.” Vickey and he shared a look.
Hannah shrugged angrily. "Whatever. Let's just go home."
Vicky drew in a sharp breath. "Look. I’m gonna be honest. I don’t get your junk. I don’t see the appeal of hiking a mountain at three in the morning.” Hannah rolled her eyes. “But,” Vickey swallowed. “When we lost sight of you, it really scared the both of us. So, how ‘bout we make a deal? One of us picks something every week and then we all do it?”
Hannah blinked. “Huh?”
Vickey put a hand on her hip. “Equal rights. I don’t wanna climb a dang mountain every week. But I do want to spend time with you dum-dums. So, we take turns.”
A prick of hope rose within her chest. She fought it. Vickey was just playing the ‘nice sister.’ Just like her dumb plays.
“And if not, I’ll just kidnap you for stage crew,” Vickey finished.
Hannah blinked. “What?”
Justin snorted. “I second that.”
Vickey got a predatory look, taking a step forward. “I can’t have anything happen to my cute little sister. Submit or I’ll make you.” Hannah bolted. Vickey cackled, tackling and tickling her.
Hannah thrashed, trying to avoid her sister’s fingers. “S-stop it!”
“Not until you give. Mwahahaha,” Vickey replied.
Hannah curled up. “F-Fine! I give!” Justin folded his arms, an amused expression on his face.
They sat up. “So, you up for a dance class next week?” Vickey asked.
Hannah looked at the two of them. Did they really mean it?
The sky was dark. It seemed that the shower of brightness had finished. Something eased in Hannah's chest. She thought about school tomorrow morning. Vicky and Justin would be exhausted when they got up because they’d gone out to make sure she was safe. Maybe this was the beginning of a change?
Hannah smiled a little, and as she looked up she saw one last star fly by in the darkness.
Edited by: Reagan Greenwood
A Guide to Defeating the Nighttime Spooks
By Amber Appel
It’s late at night and everyone is tucked away into bed. You wake up and shuffle out from under your sheets. It’s a midnight bathroom trip. You finish washing your hands then face the darkened room. It was easy enough getting to the bathroom with sleepy eyes already adjusted to the dark, but now you hesitate to flick off the bathroom light and plunge into the now unknown. What could be out there? Nothing, you say, but the fear is still there. In a quick rush you slap the light switch down, run a short distance, then leap into bed, pulling the covers all the way up to your chin. Where you followed? Are you safe? Can you be found? You tell yourself its unnecessary but you click on your bedside lamp to survey the now familiar room. Click. You turn it off and shut your eyes, but did you check everywhere? Maybe something snuck into your closet. Click. Click. Click. Click.
Anyone can be afraid of the dark. Young or old, anybody can be frightened by what goes bump in the night. Some nights are filled with a mix of anxiety and imagination that can leave the toughest of us sleeping with the lights on. You are perfectly aware that it’s just your mind playing tricks on you, but it’s not easy to ignore it in the moment. This is why I’ve developed some tactics to defeating the monsters by using the same tool that creates them: imagination!
The trick to defeating the perceived dangers of the night come from recognizing that you are essentially seeing yourself as a defenseless target. Your guard is down. In order to sleep, you need to feel secure, so one way to accomplish that is to change the story. Is the monster in the dark that girl from the Ring? Maybe a scary animation you saw circling the net? Is folklore getting you down? Is it Slender Man? Good news! These are all imaginary. You are real. And you can take them down! Make this your mantra: I am the monster in the dark.
You are a living, breathing human being who has faced so many demons and hurdles in your life. You are a force to be reckoned with. No monsters will ever step to you because they are in their own imaginary beds fearing you. Feel your own power and that feeling of vulnerability will slip away.
Let that knowledge help you, and if you want to feel, not just powerful, but protected, build a shield. Imagine a glowing force field surrounding you that will keep all fears and dangers away. Expand and shrink your shield to whatever feels safest. If your mind can create spooks like Minecraft zombies and creepers, then you have the power to banish them.
And when you can’t help but think of the Babadook and how its face terrifies you, remember that ridiculousness is an excellent weapon. You can follow after Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban and shout Riddikulus to spell the monsters into wearing your grandmother’s clothes. Luckily my fear of the Babadook was made ridiculous for me by the internet, so now instead of a night fright, the Babadook is now a gay icon, and I couldn’t be more supportive.
So, whenever anxiety strikes and the shadows take form in the night, remember you are scarier than anything. You are protected and loved by yourself and others, and you can edit your fears into gay icons. Now go have a good night sleep!
Edited by Emily Chance
Here's 3 short videos showing the first 3 levels in World 1 of Mario The Lost Levels. I only recently learned that this game existed! How did I now know about it until now???
3 YA Book Recommendations for the Summer
By Klancy Hoover
Summer is just around the corner, hopefully meaning that everyone has more time and motivation to read. I get the majority of my reading done in the summer because of the warmer weather. I like to sit out on my deck with the sun shining on my skin and a good book on my lap. Not always in that order, though, because whenever I get caught up in a great story, I sit outside longer than I should and always end up shuffling inside later with a sunburn.
If you’re looking for a great book to read in celebration of the warmer weather, I have a few YA suggestions that will channel all of your summer vibes!
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
With summer approaching, Dimple is excited to have the opportunity to attend a summer program that focuses on one of her interests: web development. Working on her own app for the chance to meet her idol is a goal that is just within her grasp, and she won’t let her parents’ insistence on her finding a husband keep her from reaching for her dreams. But when a boy approaches her at the summer camp about marriage and claiming to be her future husband, Dimple starts to worry that her parents are meddling with her future plans.
When Dimple Met Rishi is the perfect contemporary for people who may be missing campus while away from school. Its feel-good romance and vibrancy takes place on a college campus, allowing readers to dive back into school without the pressure of homework deadlines.
Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Tasked with a mission to find a hidden map on the ship of a captain she doesn’t know much about, Alosa allows herself to be captured and held within a cell below decks. Relying on her cunning and ingenuity, Alosa must come up with a plan to retrieve the information she needs and escape her captors’ grasp before they realize her true intentions. But as the Pirate King’s daughter, she’s more than ready for a fight.
If you’re looking for a book to take with you on your trip to the beach, Daughter of the Pirate King is an action-packed fantasy with pirates that will inspire you to jump into the ocean and search for treasure. The book takes places on a ship in the middle of the ocean, so reading it on the beach would feel like being immersed in the story completely.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Sadie has been caring for her little sister Mattie since they were little, and feels profoundly connected to her as a result. When Mattie is found dead, murdered by someone the police can’t seem to find, Sadie takes it upon herself to bring Mattie’s killer to justice. As she starts on her journey for the truth, a podcast segment investigating Sadie’s movements and her own disappearance brings the mystery to life.
Thrillers are great books to read at night in the summer with a bonfire blazing in the background, and Sadie would keep readers on the edge of their seats with its gripping mystery.
Edited by Emily Chance
Garlic Chicken Stir-Fry
By Emily Chance
Whenever I’m in the mood for stir fry or an oriental dish, I make me and my family this stir fry. It may call for a lot of garlic, but I promise it is absolutely incredible and not overwhelming. I found it in a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but I didn’t like the ingredients, so I tweaked them to my own liking. It is one of my favorite dishes.
12 oz. (about 2-3) Boneless Chicken Breasts
1 c. Water
3 TBSP. Soy Sauce (Regular or reduced sodium is fine)
1 TBSP. Rice Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
1 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1/4 of a small white Onion, diced
1 (4 oz.) can mushrooms, drained
12 cloves Garlic (I use the already diced garlic which comes in a glass jar or large plastic container)
2 c. cooked White or Jasmine Rice (I use minute rice. It takes less time because I usually forget I need it.)
Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag and set in a shallow dish or on a plate. In a bowl, stir together water, soy sauce, and vinegar, then pour over chicken in the bag. Reseal the bag and place it in the fridge to marinade for 30 minutes. Reserve the marinade in a separate dish, draining the chicken. Stir the cornstarch in with the marinade and set aside. Pour the oil into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions, mushrooms, and garlic to the skillet. Cook and stir for about 1-2 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Remove the vegetables from the skillet. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until no longer pink. Push the chicken from the center of the skillet, making a hole in the middle of the chicken and pour the reserved marinade into the skillet’s center. Continuously stir the marinade until thick and bubbly. Then push the chicken back into the center and add the vegetables. Stir for a couple more minutes until everything is mixed and warm. Serve this mixture on a bed of rice.
Edited by: Corinne DiOrio