The Adventure Story

By Gitanjali Rao, USA

So there I was, driving around the town on a cool, rainy, fall evening. I was looking for the hotel I was going to stay for the night.

Saratoga Suites, the town of Saratoga Lake, is a place for comfort and leisure. Many visit the place to spend time in its beautiful surroundings. The suites provide a beautiful view of Saratoga Lake, its tree-lined banks, and its idyllic walkways. It was founded in 1955 by Alyssa Matthews, an avid nature enthusiast, who managed Saratoga Suites until she passed away 25 years ago. Saratoga Suites continued to maintain its rich tradition of hospitality.

I was on a business trip to the town of Parkdale. Saratoga Lake is 30 mins drive from Parkdale, and I decided that it would be a great location to stay. I was missing my family who were celebrating my daughter’s soccer team victory, while I had to travel on work. I have not been to Saratoga Lake before, but was looking forward to a week’s stay. The hotel had a beautiful lobby and while I was waiting in line to check in, I spent my time looking at the antique artwork, and varied flower arrangements. Finally, it was my time to check-in. There was a pleasant lady at the counter, who was a bit on the older side and spoke softly. I figured that she must have been at the hotel for quite a few years. She handed me the keys to my room. It said, “Room 508”. “How big is the room?” I asked. “You’d be very comfortable. It is big enough to fit two people!” she said very softly. She silently stared as I thanked and moved on.

I was tired of traveling that day but I still enjoyed the warm and relaxing environment of my room. I was looking forward to walking around the hotel and the lake the next day, when I’m back from work. I ordered food in my room, took a shower, read a book by the fireplace, and soon fell asleep. Next day, it was a light day at work, and I came back early to get ready for a quick stroll. The faucet was running but there was an odd sound coming from the walls. It sounded like somebody was sawing wood or scratching on the wall. I got closer to the bathroom wall and the sound grew louder and then stopped. I waited for a minute and then went back to my bed to read my book. Then I heard the scratching noise again! I was getting restless. I marched into the bathroom again. As I put my ear against the wall, I saw that the paint on the wall in the corner had chipped at one of the places. I rubbed it a bit and tried to stick it back, but instead it fell off. It was a thin piece of paint and to my surprise, I saw glass instead of where the brick should have been. I looked closely and soon discovered it was transparent glass and I could see through it, to what seemed like an adjacent room. It was dimly lit with light coming from its window, but I could see an old dusty room with sparse furniture, some classic records from 1950s, and some old fashioned pieces of cloth. It was dull and I couldn’t see much, but I could clearly see a metal trunk with a large lock on it. It said, “Property of AM”. It was an odd travel back in time view, and it almost seemed like somebody left the room in a hurry. It was getting late and I dismissed it as a hotel spare room. I quickly got out of the room for a stroll, making a mental note to ask someone about this other room, when I get a chance.

Next evening, I was sitting by the fireplace in my room and the scratching sound started again. I went to peek into the room next door and this time found a bunch of books from the cupboard, on the floor. Just then I heard a loud thud from my room. I quickly returned to find, to my surprise, a thick book had fallen from the shelf onto the carpet on the floor. The book was titled “A Nature Guide to Saratoga Lake – by Alyssa Matthews”. The book was opened to a page with a large image on it. I picked up the book to take a closer look at the picture and something seemed familiar. This was a picture of a view I had seen before. I tried to remember everything that I had done on this trip so far. Suddenly, it hit me. This picture is the exact scenery that I can see outside my window in this hotel room. When I looked closer at the picture, I could see a small mark under the oak tree right next to Saratoga Lake edge. I perked up. “What if there is something interesting hidden over there,” I thought to myself. I had gotten bored while I was alone in the hotel. I was ready for an adventure, but decided to make the hike on a different day. But, every day I was in the room for the rest of the week, something kept reminding me of the box, the keys, and the room next door. Sometimes the light went out, the books kept falling from the shelf or the, now annoying, scratching sounds grew louder. Oddly enough the book that fell from the shelf was always the same and it opened to the same page as the picture!

I wasn’t sure anymore that these were all random events. I had a feeling that something, or someone, was doing his. Who might that be? I saw some teenagers playing pranks and writing scary messages on the walls of the hotel with ketchup. Maybe, they were causing all this? I finally relented, grabbed a flashlight and set off to explore the mystery of the picture. Even though it was dark, I had still managed to reach the vicinity of the place in the picture. Finally I found, what looked like the same tree, and looked around to see if I could see anything. There was an oddly shaped stone looking out of place. I moved it and found something buried beneath it. I dug the ground a bit and found an ornate box. I opened it to find what looked like, a pair of old keys. I was bummed. I thought there would be something actually valuable in there. But, it was a fun adventure. I went back to my suite and set the box on my shelf. There was an odd silence. The room seemed brighter, no more books falling and no more scratching noises. I went to wash my hands and suddenly the lights went out. I struggled back to my room and right then the lights came back again. However, the box I found, was gone!

I grew impatient and went back to peek into the room through the glass and this time everything else was in place except the trunk with the lock was missing! If this was a prank, it was quite elaborate. Surprisingly, I slept well that night. I was checking out next day and was eager to complain about my experience.

As I walked out of the room with my luggage, I glanced back into a large mirror in my room, and saw, what I think, was a passing reflection of a woman, smiling at me. When I was checking out, I asked the elderly lady at the reception about the noise in my bathroom and other odd happenings. The lady, Margaret Smith, said, “We have had some complaints down the years, but could never figure out the reasons.” She seemed mysterious, and I pressed for more details. Margaret sighed and finally spoke. She and Alyssa were friends and started Saratoga Suites together. Alyssa passed away after a brief illness and coincidentally, in room number 508. She kept a collection of her pictures and memories, in a trunk that she kept close to herself and often hid the keys. In her last days she was too weak to get the keys and open the trunk, and she yearned for it every day. “Nobody knows where the trunk is today”, said Margaret, “I know how much Alyssa wanted to see her things. I know this sounds silly, but I want to believe that my friend is still looking for help in her room.” Margaret’s spoke in a low voice, “I wish I had helped her get her things.”

I responded, “I think I unknowingly helped your friend, and found the keys! The trunk is in a room right next to mine.” Margaret looked surprised and said, “What room? Yours is the last room on the floor!”

As I walked away puzzled, I saw a satisfied and grateful smile on Margaret’s face.

L’Emigré

By Allesandro Gallo, England

Quand il neigeait.

Il est arrivé

Quand il gelait.

Il est arrivé

Quand il y avait du vent,

Mais il n’était pas abattu!

Il avait froid

Et il n’était pas aidé.

Il était affamé

Et il n’était pas aidé.

Il était sans abri

Et il n’était pas aidé,

Mais il n’était pas abattu!

Il n’avait pas

de famille.

Il n’avait pas

D’amis.

Il n’avait pas

De travail,

Mais il n’était pas abattu!

Mais enfin,

Sa lumière a été éteient

Et il a été battu.

Pourquoi on ne l’a pas aidé?

Nous l’avons laissé mourir

Mais il était in homme comme nous…

The Heat

By William Bradford, USA

“You almost took my head off with your locker!” yelled Steven, a mediocre friend of mine, taller than me, but with shorter hair.

“No I didn’t!” I replied in turn.

“You almost took my head off again!” he said angrily.

“That wasn’t me,” I blandly replied to his accusation.

“Then what was—, ” he inquired.

A strong shake interrupted him, leaving him speechless. All of his school supplies fell out of his locker, and we bent to hoist his books back onto their shelves. As we bent down, we both saw the crack in the floor at the same time. He jumped onto his school supplies and slid over the crack. The crack expanded, now large enough to fit a small dog. I saw him scud towards me, and he then turned around. He saw that he had dropped one of his beloved pens. He lunged for it, and right as he did, the crack got even bigger, threatening to swallow him. Now big enough to fit three dolphins in it, the crack expanded towards him at a horrifying rate. His hand bumped the pen and pushed it further away from him. Now on the floor, he floundered like a fish towards the pen. The crack, now big enough to be considered a fissure, held its gaping mouth open to swallow its victim. Steven snatched it away from the crack’s hungering jaws. Frustrated and hungry for flesh, the crack raced towards him. He raced away as fast as he could, but not fast enough. The crack caught him in its voracious jowls right as I escaped to my next class.

Up the stairs I raced, not caring whether or not I tripped. The cars outside then exploded in a burst of flames. I walked into my next class, and the teacher said, “We are going to pretend that that didn’t just happen.”

“No way! The sun just exploded!” Fred, one of my rather idiosyncratic friends, shouted.

“Yeah, and Steven just died!” I yelled

“If the sun exploded, the earth would be like non-existent right now,” our teacher said. “Why isn’t Steven here?”

“I just said! He’s dead!” I emphatically replied.

“Stop joking, really, where is he?” my teacher commanded.

“A hole just killed him,” I bluntly stated.

Right then, a wooden meter stick my teacher was holding in his hand caught fire. The fire raged on the meter stick, ravaging every last molecule. Just as it had finished its first meal, it leaped to the next. Fred leaped and batted the stick out of the teacher’s hand. His instincts were good, but not too good because its next meal was him. I ran over to him and shoved him on the ground as my teacher rather distantly ran to get the fire extinguisher. Fred seemed to understand that I was trying to tell him to roll, over the sound of my shouting classmates, because I’d already covered the stop and drop part. The teacher threw the fire extinguisher at me, but he seemed to think I was stronger than I was because it hit me really hard, knocking me over and breaking at least one rib. I flailed with the fire extinguisher, desperately spraying Fred up and down with foam. As my classmates watched, they quieted down.

“Fred, are you okay?” I asked.

No reply.

“Fred, are you okay?” I asked again, this time a bit more forceful.

He nodded.

It was then that I realized that my classmates were quiet not because I was spraying Fred with foam, but because we were caught in a blazing inferno. The forest around our school had caught fire. The pipes running through the ceiling burst, flooding the room with gas. You could tell because the ceiling tiles shattered due to the force of the explosion. Aiden, an acquaintance, ran out of the classroom, down the stairs, and through the front door. She was vaporized by the blazing heat. Lunchboxes floated off of shelves, yogurt and rice packages exploding everywhere. Then the sun’s flames hit.

Where am I? I can’t see! I can’t feel anything. I can’t smell anything, I thought to myself. All of a sudden, I felt a rush of taste return to my mouth. I tasted ash, vile, horrid ash, but still ash. Then I saw a blurry mass of different shades of black. I looked up, or at what I thought was up. It was dark, with smoldering skies. My vison cleared and I could see that the Earth was a ragged mess of sharp, unyielding rock mixed with flames, ashes, and magma. I started to walk forward, but all I could seem to do was fall on the ground and struggle to rise again. I looked around again at the fiery dystopia that had replaced the place I was once so fond of. I was able to see movement up ahead. I tried to walk towards it, but I ended up tripping and falling. Half-walk, half-crawl, I moved towards the movement. I saw a body, not entirely dead but close to tit. I regained the ability to walk or more like stumble, so I floundered over to the body and shook it. It burst into incandescent flames. The flames were unlike any I had ever seen before, and before I could do anything about it, they attacked me, or so I thought. But it didn’t hurt. I was just on fire. The flames gave off an insane light. The body got up. It was Fred! Legs bowing, he descended to his flaming hole again.

“What happened?” he asked.

“I think we have been granted the gift of the sun,” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean that I think we embody, so to speak, the sun,” I simplified.

We noticed sun-like glows in other places. There were about six of them. Fred waited in his hole while I made sure that everyone else was okay. Alex, Line, Amelia, Styvman, Zeke, and Jack all survived the thermogenic blast. No one else did. A few parents showed up, glowing like the rest of us. Nobody really knew how they’d gotten there. Somehow, one person still had a watch. It was 3:10, right at the time we normally pack up. We searched the wreckage of our buildings, only to find the charred remains of every teacher and classroom. We also found one teacher alive, or so we thought, but he then exploded in a burst of tepid warmth. Since it was time for dismissal and we were almost comatose with exhaustion, we decided to leave. Just then, my mom arrived, her car half smoking. The car wheezed as it trudged towards us. Its engine caught fire, and my mom dove out. Half a second later, the car exploded.

“I think we should just walk home,” I cautiously said.

“Right, it’s only twelve blocks,” my mom agreed.

I waved goodbye to my remaining friends, and we were off on our journey homeward.

Maya Makes Money

Co-authored and Illustrated by Gitanjali Rao, Audrey Aulino and Isabella Aulino, USA

Maya Makes Money

Maya tripped on the doorway as she came flying in the door calling “Mom! Mom!” “Hey, slow down there,” her mother laughed. “I know you said we can’t have a dog because it’s too loud, or a cat because Dad is allergic, but…”

“Oh no, not another new idea for a pet! We are not getting a baby elephant, Maya!” Mom joked.

“Not an elephant Mom, but Zoe just got a bunny and it is so cuddly and sweet! Maybe I could get one too. I’ll take care of it, you won’t have to remind me, I promise!” “Oh Maya, a pet is just not in our budget right now. They cost a lot more money than you think.” Mom replied, “You should ask Zoe and her parents how much it costs.” “I’m on it!” Maya said as she flew back out the door.

Maya had everything you could dream of from books to dolls. Everything EXCEPT a pet. A pet was her dream that never come true.

Knock! Knock! “Come in Maya!” Zoe’s mom said as she opened the door, “What are you doing here?” “I want to ask you and Zoe how much a bunny costs,” Maya practically shouted with excitement. A small bunny costs about $400 and it costs about $50 per month to take care of it. You also have to plan for the cost of a vet,” Zoe stated, “Why? Are you going to get a bunny too? ”That’s the plan”, Maya yelled out as she ran back towards her home. Zoë called after her, “Maybe we can have a slumber party with our bunnies!” But Maya was nowhere in sight.

“Mom!” Maya exclaimed “It is just about $400.”“What about food and other costs? “, asked Mom. “Maybe $50 per month” answered Maya. “That’s a lot. Almost $1000 per year! Let’s talk when Dad gets back from work. “, sighed Mom. Maya was happy that this time she had a possibility of getting a pet. She just had to convince her dad. She completed all her homework and waited for her dad anxiously. Mom understood Maya’s intentions as she was very quick and organized today with her homework unlike her usual routine. “Maya, I do not want you to bother your dad as soon as he comes home. Give him some time to relax. Be patient.” said Mom. Maya knew she had a chance.

At the dinner table, Maya gestured to her mom and Mom gave a pleasant smile. Mom started the conversation with, “Maya has been longing for a pet and she seems to have settled on the idea of a bunny. I think we can help her get there.” “That sounds good”, said Dad. That was the best thing Maya had ever heard related to this topic. She jumped up with joy. Dad added, “Wait, you need to earn your money, though”. Maya and Mom looked at each other in surprise. How could she ever earn close to $1000? Thoughts and numbers rushed in Maya’s mind. She had maybe $100 in her piggy bank, but how could she make it ten times more? How long can she wash dishes, cars, windows or sell lemonade? Mom tried to help, “That will take years for Maya. Is there any other solution?”

Maya knew Dad would not just throw ideas out unless it was possible and practical to make it happen. Dad said, “Maya, get what you have from your piggy bank and let’s put a plan together that will earn you $1000. I’ll teach you something called – investing.” The next few weeks, were a great time for her. Maya enjoyed her time with Dad, as they played games and he explained to her the basics of investing. She learnt new words:

Capital: Money you have, or, that you saved. Risk: How safe is your money. Growth Rate: How much your money can grow? Time: How long you keep your capital invested in different types of investments.

Dad had created a small poster to teach, and help Maya focus on what she could do to save up for her future pet bunny. Maya forgot all about her bunny and wanted to know more about investing. Dad talked about different types of investments. Maya could not understand at first, but after several repetitions, Maya slowly understood how they work. Dad said, “Maya, if you put your capital, which is say $100, in a bank, or a certificate of deposit or CD, you may probably get $110 after few months.” Maya interrupted, “$10 more without doing any work!! Is that what investing will do?”

“Wait,” said Dad. “Imagine taking a little more risk and putting the same $100 in bonds, which is lending your money to a company. You may get back $130.” “Wow” Maya exclaimed. “That’s not all, you can get even more by investing in a company and buying a share of it, called stock. This time your $100 might grow to $150”, Dad said. “Let me buy stocks, I want to make more money”, blurted Maya. “Yes, I’ll help you. But remember, since you are taking a risk, you may lose money too. When business is good and people have jobs, they buy more stocks and prices increase. This is called a “Bull” market. When business is bad, people start selling their stocks and prices decrease. This is called a “Bear” market. You also need to be careful and learn more about the company whose stock you are buying,” cautioned Dad, “Sometimes even in a bull market, companies may fail and you lose your money.” “In general, the longer you keep your money invested, the more you will get back,” Dad added.

Maya imagined a bull and a bear in her head to remember the growth and loss of her money. Maya could not control her excitement. The next month, Dad helped her open a mock investment account and showed her how investing works. He also drew her a graph that showed different types of investments and their risk. Maya wanted to be like Dad. She was so proud of him. A few weeks later, at the dinner table, she asked her dad “When I grow up, can I make all this money, without working?”

Dad and Mom chuckled. Dad responded, “No!! You have to first work and earn money to invest. Just like how you worked to get your $100. Only when you have enough saved, and developed a plan, can you start investing or continue investing. It is like planting a money seed which grows more money.” “Aah!!” she responded as if a light bulb went on in her brain and she understood exactly what Dad had explained.

After about 9 months, the phone rang at Zoe’s house. “Wow!” shrieked Zoe into the phone, “I cannot believe you have earned all that money! — $1000!! How did you do that? Where did you work?…” Maya interrupted, “You could do it too. But first you need to work and save some money to invest.” Zoe asked Maya, “Now, are you getting the bunny?”

Maya responded, “I am, but I am not sure whether I need one. I wanted one earlier, but I think I could save this money for something else. I had not thought about how bunnies make me sneeze, and how their twitching nose irritates me. I seriously think I can grow my money enough to buy a baby elephant!” Her parents looked puzzled, and yelled “Not again, Maya!” in unison.

Maya Makes Money

Human Rights

By Dylan Gosein, USA

Destroyed buildings, debris everywhere, many people wandering homeless. This is the situation in Libya as it is torn by the civil war. Many of these conditions are caused by bombings of innocent civilian cities to prove a point in the war. Some of the bombs used were cluster bombs which split into mini bombs and explode causing a wide range of destruction. The use of banned cluster bombs in Libya is violating a human right by killing innocent civilians which is ruining the lifestyle for the people living there. Firstly, the use of the cluster bombs is causing havoc in Libya and ruining lives of many people. The cluster bombs are being used by rebels that are fighting against the government to gain control and power over Libya. The country is torn apart by warfare as “rival militias are vying for power in the western and eastern parts of the country”(“Political”). On Sunday the press reported that two cluster bombs were dropped by an unknown source on at least two towns in Libya (Boehme). The bombs “are a form of air-drop explosives that release smaller submunitions when detonated” (Boehme). Because of the smaller submunitions or bomblets dropped, the bomb covers a wide area and is a threat to civilians. “Steve Goose, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) arms division director, said it was ‘appalling’ that Libya was using such weapons, especially in a residential area”(“Libya”). The bombs are “designed as anti-personnel, anti-armor weapons, but the primary victims have been innocent civilians”(“Legacies”). It has been reported than over 98% of cluster bomb victims have been innocent people and 40% of those people are children who are attracted to the small toy like bomblets that have not gone off yet(“Legacies”). Also besides the casualties the cities have been destroyed and many people are injured, they can’t continue to work to create income, and families have been torn apart. In conclusion the cluster bomb dropped have caused many difficulty for the cities and the overall country of Libya.

Secondly, many steps are being taken to improve the situation in Libya. “The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.”(“Cluster”). It also makes countries to destroy stockpiles, clear area that are contaminated with duds and help the victims of cluster bombs. Many states have joined the convention while others are still joining(“Cluster”). Many news stations have brought attention to this matter while others such as the Human Rights Watch are working on fixing the problem and stopping the deaths of innocent civilians. Even though many things are happening to solve this problem, a lot still needs to be done. Most of the duds that are lying down in cities need to be removed because children are picking them up and playing will them, even though they still might be live. Also, the government needs to see who is using the bombs and stop them from using it so no more civilians need to die in the crossfire of a war. In conclusion, many efforts are being done to improve Libya’s situation but much more still needs to be done.

Lastly, many examples of Human Rights have occurred in my life. For example, my family has donated money to help the people of Nepal after a 7.8 earthquake on the richter scale hit the area. Also, many people have died and many more are injured or missing. This connects to Human Rights because the money helps people get food, clothes and shelter to survive. Another example, was during my soccer game when somebody did a harsh tackle and knocked the other guy over on his face. Even though the referee said to play on the guy who did the tackle stopped the play and checked to see if he was injured because he had landed on his neck. Lastly, I volunteered during Earth Day to help clean up our community by picking up trash. Also, we raised money by selling baked goods for our school and breast cancer. In conclusion, I have seen and done many things to help people protect their human rights.

In conclusion, the use of banned cluster bombs in Libya is violating a human right by killing innocent civilians which is ruining the life of people. Maybe in the future Libya can become a safer place for people to live freely. Also, hopefully the country will be done with the civil war and have an orderly government that is fair to everyone who lives there. The government should also clean up the area of cluster bomb duds that attract children and then blow up. How can people around the world help Libya? What can you do?

Escapism

By Tejas Iyer, USA

Escapism can adversely affect one’s life as it is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities. Escapism is only a temporary solution to the main problem. The concept of escapism is delineated in the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles and the article “What You Running Away From? ” which shows how you could bolster your life by facing your problems and issues. Gene tries to escape from the fact that he badly injured his friend and Leper tries to escape from the brutal facts of the army and what happened to him there. Leper talks about how “ Gene knocked Finny out of the tree… that time Gene crippled him for life” exposing the secret fear Gene has been keeping inside of him with the ability to burst out any minute. Gene proceeds to kick Leper’s chair sending him to floor as Leper is still crying and laughing as he mentions that Gene was “always a savage underneath”. Gene is fuming because he knows what Leper is saying is true and is trying to cover it up with anger as shown by him kicking Leper’s chair. Leper shows escapism when he runs away from the army. He goes on about how he felt he was psycho and it was a brutal experience adding that they “turned everything inside out”. The harsh rules and things Leper sees in the army provoke him to detach himself from the army and blame them instead of facing his fears and reality. When Leper starts to describe chilling facts about the army and how he is psycho, Gene doesn’t want any part it and begins a “clumsy run across the field in a line which avoided his house and aimed toward the road leading back into town”. Gene escapes because he doesn’t want to bear the truth about the world which Leper describes to him as shown by Gene fleeing and avoiding his house on the way. This shows that no matter how much Gene and Leper try to run away from their fears, they will never get anything solved from “hiding, avoiding or escaping”. Escapism showed through Gene and Leper is just a mask used to conceal their real fears and chilling troubles that lurk underneath.

Competitions

By Ankur Jain, USA

Competition can negatively affect one’s social relationships by people constantly trying to steal credit from you. Primarily, a competitor showcases his talents in front of his friends and an audience. These types of relationships force people into “more bragging than sharing”. Friendships of this nature, can lead to people viewing you as an object, nothing more than something to compare their accomplishments to. Arguably the worst type of competition is when one’s friend tries to sabotage their efforts. A competitor might try to “undo what you’ve done and mislead you”. They will try to manipulate one in a way that will put the final result in their favor. These saboteurs apply for positions which put them in the most power, and put them higher up then their friends. Last, competition can bring about jealousy in the work environment. Men covet social dominance and social skills. This envy “seemed to boost competition and rival coworker characteristics feel even more threatening”. This leads to people trying to come out on top to impress their bosses and coworkers. In a nutshell, in these relationships people are always trying to gain credit.