Write From The Heart

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is a highly prestigious contest that recognizes the most promising voices in middle and high school. This year, they received 350,000 entries. Only the top 15% of the entries receive an award. All of our eligible students participate, and some submit more than one piece. We had 22 winners!!

Today, we are going to spotlight one of our winners: Eden S. Eden is an incredibly talented 10th grader who won THREE awards! She won a Silver Key in the Flash Fiction category, which she wrote in our Creative Writing: Playing with Narrators Workshop. She won a Silver Key in the Short Story category, which she wrote in our Creative Writing Workshop. She also won a Gold Key–in the Science Fiction category. Her Gold Key will go on to be judged in the national contest.

Additionally, her science fiction story was nominated for the American Voices Award. The nominees are chosen across all categories as the best in the region. At the national level, one nominated entry will be selected from the nominees as the best piece from that region.

UPDATE!! Eden won TWO National prizes!!

Eden’s story Longing for the Light won a Gold Medal at the National level.
It also won the American Voices Award–chosen as the BEST entry in her region!!!

Eden has been invited to attend the National Ceremony at Carnegie Hall in June. Congratulations, Eden!

Read Eden’s Flash Fiction here
Read Eden’s Short Story here
Read Eden’s Science Fiction here


Audacity

By Eden S., Pennsylvania, 10th Grade
Silver Key, Flash Fiction

“I would never steal, Officer! I could never stoop so low!” My voice had grown raspy from all my screaming about how perfectly innocent I was. 

The Security Officer grunted. “Miss, if you could please just quiet down–”

I cut him off, “But why on earth would I steal that jewelry? Those aren’t even real diamonds, Officer!” He stepped back to avoid being hit by my flailing hands, his eyes darting left and right as if he were looking for help. I folded my arms and took a few deep breaths. 

We were standing right outside the doors of Target, Office Hooper holding a bag in his burly hand– a bag which contained a $24 necklace…a $24 necklace he was accusing me of stealing.  

“Miss….” said Officer Hooper, raising an eyebrow and stepping closer to me. 

My voice shrieked, “Lilly! My name is Lilly, and I would never steal!” In turn, I stepped closer to the officer, batting my dark eyelashes at him, forcing tears to well up in my brown eyes. I watched closely as his face softened. 

“Now Miss Lilly, I am very sorry, but we’ve already had a few customers report that they saw you walking out of this store with this bag, without paying.” He shook the bag, still encased in his hand. “All I need is for you to please just come back inside and pay for the necklace.”

 “But I already payed for it!” I cried, “you wouldn’t make me pay for it twice would you, Officer? I’m already on such a tight budget, I simply don’t have the money to buy this necklace TWICE!” 

 “Now, ma’am, if you would please remain civil–” 

Gasping dramatically, I stepped back, hand on my heart. “Civil? Act civil?”

“Yes ma’am, please..” He tried to reach out for me but I violently smacked his hand away and continued with my performance. 

“You expect me to act civil when you won’t believe the honest word of an honest woman?!” 

Groaning, the Officer took a moment to think. 

“You say you already paid for the necklace?”

“Yes indeed, I did!” I exclaimed, stomping my foot on the ground. 

He scratched violently behind his neck before continuing, “well… then, may I please see the receipt?” 

My face immediately grew pale. “The receipt?” I stuttered.

“Yes ma’am.” 

Regaining myself I said chirpily, “Why, here it is, right in my purse.” I dug around in my small red leather purse for a moment before pulling out a slightly crumpled receipt. 

“There we are, Officer,” I said waving the piece of paper in the air.    

Surprisingly, Officer Hooper snatched the paper out of my hand before I could pull back and studied the receipt for a moment before eyeing me disappointedly. 

“Ma’am, I’m afraid that this receipt happens to be a receipt from Ulta…not Target.”

I laughed brashly, “Oh, well, is that so…silly me!” I snatched the Ulta receipt back from his hand. 

“Would you mind showing me the correct receipt?” the security Officer asked politely.

“Men these days!” I cried, “absolutely no honor! No chivalry whatsoever! The audacity!” I glared at him with a burning passion. “The audacity.”

Blushing, Officer Hooper averted his eyes and mumbled a gruff apology. 

“I just–” he started again. 

I swiftly walked over to the store’s outer brick wall, and leaned against it, burying my face in my hands. Officer Hooper quickly walked over to me and stood awkwardly at my side. I snuck a glance up at him, my face now wet with tears. 

Three children, Officer. I have three children at home.” He nodded his head stupidly, not knowing what else to say or do. 

“And what would become of them if I was to go to jail as a result of this…this— false accusation?” My voice rose to a feverish pitch and the Officer flinched slightly.

“Now, no one ever said anything about jail. However, if you continue to act like this I might have to report it to-” 

I sniffled dramatically.  “I know you mean to take me to jail, and my poor children will be orphaned!” Sobbing, my whole body convulsed, my back hunched over, and my bleached blonde hair clung to my tear-stained face. 

Taking off his cap, Officer Hooper stepped close to me again. “I am very sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid I can’t do anything for you.” I raised my head back up and brushed my hair out of my face. A coy smile spread across my lips as I whispered, 

“But of course you can, Officer. You could give me just what I need: my freedom.”

Startled he said, “Oh, well, I never took your freedom away, ma’am.” I stood up, back straight, shoulders back, a look of innocence still painted on my features. 

“For the sake of my children, Sir!”

“Well, now, I can’t just let you go!” he stammered. Groaning, I flung myself on him, clutching his jacket in my hands. 

“But I haven’t done anything wrong.” Fresh tears cascaded down my cheeks. Officer Hooper tried in vain to loosen my grip on him. 

Sighing loudly he nearly exploded: “Fine! If you would just please let go of me ma’am. I will let you–” Before he had even finished I was standing still, on my own accord, quietly watching him. 

A few moments of awkward silence passed before he spoke. “Well, on your way then.” My eyes slipped to the Target bag still in his hand as I softly explained, 

“It was for my daughter, you know. It’s her 15th birthday.“ Office Hooper stood unwavering, his face emotionless, the bag still clutched in his hand.

“She’s autistic.” I whispered. 

Closing his eyes, his lips twisted into a frown as he handed me the bag. Pulling out his wallet he walked back into the store to pay, I assumed, for the necklace himself. I wiped the last few tears from my eyes and smiled. Now that was way too easy.

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Remembrance

By Eden S., Pennsylvania, 10th Grade
Silver Key, Short Story

The glassy lake was still and misty, quietly elusive, undisturbed at this hour by any boats or swimmers. The early morning breeze was chilly and sweet, lazily whispering, causing autumn leaves to fall to the mossy ground. 

Wrapped in a thick brown jacket was an Old Man, sitting peacefully on the swaying dock which stretched out onto the lake. The skin of his wisened face resembled melted wax, but his pale blue eyes were still twinkling with life. He sat with his fishing rod encased in his rough hand, his lips humming a soft tune. Presently, there was a soft tug on his line and the fishermen began slowly reeling in his catch, his muscles flexing with the effort. Emerging from the lake came a glistening fish, the sun hitting his scales radiantly. The hands of the Old Man reached out purposefully and grabbed the struggling fish. Holding it gently, he admired the beautiful bluegill and stroked its fins gently. Working deftly, he began extracting the hook from the fish’s mouth. He then held the fish for a moment longer before stretching his arm back towards the lake and returning the fish to his watery home. Sighing deeply, he re-cast his line just as a small robin began its early morning song. 

From the distance there were a few sharp barks. The Old Man lifted his chin and turned his head to let out a two- note whistle. Speeding out of the dense woods came a spotted dog with floppy ears and a wagging tail. As he ran towards the Old Man, yelping loudly, the still morning seemed to suddenly burst with movement. Birds flew frantically away from the disturbing beast and small creatures ducked for cover. Unaware of it all, the dog leaped onto the dock, his sole purpose: to reunite with his master. Fish, alarmed by the sounds of the yapping dog, swam far away. Once the dog had at last reached his master, he sat down next to him, large pink tongue hanging out of his mouth. 

“Look what you’ve done,” scolded the Old Man, “ya scared all the fish.” Understanding nothing, the dog only stared excitedly at the Old Man, and the Old Man, unable to hold a grudge towards his beloved dog, scratched behind his ears and chuckled.

“Now Sparky, since there ain’t any more fish to catch, we better be heading back before you cause any more damage.” 

Sparky had come to him a few days before last Christmas. The ground that year was coated with a thick layer of snow, promising the certainty of a white Christmas. Sparky ‘s backstory was unknown to the Old Man, but that night there had been a foreign scratching at the door and the Old Man, in alarm, had grabbed his rifle before tentatively cracking it open. Outside, however, he was greeted by a small shivering pup, who stared up at him with dark, fearful eyes. Softened by the sight, the Old Man scooped up the pup, washed and fed him, and laid him down by the fire where he slept for nearly a day.  From that day on, they were inseparable. 

  Lumbering up from his seat on the dock, the Old Man slung his fishing rod across his shoulder and began the short journey back to his house. With every step, autumn leaves crunched beneath his feet. His boots left an imprint on the muddy path. 

As the Old Man slowly trudged along, he thought back to the times when he was actually able to run. Memories of galavanting through the woods with his siblings, swimming in the creeks, and climbing trees flooded his mind. He remembered all too well the mornings he had climbed high up into the branches of their sturdy oak tree to catch an early sunrise. Or the scorching summer afternoons when he had jumped gloriously into a pond or lake or any accessible body of water and lazily swam about. He smiled as he remembered running track, his unnaturally long, and goofy-looking limbs moving like a well-oiled machine. Oh the races he won.

Lost in the maze of memories, the Old Man noticed he had ventured a bit off his course. He paused and looked around to regain his bearings. Sparky, who seemed to understand what was needed, stopped trailing from behind, and trotted over to the Old Man. Sensing his hesitation, Sparky barked and turned confidently towards the left, the Old Man following his lead. With their course adjusted, the pair continued their descent towards the house. The man’s stiff joints and aching feet were now unhappy, and it caused his mood to sour a bit. He sighed. He felt lonely today.

As he walked, her face flashed through his mind. Golden red curls. Deep brown eyes. Carefree laugh. Her dainty figure and soft pale hands were still lingering in his memories as if it were yesterday. Rachel. So many years had passed in loneliness that the Old Man had forgotten the feeling of truly caring for another person and being cared for in return. He had it once, but that love had died. Gently, he folded up these memories again and tucked them away. 

He turned his head to be sure Sparky was still close. He spotted his loyal companion just around the bend. In a world where the Old Man had no one… no children and no family nearby, his little dog had become his most precious treasure. Presently, his cabin came into view. 

The logs of his home were dark and covered in lichen. Ivy had begun creeping up the sides, like wispy green curtains. Smoke from his early morning fire was lazily wafting out of the brick chimney. The old man grabbed the door handle and turned it. He never kept it locked, reasoning that if there was anything in his cabin someone needed to steal they probably needed it more than him. Stepping in, the wood floor creaked solemnly beneath his feet as he wiped his boots clean on the small bristled floor mat. His cabin consisted of a single room “divided” into parts. His bed was pushed into the far right corner of the house, accompanied only by a small stand, topped by a stack of books the Old Man had never actually read but intended to someday.

Within a few minutes, his eggs were sizzling on the large cast iron stove. Turning off the stove he slid the eggs out of the pan and onto a chipped plate, and grabbed a fork. He then walked back carefully over to his cushioned chair with the radio perched nearby on a small coffee table. He turned the radio to “The World and Everything In It,” which was what he listened to at breakfast. Sparky, faithful as always, sat down right at the Old Man’s feet for his morning nap. 

    “And now, back to, The World and Everything In It!” 

There were three loud knocks on the door. 

    “Just leave the mail at the door please,” called the Old Man with his raspy voice. 

    He heard a sigh from the other side of the door before, “It’s not the mailman, James, it’s your sister.”
    Shock flooded the Old Man’s face as he pulled himself up from his seat, setting his plate down at the coffee table. Sister? I haven’t seen my sister for years! He was incredulous, and bitter thoughts rushed to the forefront of his mind as he made his way to the door. He opened it cautiously. His sister’s short voluminous brown hair framed her oval face nicely, but her dark blue eyes and smile were overshadowed by a look of disappointment. 

“Well, James, aren’t you going to welcome me in?” She asked. James swayed from foot to foot in indecisiveness and surprise. What was Eleanor doing here? What did she need? Eleanor was the youngest of James’ siblings, and had always been a loyal companion during their childhood, despite their age difference. But after she had gotten married, James never saw her much. She was happy, living her own life. So he only grunted and stepped away from the door, turning his back on his sister as she came in.

Eleanor followed him in, smiling as she sat her purse down on the couch. She immediately walked into the kitchen and began preparing a pot of tea…as if she owned the place! James resolved to ignore her presence as he walked back to his seat, a look of contempt painted across his face. Sinking into the cushioned chair he eyed his eggs, now cold, sitting on the coffee stand. Eleanor took off her thin brown jacket and hung it on the single peg by the door. Grabbing a chair from around the small dining table, she dragged it over to James and seated herself in it, facing him, hands clasped in front of her. 

“James, do you want to come shop with me today or should I go by myself?”  

The Old Man was aghast. “Shop? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he gruffly replied. 

Eleanor closed her eyes and looked down for a moment. The Old Man stared at her suspiciously. This was about the strangest morning he could remember. Who did she think she was busting in here as if she had been invited? He watched as her sad eyes slid to his plate of breakfast 

“Since when did you care?” he grumbled under his breath.

“Oh James,” Eleanor began again, that smile still on her face.  “It really is so good to see you. You know I wouldn’t come visit every week if I didn’t care about you. It was so lovely to go out shopping together last week. Have you been wearing your new fall jacket we picked out?”

Just last week. The words filled his head. How could she have been here just last week?  Wading through his memories he tried to distinguish the past from the present but try as he might, he could not recall the last time his sister visited him. He began to wonder if she was trying to play a joke on him. She scooted forward on her chair and clasped James’ large rough hands in her own.

“James, I’ve been visiting you all these months, and we always do have a lovely time together… And when I can’t make it over, you know Jack or Robby love to come by.” James squinted his eyes at her trying to piece it all together. Eleanor had never been a liar. Although he didn’t understand it, he knew she must be right. He was almost 80 now, he thought, and an old man can’t be expected to remember everything. He sighed deeply and turned his head away from her. 

She squeezed his hands and whispered, “It’s okay.” 

The tea pot began its shrill whistle. Eleanor stood and gathered up his plate sitting by the radio and set it on the counter next to the already empty plate with a few breakfast scraps on it. 

Strange, thought James his mind muddling.

She giggled as she rummaged through the tea cabinet. 

“Remember when we all used to have those tea parties together in the woods, and pretend to be little woodland creatures?” She smiled and continued talking of the old days, and before long, the Old Man relaxed. 

Eleanor could paint a picture with her words: Cheerful spring days where he and his siblings set out their old chipped tea cups on big round stumps in the woods… plates made of bark, acorn snacks, mud pie pancakes sprinkled with wild chives. How they would chant little songs together and stomp through the trees, pretending to be world explorers. James and his eldest brother Jack were the hunters who felled wild beasts and built lean-tos in the forest. All these memories, brilliantly picturesque, came alive with Eleanor by his side. 

“Yes, I remember,” James murmured under his breath, as he closed his eyes and smiled.

“Funny how memory works,” said Eleanor, her back still turned to James as she opened the cupboard and stood on tip toes in order to pull down two tea cups. 

“Those were the good old days,” she said as she grabbed the kettle and poured equal amounts of hot water into the cups. “And I’m so glad we can share those memories together.

Sometimes…sometimes the memories become a little blurry,” she said as she put a tea bag in each cup, and carefully carried them across the room. They swayed dangerously before she handed one to James and sat back down in her own chair with hers.

“Sometimes our memories just need a little warming up. And that’s what I’m here for.” Eleanor gave him a wry smile.

James, relieved and comforted by her words of encouragement, locked eyes with his sister and smiled back, reaching out to softly pat her leg. They sat together in silence drinking their tea and thinking of the happy days of their childhood. Occasionally one of them would let out a small chuckle and together they would reminisce about a certain conversation or event they shared. It was peaceful, and James and Eleanor both relished it equally.

“Well…are you coming with me or shall I go on my own?” said Eleanor in a chipper voice as she stood from her seat with her tea cup in hand. Sparky awoke from his nap, stretched and yawned as Eleanor collected her brother’s empty cup with hers and placed them in the sink. Stepping to the door, she removed their coats from the pegs on the wall and waited patiently. The Old Man’s eyes met hers, and standing slowly, he took her outstretched hand and followed.

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Longing for the Light

By Eden S., Pennsylvania, 10th Grade
Gold Key, Science Fiction
American Voices Nominee

My name is Ivy Jenette Louis. I’m 16 years old, 17 in two months. I enjoy reading. I live with my two parents, and I have no siblings. The year is 3052. The air outside is still toxic. I have never been outside…I have never even seen the outside although I desperately wish to.

My fingers paused momentarily over the keyboard before nimbly moving to scan my braille display. I re-read the first few sentences of my biography assignment, and wondered if I should change the wording…”I have never seen the outside…” 

Hm. Perhaps I should clarify: I’ve never seen anything for that matter. As long as I can remember, I have been blind. 

“8:00am,” I heard the robotic voice notify from the ceiling. I swiftly stood from my seat on the edge of my bed. 7:30am was my assigned wake-up time, but I had gotten up earlier to work on my assignment and had long since washed and dressed for the day. I smoothed my short cropped hair, straightening my posture as I did so. My room had no door, only a thin curtain, which my parents told me was a necessary precaution because of my blindness, though it had always seemed to be a slight invasion of my privacy.

I slipped past the thin curtain which whispered softly as it floated back to its place. 

They say that when one of your five senses doesn’t work, the others grow stronger to compensate for what’s missing. It’s one of the very few perks of being blind, I suppose. Hearing, for me, was what I especially relied upon.  Our building was a workplace for High Tec Scientists like my parents. Although I was never allowed any information on what exactly their job was, they said that I, too, had a very important part to play in it. 

 Five silent strides brought me to our dining table, which sat in the dead center of our Unit. I sensed both of my parents already at the table.

Once I was in place, standing directly behind my chair, morning greetings began.  

“Good morning, Mother. Good morning, Father.” 

“Good morning, Ivy.” my parents said in unison. Both voices consistently deep and devoid of emotion. 

My mother had told me once that she and my father both had black hair and dark green eyes. That was the only description given and since physical touch was discouraged, my parents’ physical appearance remained a mystery to me, even after all these years.

My parents and I then sat, and continued to perform the usual morning breakfast routine: Father, serving himself first, then Mother, and lastly, me. Two eggs, one piece of bacon, and one slice of toast, every morning, always the same. Consistency was one of the rules of maintaining a healthy Unit. 

“What are you studying first today, Ivy?” asked my mother. I heard her set her fork down on the edge of her plate as her jaw slowly chewed her food, waiting for me to answer. 

“Grammar,” I responded. I stuffed a few eggs onto my fork and filled my mouth with them hoping it would deter any further conversation directed at me. 

“How useful,” she replied. I decided not to tell her what I really thought.

“Indeed,” spoke my father.

I heard Mother pick up her fork again.“Your father and I will be leaving in two days for a prestigious business trip.”

 My lips pulled up at the corners of my mouth after hearing the words. I worked hard to conceal it but I was delighted at the thought of my parents going away. They hadn’t left for one of their business trips for nearly three years.

“Oh. How long will you be gone?” I asked, my voice laced with false disappointment. 

“Only a week,” reliped Father. I squeezed my fork tightly in my hand. A whole week. I listened as my Mother sipped from her glass of juice. Although I couldn’t see them, I always felt her eyes burning into me, watching me with an intensity that scared me even if I couldn’t see it. I tried to conceal my feelings from her by wiping my face of all emotion. Listening, I heard her set her glass back down. 

“You are still expected to perform your daily lessons and tests during our time away.”  Inwardly I rolled my eyes. I was nearly 17 yet she seemed determined to control as much of my life as she possibly could. 

“Of course, Mother,” I deadpanned back. Although annoyed, I could not show it. Self control is one of the rules of maintaining a healthy Unit. 

Thankfully, the remainder of our breakfast passed in silence. When we finished, we stood as our Artificial Intelligence Assistants cleared away everything left on the table. 

“You are excused to your work, Ivy,” said my mother in her usual monotone manner.

 I retreated back to my curtained-off room, holding in my sigh of irritation until I was out of earshot. I collapsed onto my neatly made bed as my parents’ business conversation faded into the background. Two days I thought longingly, they would be gone in two days. Rolling on my side I reached over to my bookshelf next to my bed and felt around, searching for my grammar book. My fingers brushed against the Rules of Maintaining a Healthy Unit and I grimaced. 

One hundred and fifty rules were encased in that dreadful book, all of which I was expected to memorize. I had read through it more than a dozen times by now and it only made me more upset each time. There were plenty of rules and guidelines on how to act and how to speak, but never was there a single mention of feelings

Two years ago I had read an ancient story called Romeo and Juliet for my English Studies, and for the first time, I had been introduced to the concept of Love. Questions filled my mind, but after voicing too many of them, the book was taken away from me. I could still close my eyes and distinctly remember what it felt like to be caught up in that story and what it might be like to love and be loved like Juliet was. My life was nothing like hers and I resented that. My parents often told me how privileged we were to live in the Science and Technology Division, where only the most gifted students are allowed to take part in the Brain Stimulus Project. Privilege? Who decided that getting hooked up to an AI computer program 5 days a week and answering a million questions about a million different scenarios was a privilege?

My familiar longing for escape pounded through my head. 

My groping hand finally found my grammar book and the cloud of wishful thoughts disappeared. Laying on my back I propped the book up on my stomach with my right hand, and began scanning the braille with my left.

My thoughts drifted. What a wonderful thing it must be to be able to see… to not be constantly suffocated by darkness. I rested the book face down and gently traced the skin around my eyes. My eyelashes brushed against my fingers tips and my throat tightened. Blindness wouldn’t be so bad if you could at least be surrounded by a world that was diverse and beautiful, a world where love was a possibility. The darkness isn’t so bad, but the loneliness had become unbearable. Crazy how a “silly little book,” as my parents had called it, that I had read years ago, had awakened such an overpowering longing in me, and a restlessness for something else…something more. 

Flipping on to my stomach, I rested the grammar book on my pillow. I quickly brushed away the two tears that had fallen onto the page. Sighing, I pushed these feelings from my mind, traced my finger along the raised dots, and tried to apply myself to my studies. 

7 pm, an hour before the assigned rest time. Early to bed and early to rise was the routine deemed the healthiest. Good health was one of the rules of maintaining a healthy unit.

My mind was full of cobwebs and my body was tired after hours dedicated to study. Annoyed, I slammed the book shut and stood quietly. 

Technically, I wasn’t allowed out of my room until the next morning, since we had already partaken in dinner, but I was feeling that familiar sensation of choking on all the darkness. I walked to my curtain, my face barely brushing against it, and I listened. I waited ten seconds before confirming my suspicion that both parents were in their Performance Room, were they completed all their important tasks.

 Pushing past the curtain, I swiftly walked towards the one place that always provided me with some comfort. Tracing the cool plastic of our table with my hand, I continued past it, slowing. 

There. The slightest tinge of heat, which was how yellow had been described to me years ago. Warm, bright, happy. My left hand was pressed up stiffly to the small square window, the only one in the house, as far as I knew. Soon, my forehead too made contact with the window, and my eyes squeezed shut, as I desperately tried to imagine being free. I didn’t even notice I had been holding my breath until, gasping, I suddenly released it.

I opened my eyes.

Light had never really been described to me. All I knew was that it was different from darkness in every way possible, so when my familiar darkness was struck by a sudden piercing light I couldn’t help but yell. Staggering backwards, I tripped over my own feet and fell, the floor coming up to meet me. 

It was gone almost as soon as it had come. I didn’t know how, but I knew what had happened. I had just seen light. Only for an instant, but I could see. My trance was broken when I heard footsteps walking hastily down the stairs and towards me.

I lay blinking and trying to regain my composure. 

“Ivy. What are you doing out of your room?” Mother asked. 

“I-I tripped.” I stammered.

“You are aware that you’re not permitted to exit your room at this time. Please return there now,” my father spoke.

My mind reeled, “I apologize… it won’t happen again.” 

“You are excused, Ivy.” Mother said.

I turned and retreated back to my room, thinking only of the light and the hope it held. 

The lukewarm water spilled steadily over me, raising goosebumps all over my skin.

It had been exactly one day since it had started. Although the flashes of sight had happened over a dozen times now, it always faded to darkness after a few brief seconds. 

My parents would be leaving tomorrow and wouldn’t be back for a week. I had made up my mind not to tell them what was happening to me. I wasn’t totally sure why, but I felt certain they would not consider the flashes of seeing to be a good thing.  I couldn’t help but wish for tomorrow to come faster. 

I tilted my head back and allowed the water to splash onto my eyelids once more before stepping out from under it. I opened my eyes. 

Light. 

Again, only for a few seconds, light cut through my darkness. I smiled, laughter slipping out. Each time, things seemed a little clearer, though everything fell back into shadows so quickly. 

“Time is up.” spoke the same robotic voice. The water was cut off, indicating that my 8 minute Cleanliness Session was up. Exiting the shower room, I reached for my jumpsuit.

Once I was dressed, I sat down on the floor, leaning against my bed. It was happening more often, and it frustrated me that I had no control over when or where the flash’s occured. I wondered again why I felt so certain I didn’t want my parents to know. Perhaps it was because I had begun to trust them less and less, or maybe it was because I had no idea how they would handle the idea of me not being totally blind. My blindness made me ignorant, vulnerable, and needy. But deep down, I wondered if the cause of these flashes was my decision a few weeks ago to stop my brain stimulus tests…easy to do once I discovered that the AI didn’t report incomplete tests, but stored them in a separate file where they awaited completion.

“8:00am” said the speaker from the ceiling. Standing and turning towards my doorway, it happened again. As plain as day, I saw my curtain door hanging a few feet away from my face. It was translucent. Things faded back to black and a slight aching pinched my forehead. Ignoring it, I moved forward a few steps, reaching out to feel my translucent curtain. I felt sick. How many times had my parents watched me through that curtain? 

My mind flashed back to Romeo and Juliet. It was written as a stage play, and I had a vague understanding what an actor was. I figured if I was to make it until my parents left, I had better sharpen my acting skills. 

I painted a dull expression across my face and exited my small prison. 

“Is it possible,” I tentatively spoke, pushing my eggs around on my plate with my fork, “for a blind person to recover their sight?” I tried not to show how fearful I was when both parents stilled. 

“What has caused you to be curious about that?” asked Mother, not answering my question. 

My face fell and I could not conceal the stutter in my own voice, “I-I was simply wondering what it would be like to see, like you and Father, and how convenient it would be to-”

She cut me off, “Is your life not convenient?”

I turned my head away from her, resentment bubbling up in me.

“Maybe it would be inconvenient for you if I could see,” As soon as I spoke, I wished I could snatch the words back, but it was too late. 

“We are confused by your actions, Ivy, please excuse yourself,” said my father.

I stood up, my mind screaming words I couldn’t say. Turning away from my suffocating parents, light flashed across my vision and I clung to it like hope.

My studies dragged terribly, and once again, like a small act of rebellion, I left my Brain Stimulus tests incomplete.

 My Mother came to my room mid afternoon. 

“Your Father and I have modified our trip and we will be leaving tonight after dinner. Instead of a week we will return tomorrow night.”

I didn’t speak. Tomorrow night. 

“We feel that it is not ideal to leave you for so long when you’re in such an… unpredictable state.” I turned my head away from her, anger welling up within me. 

“6:00 pm. Dinner.” I staggered to my feet, determined to navigate this prolonged bout of seeing. My head was spinning but I took a deep breath before I pushed past my curtain. Everything was burning white—floor, ceilings, furniture. I kept my eyes down, fearing I would arouse suspicion from my parents. Finding my place, I gently lowered my body into my seat. I carefully kept my eyes off the faces of my parents, feeling certain they would discover my secret. 

My focus fell upon my knife, placed to the right of my now full plate. I cradled it, slightly turning it to the side so that the big flat side my aimed directly towards me. 

I caught a glimpse of my reflection and gasped quietly. Steadying the knife, I studied the face in the metal. Dark hair, small deeply colored lips and pale eyes with long lashes. 

“Ivy, is there a problem?” my mother interrupted my thoughts.

Gathering my courage, I lifted my eyes to her face. Angular. Cold. Artificial. Where her eyes were situated, there were only slits of light. These were directed now at my face and I frantically averted my eyes before her gaze reached mine. She possessed a few human- like qualities but the lack of emotion and the harshness were finally explained. Stealing a glace at my father, I discovered that he looked the same way. I shuddered when the full force of realization hit me. Although I couldn’t describe why, an overwhelming feeling of relief filled me. 

“No.” I whispered. Dinner passed in silence.

As my parents prepared to leave, we exchanged stiff goodbyes at the door of our Unit. I watched closely as my mother pressed a small button on the wall that opened the door to the world outside my prison. Standing behind my parents, I watched as the door slid open, eager to catch glimpse of what lay beyond.

As my parents robotically stepped out into the corridor, I was startled when another door slid open, and I saw I was staring at some sort of reflection. Only a few yards away I could see a more masculine version of myself standing behind two artificial parents identical to mine. 

 I caught my breath when I realized it was not a reflection, but that a boy was looking straight at me. After a moment of frantic hesitation, I held up my hand in a meek wave and took a small step forward. Nothing. I waved my hand with a little more aggression, desperately hoping to get the boys attention but once again, no response, almost as if…he couldn’t see me.

I watched, head throbbing as my door slid slowly back into place, the boy disappearing behind it. As if a new day were dawning, light had been shed on many things these past days. Yet I still had so many questions. What other secrets lay just beyond my familiar darkness? Smiling, I closed my eyes. This time, all I could see was light.

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