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  Creative Writing: Our favourites

The Fireball on the Hill

By Katie, 11, South Salem, NY, USA

The moon arose slowly, shining an eerie light on the swaying grass in Assateague Island. A piercing whinny cut through the silence; the sound of hooves pounding the Virginia turf made the ground shake. Eight shaggy ponies thundered into the lit clearing, tossing their heads, their coats glowing bright in the moonlight. The last pony—a sleek, Chestnut colored one—trotted past the ponies, whose heads had bent towards the grass to graze. Everything was still and silent; the scene was peaceful.
When the Chestnut lowered his head to the grass, the only sound through the grassy hills was the light chomping of ponies’ jaws, the slight swish as their tails flicked, the wind whistling through the grass, and the contented snorts of ponies filling their stomachs. The sun rose the next morning and set light on the clearing. The majestic Chestnut was standing proudly at the top of the hill, surveying his herd below.
Two mares were licking their babies gently; the babies’ fur was slicked and damp from their mothers’ soft tongues.
Three yearlings were frolicking rambunctiously around the clearing, jumping over sticks and twigs and nosing each other’s coats curiously.
Suddenly, the Chestnut cantered down the hill; his ears lay flat on his head. He emitted a frantic whinny, and rounded up his herd. They galloped away, their hooves churning up dirt and clods of grass. The noise that had frightened the Chestnut became louder. A big, brightly colored van was bumping its way along the uneven ground. It made a high-pitched rattling noise as it went along. When it came to a stop, a man jumped out from the driver’s seat. He was stocky and short with curly auburn hair that curled on his forehead and over his ears. His brow was crinkled in thought as he surveyed the clearing. His big leather jacket was tied carelessly around his waist. He wiped his face with a handkerchief. They had traveled a long way.
Eagerly, another figure jumped from the van. The girl was thin, with hair like her father’s that shone brightly in the sunlight. She was wearing a long, white summer dress that rippled in the summer breeze. Her hands were gripping a long, rough green rope used to lead horses.
“Is this a horse-inhabited area, Dad?” the girl asked, twirling the rope between her fingers impatiently. “It certainly looks like horses have been here recently.”
“Seems like it,” the man grunted. He turned to face his daughter. “Come
here, Lila. See the fresh manure? They’ve been here—about five minutes ago.” He stroked his chin. “There were quite a few of them, too.”
“A herd!” Lila exclaimed breathlessly. “Oh, Dad! Can we drive and find them?”
“We could, on foot,” he replied. “I think it was the sound of our van that frightened them.”
“Okay.” Lila said. “Is Mom coming?”
“She’ll wait here, in the van.” He nodded his head towards the field.
“Come, Lila.”
They set off across the field.

Now, back to us. I’m the Chestnut, the narrator of my life, and the leader of the herd. Here’s my story:
“Beware,” I told my herd. “Humans are following us.”
“Will they take us away, Leader?” a young palomino pony asked fearfully.
“That happened to my Uncle, you know. Never saw him again.”
I shook my fine head; my mane bounced. “I don’t know.”
A bay-colored mare’s tail flicked. “How do you know? They are hunters. They are sly. They are sneaky.”
I pawed at the ground nervously; dust rose upward. Before I could respond, a soft rhythm reached my delicate and soft ears.
“Footsteps,” I breathed, alerting the herd.
I walked in front of them, hiding them from view. Suddenly, two figures came over the hill. My herd tensed, ready to take flight and gallop away, but I made them wait.
The humans were male and female, and I guessed the taller male was the female’s sire. They paused at the top of the hill. I noticed the female was fingering the lead rope as if it was the most precious thing she had ever felt.
“Come here, sweetie,” she cooed slowly, the lead rope dangling from her fingers, her eyes patient. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
I watched them warily; my ears pricked.
They stood quietly. The male glanced towards my head mare, the bay-colored one, curiously.
“Keep still,” I whispered to my herd, my ears flicking back and forth, trying to catch any sound that would warn us of those humans.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes, Lila stepped forward. “Come here…”
She hid the lead rope behind her back. “We’re not going to hurt you. We just want to say ‘hello.’” She took another step, and her father followed.
The herd swished their tails nervously; the foals trembled.
Lila, impatient now, walked forward briskly, her mouth in an angry line.
That was all the herd needed. They whirled and galloped away, tails streaming, like flags in the wind.
“No!” Lila cried, kneeling to the ground. She turned to her father, eyes frustrated. “Why did they have to run away? Horses are so frustrating; I just hate them sometimes!” She beat the ground furiously.
“Maybe they suspected they weren’t going to be just a pet.” He smiled grimly.
“I guess.” Lila looked up, her face blotchy. “But horses are made for running! And I want to win that show!”
“I know you do, Pumpkin, but we can’t hope to win it until we have that horse. You’ve got to be up for a whole lot of training, though, Lila; he hasn’t run a race or jumped a jump before with a human in control. And goodness! This is an important show for Virginia! Fifteen thousand dollars in prize money! Everyone’s going crazy, but they don’t have the sense to get a mustang. We do. These animals live their life running! With the right training, the show will be a piece of cake. Anyway, have
you seen his height? He’s not a regular Assateague pony; I’d bet he’s a horse. Funny—the rest of his herd are ponies! I’m not too sure about his breed, but he’s not a pony, and he wasn’t born on the island.”
“I know!” Lila snapped. “I just want the horse! Now!”
“I’ll try my best, Pumpkin. We’ll be better prepared tomorrow.” He turned, running a hand through his sweaty hair. “It’s mighty hot,” he said finally. “Let’s head back to the van.”
Lila followed, defeated.

Now, back to us again.
“That was close!” exclaimed a frisky male gray pony with a matted tail.
“Did you see their faces? Pure evil.”
“Yes,” a female gray chimed in, “that lead rope looked harsh. And the sire had a dangerous gleam in his eye.”
I quieted them. “Calm down.” I strode among the herd; the grass flattened as my hooves trod upon it. “Everyone, listen.” I turned to the four mares. “Popinjay, Lady, Feline, and Sugar; you are in no danger. It is not you they want.” I whirled so I faced the yearlings. “You colts should watch your hooves. You’re frisky and full of energy, handsome, talented.
You’re targets for the Horse Hunters. If any of you are captured, we’ll do what we can. But be careful. And—Charlie?”
An old pony with the shaggiest, blackest coat of any of us lifted his head from the ground, strands of grass trailing from his rubbery lips. “Yes?” he rasped, his ears pricked weakly.
“Pay attention!” I ordered sternly.
Charlie emitted a snort of laughter. “Oh, I know all this. I’ve dodged a lot of Hunters in my days. I’m not going to go running pell-mell in every direction like the old days. I’m staying right here, thank you very much.”
“Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn, Charlie.” I sighed, amused, as I moved on down the line to stand beside the lead mare, Sugar. “We all understand your laziness. But, you, Charlie, are part of this herd. You are going to follow directions.”
“Yes,” Charlie sighed. He shuffled to a new patch of grass.

“And in first place for the All-Virginia Rider’s Show, Tara Lane!”
Smiling, a tall, blonde girl trotted her fine, dapple grey Thoroughbred forward to collect her shining blue ribbon from the stern-looking judge.
“Congratulations,” The judge said, managing a small smile.
“Oh, thank you!” Exclaimed the fifteen year old joyfully. “Have a good day!”
Surprised, the judge gaped. No rider had ever wished her a good day before.
In another part of Virginia, far away from the plotting Lila and her father and the whinnies of wild ponies, Tara Lane was admiring her ribbon from the horse show.
She was a very good rider, a kind girl who loved the horses far more than the ribbons they got for her. She prayed every night for the graceful animals with the long flowing tails; how much they had done for her!
Tara lived in a nice house on the beautiful meadows and valleys of Virginia. A barn stood tall beside the house, holding her horse, Storm, her younger brother’s horse, Mo, and her parents’ horses, Peanut and Biscuit, in it. Tara was undoubtedly from a horse-loving family; a Lane family member that fed themselves first and the horses second did not exist. Every Lane member got up even before dawn to feed and exercise their horses; then, an hour and a half later, they sat down, exhausted, to feed themselves.
Horses were Tara’s life.
Her first pony, Spice, an old mare with an injured hock, had given her comfort and joy when her seven-year old self was sad.
Her first horse, a stubborn Arabian named Chocolate Chip, was a horse that was not beautiful. He was strong though; he could run for days on end if he was asked to. He had a big heart; he would do whatever Tara asked of him. His appearance was not to be proud of, even though his personality was. He had matted dark bay fur with an ugly blaze and large ears; his legs were crooked, although it didn’t matter; he still ran his heart out anyway.
But her most special horse, the one she had been riding in the show, was a beautiful dapple grey with a lovely, soft face and a perfect conformation. She was a thoroughbred, a favorite breed among business horse owners. She floated above the ground; her canter was like the soothing rocking your mother gave you at night; her trot was energetic and not bouncy at all. And when you had the privilege to be aboard her back as she sailed over a jump, a smile will be glued to your face until you go to sleep that night, or even later…
Tara was happy with every horse she ever patted; every horse she laid eyes on; every horse that existed. She loved even the meanest tempered horse. If she showered him with love, he would be a new horse—a sweet, affectionate one.
“Congratulations!” Her younger brother, Andrew, called. He had rushed into the barn excitedly. “You beat ‘em all real easily!”
“Not really!” Tara laughed. “It was all Storm.” She stood up and reached over the stall door where Storm was, and patted her lovingly. “She did a great job.”
“She sure did!” Andrew exclaimed. He sighed, and glanced at Storm.
“When do Mo and I get to ride in that horse show you were in?”
“When you’re nine,” She replied.
“One more year to go, then,” Andrew said excitedly. “I can’t wait!”
The car pulled out of the stable parking lot an hour later; a horse trailer following behind.
“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall!” Andrew bellowed. He nudged Tara with his shoulder. “Come on, Tara, sing!”
“I’d rather not. I’m concentrating on my trophy.” The trophy she had received was balanced on her lap, and she was gazing at it adoringly.
“Trophy, trophy, trophy, ribbon, ribbon, ribbon.” Andrew smirked at her.
“I am not.”
“Are too!”
“Am not!”
“Tara, Andrew, stop being ridiculous,” Their mother said sharply from the front seats.
Tara leaned forward towards her mother and said, “I wasn’t being a show-off. I was concentrating on my next show, the huger one. It’s in late September. You know, with the prize of fifteen thousand?”
“Oh, no, Tara, not the Virginia Special. You are not competing in that. That is a serious, many level show. It’s very competitive and for only the top riders.” Tara’s mother turned in her seat to give her a firm glare.
“But, Mom!” Tara cried. “I’m a really good rider! You said so yourself! I’m better than almost all kids my age, or older! You know that! You know I’m good enough for it.”
“This isn’t exactly a matter of how good you are, Tara. It is way beyond that. There’s the pressure, the cheating, the tension, and money spinning around you. I won’t allow it.” She sighed, and then added, “And think of Storm, doing all that work.”
“Storm would like it!” Tara argued fiercely. “She, like me, unlike you, enjoy challenges.”
“Don’t give me that sharp tongue of yours, Tara. I will talk no more about it.”
With a frustrated sigh, Tara leaned back in her seat.
The car continued on.

“Dad?” Lila yawned, her arms spread wide. “I hear hooves.” She pointed to the door of the van as she stifled another yawn. “Should we go out and look for them?”
“Yes, that’s why I woke you at five to drive out here, right?” Her father bustled over, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s go; it’s a new day, a new try. We’re going to catch that horse!”
They stepped from the car into the dim light of dawn. The air was crisp, clear, chilly, and moist. Lila shivered, drawing her sweatshirt more tightly around her.
“What are we going to do, lasso them?” She joked, her voice ringing into the silent air.
Her father, several feet ahead of her, paused. He then said softly, “That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
“Seriously?” Lila said incredulously. “Is that even allowed?”
“I think so.” He shrugged. “But it doesn’t really matter right now.” He beckoned her closer. “Come on, faster; they have four feet, you know. They go faster.”
“Coming, coming,” Lila murmured, and she jogged to catch up to her father.
Soon the hoof beats became more audible.
“Here they come,” Lila whispered, coming to a stop. The unmistakable sounds of horses cantering became louder and louder as each step brought the herd closer to Lila and her father.
The herd then appeared at the top of a hill and made their way down it; the thunderous sounds of their hooves hitting the ground with tremendous force made Lila waver unsteadily as the horses surrounded her. Nervously, she moved towards her father, who was standing motionless only feet from one horse. The horse was snorting and pawing the ground, his ears lying on his head threateningly.
Suddenly, Lila’s father spoke. It was a low, soothing tone. He turned slowly to face her, making no quick, jerky movements. “Take this end of the rope,” He ordered in a whisper, letting a thick green rope crumple at his feet. “Spread it as far as you can—make no sudden noises or movements—“
Lila nodded, a quick, subtle movement. She came to get the rope, making soft, slow steps, and once she had it, retreated again with the rope in her hand.
Her father slowly adjusted his hand and got ready to flip the rope over a horse’s neck. Lila’s breath came in quick gasps. She was terribly nervous. The horses closed in, forming an imperfect circle surrounding them.
“Lila, do not move yet. When I say so, I want you to wind your way around that stallion—yes, the one we’ve been talking about, the one we want—and form a loop of rope around him. I will come closer; soon I will make the first quick movement and tighten the rope around the stallion’s neck. When I do so, move out of the way. It is likely he will react quickly and he will plunge around. Just stay out of the way.” He gasped for air; he had spoken that whole time without drawing breath.
Lila did as she was told. She stood, quietly, for several minutes.
Soon—“Go on, now.” Her father gave her a swift nod.
Lila slowly walked towards the stallion, making sure to give him a wide berth before she closed in at the last moment. Soon the loop was complete. She closed in; the rope began to tauten.
The world span in circles dizzily; everything happened quickly. Lila’s father pounced, tightening the rope around the stallion’s shoulders. The horse twisted and plunged and whinnied in panic for several minutes, kicking out with his hooves, biting at the nippy air. Her father jiggled the rope, making the horse’s head jerk limply in all directions. It was a terrible sight. It was abusive. Soon he stopped struggling and stood, defeated, in the grass. His head dropped. The wind blew through his mane.
Lila and her father stood smiling, watching the stallion as its wild spirit began to quietly surrender.

Several miles away from Assateague Island, where the stallion was suffering and Lila and her father were smiling, Tara Lane lay in her bed. The loud snores of her brother Andrew drifted across the room from his bed to hers, and not even the loud whirr of the air conditioner could quiet the sound.
Tara sighed, resting her arms lightly on her chest. The light baby blue color of the walls shone in the darkness. The drapes on the windows fluttered, glowing a dark, blood red color.
She looked at the wall facing her; on it hung a calendar opened to July.
Bright red Xs were drawn neatly across each day up until July 21st, where the space was blank. That day would come, awaiting its own X, in about two hours, as it was 10:08 at that exact moment.
Tara was thinking about the upcoming horse show her mother had forbidden her to compete in, and she was determined she would enter anyway. Any close relative or friend of Tara would know that when she was determined, anything could happen.
“I will ride Storm and win,” She announced to the room in a loud, slightly angry whisper. Andrew rolled over in his bed with a loud grunt, closely followed by another snore.
Tara went back to sleep.

I woke up to find myself in a barn, in a large stall with a hay net hanging in one corner. That reminded me of how hungry I was. I immediately got to my hooves and made my way over to it. I tore large amounts of hay from the net and ate until all blades were gone.
Suddenly, in mid-bite, that morning’s events burned brightly in my mind. I remembered seeing the two humans sprinting toward me, throwing that rope over my head and jerking it around…there was some yelling, screaming, gasping…my herd was shrieking in fright and rearing threateningly.
But they had gotten me. I was imprisoned.
I gave a loud whinny, and began to lunge at the walls of the stall. I kicked it several times, making the wooden boards rattle. I gave another whinny.
Hurried footsteps suddenly clanged on the metal aisle of the barn. A human male’s head appeared. It was the male who had caught me. His eyes were wide and greedy.
“Pipe down, stallion,” He called, reaching over the stall door towards me.
I rushed towards the hand, my teeth bared…the hand was withdrawn quickly.
“Manners, now, manners,” The male chanted. “We’ll make a fine competitor of you, no doubt. You could just scare the other riders away. You’d win completely clear.”
I was annoyed that a human was talking to me in that tone, that I-own-you-you’re-my-pet tone. In fact, I hated it.
The male turned away from me, beckoning to something. A young female appeared beside the male. I remembered she was the child.
“Ooh, he’s beautiful!” She said breathlessly. “When do we get to start training him?”
“Whenever he allows us to put a halter on him,” The male replied, his eyes on me.
“He’ll never let us,” The girl said longingly.
She was absolutely right. Never would I let them slip a piece of rope ‘round my head.

That evening, Lila and her father sat down at their kitchen table to talk about the stallion.
“…We’re going to have to force the horse into the halter if he won’t allow it willingly,” Lila’s father was saying.
“But we can’t hurt him!” Lila exclaimed. “If he’s hurt, how will he be able to compete?”
“He’ll be fine,” He reassured her. “Anyway, I think tomorrow we’ll start him. I’m hoping he’ll learn quickly; he probably will. He’s got a lot of potential, that horse.” He cleared his throat. “We also have to get him a vet check. You know, to find out any health problems, how old he is…stuff like that.”
“Yeah.” Lila got up and took an apple juice box from the refrigerator. She began to slurp noisily.
“Stop that,” Her father complained.
Lila’s father turned his head at the sound of his name. “Yes, Evelyn?”
Evelyn Baker, her blonde hair shining with cleanliness, entered the kitchen, smoothing her dress. She was Lila’s mother. Lila put down her juice to hug her mother. Evelyn smiled, and said, “Richard, don’t go putting ideas into her head. You have no clue how that horse will perform, so don’t get her hopes up.”
Richard frowned. “I do have a clue.”
With an exasperated sigh, Evelyn left the room.

Tara got up the next morning with a mission. She got dressed, brushed her teeth and hair, and went down to the kitchen for breakfast. While she was eating her cereal, facing Andrew at the opposite end of the large table, her mother entered the room, yawning and smoothing her rumpled hair. Tara sat up straighter, gulped down her food, and began to talk.
“I really don’t agree with you about the horse show and that Storm and I can’t compete,” She began, “and I have been wanting to be in this horse show for years and this will be the first year I’m eligible and it would be a dream for me to compete in a show this big and get my talent seen and be able to show off Storm. And Mom, the prize is fifteen thousand dollars! And I really think I will do well and it will be very fun and a learning experience and oh please!” She was becoming quite hysterical.
“PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE may I compete?”
Her mother looked taken aback. After a few minutes she smiled and said, “A very well rehearsed speech, I’ll bet.”
Tara laughed. “Yes. I’ve been up all night.” She got to her feet. “Please?”
Tara’s mother pressed her lips together. “We’ll see.”
Tara sat back down, her arms crossed. Still, a “we’ll see” was better than
a “no”.

I very soon had destroyed the whole of my stall. The bedding was dirty and sticking to the walls with manure; I had emptied my hay net over the floor and my water bucket was overturned, and my fur was matted and filled with dirt and sweat from the training I had every day with the evil male human.
He had first forcefully wrestled that halter thingy over my head, then dragged me by a rope to this paddock with fences in a circle, and made me run around and around until I was completely sweat-soaked. When I was done, he simply poured ice-cold water over my body and let me dry in my stall. I could’ve gotten a cold!
It’s been a terrible experience. I made a decision never to trust any human anywhere, now that I knew what they were capable of. I convinced myself that no humans were kind, none at all.
I felt vulnerable to the world and every second of standing in that stall I thought with longing of my herd, the fields of Assateague, and my once perfect life.
What would become of me? I did not know.

July soon became August, and August soon became September. School had begun.
Tara rushed through her school day. She had started the morning off by arriving late to homeroom and then racing straight to math class, where she daydreamed about riding in the huge show the entire time. In science class, the teacher sprung a pop quiz. Over the loud groans
and grumbles he exclaimed, “This will be the essential test to do well on, class! Report cards are coming up! I advise you all to do your best!”
Tara turned to the test on the table in front of her reluctantly. She read the questions and dashed off quick answers before time ran out. The rest of the day went surprisingly fast, although the amount of homework was alarming and had triggered another round of groaning and complaining at the end of the day.
When Tara arrived home, she dumped her backpack on the dining room table and went straight to find her mom in her office.
When she stepped inside the small, cramped room, her mother was at her desk, hunched over a huge stack of papers, scribbling furiously.
“Mom?” Tara asked, coming further into the room.
“Yes?” Her mother lifted her head up and squinted at her. “Do you need help with homework?”
“No, I haven’t even started yet.” She cleared her throat, and continued, “So…did you decide yet?”
Tara’s mother stood up and looked at her. “Is this about that silly horse show?”
“It’s not silly, Mom! It’s the biggest horse event all year!” Tara clapped her hands together and shot her mom the most pleading, helpless, innocent, desperate look she could muster.
“How much do you want this?” Her mother asked. “Is this an activity you are willing to pay for?”
“Well, there is an entry form. But—“
“No, not that,” Her mother interrupted. “Like a pay-back if I let you.”
“Yes, anything!” Tara exclaimed. She dropped dramatically to her knees and said, “Anything! Anything!”
“Hmm…” Her mother stroked her chin in thought. “No allowance for however much the entry form costs.”
“Yes, fine, sure!” Tara said quickly. “And, if I actually win this thing, let alone even compete in it, it’ll be fifteen thousand dollars we’re talking about!”
“Good. You’ll do that—Wait, I’m not done, Tara—and you have to promise to be nice and agreeable with us about the rules we set down for you during the show. This includes no arguing about it, no mean looks, no nothing. If you don’t do that the deal is off, Tara. Do you understand me?” She gave Tara a piercing look, and then added, “And during the show, I want to oversee you at all times. Don’t do anything without asking me first, got it?”
“Clear.” Tara ran forward to give her mother a hug. “Thanks, mom, you’re the best!”
She rushed off.
“And no funny business!” Her mother shouted after her.
Tara laughed aloud.

“Lila! Come here! It’s your turn.” Mr. Baker, Lila’s father, beckoned for her to come over.
It was a cool Sunday afternoon on September 7th, about three weeks from the show date.
“You mean I really get to ride him?” Lila exclaimed excitedly as she walked up. “For real?”
“Yes,” Mr. Baker said gruffly. “Get on, quick. I’ll hold him still.”
Lila grabbed the stallion’s mane, slid her left foot into the stirrup, and heaved herself up into the saddle. When she was up, she sat up straight and still, adjusted her feet in the stirrups, and gathered her reins eagerly.
“If he misbehaves, give him a strong whack with the whip,” Mr. Baker instructed.
“I don’t have one.” She reached down. “Can I have yours?”
Without a word, he handed it to her.
“Move him into a walk,” Mr. Baker instructed. Lila jabbed her heels into the stallion’s sides and he sprang forward into a nice, slow jog.
“Well, I wanted a walk, but that’s fine,” Mr. Baker said from behind her.
Abruptly, Lila halted the stallion. He shook his mane in frustration and kicked out his hind leg.
“Dad?” Lila called, whirling the stallion around to face her father. “I thought that in the first event of the Virginia Special show it’s a race. They have to spring from a halt into a gallop. Shouldn’t we work on that?”
“I know the horse is well into training, Lila, but the horse has never been ridden before prior to this. We have to train him gradually, we can’t just push him into a gallop right away, or he’ll be a mess.”
“Fine.” Lila redirected the stallion and continued to ride.
Two weeks later, the stallion was a natural. He was great in racing, jumping, steeplechase, and the basic walk, trot, canter. He had perfect form, and he was the perfect horse.
But no one knew how he would act in the show.

I was still a sad, frustrated, slightly abused horse, but I had to admit I liked what I did. I liked the sensation of flying over a jump, my legs spread wide. It feels wonderful! I also loved to gallop, and it was one of those things you just do. No training required for that—at least, not much. It always feels like I’m back in Assateague when I’m flying over the ground, and I feel free, until I remember that there’s an evil human on
my back.
I knew they are mean and pushy and love to smack me with that stick, but other than that, my life isn’t physically painful, just miserable and sad. The only thing that perks me up is jumping and galloping. For everything else I was depressed and I had a wicked temper.
No one dared come near my stall when I was in one of those moods.

On September the 17th, Tara went shopping for horse attire with her mother in a nearby town.
“Mom, come look at this one!” Tara exclaimed, rushing towards her mother and shoving a dark green riding jacket at her.
“It’s pretty,” Her mother remarked, running her hand over it. “It must be expensive, though.” She frowned.
“Check the price tag,” Tara said, pointing to it.
“It says $130.” Her mother looked disappointed. “This one is obviously one of the best, but are there others that are good as well but cost less?”
“There might be.” Tara shrugged. “But this seems to be the average price most of the jackets have.”
“We’ll get it,” Her mother said firmly, tucking it under her arm.
“Really?” Tara smiled. “Thanks, Mom!”
When Tara went back home, she had bought jodhpurs, the jacket, brown boot polish, a crop, a silver horseshoe pin, a white turtleneck, and a pound of pride.
She was extremely confident, and she hoped it would hold out through the show and not get punctured with a pin. She needed all the luck she could get, competing against adults. She knew that. But she agreed to face the challenge with hope and talent. And those things, she had.

Lila sat at the kitchen table after school, filling out the entry form for riding in the horse show.
To participate in the Virginia Special Horse Show, you must check off the box below stating you are over the age of thirteen and under the age of 25.
Lila gripped her pen and made a dark blotch in the box. She was fourteen and proud of it.
She looked at the rest.
You must compete fairly. Cheating is firmly prohibited. You will be disqualified if you are caught in the act of vandalizing another competitor or their equipment. Your horse must go through a vet check to insure no drugs are in its system. Riders must always stick to these rules. No exceptions.
Lila breezed through the rest of the form. When she was done, she stood up and stretched. She was going to blow those other riders away, her and the stallion, together.

Tara strode down the path.
It was Friday evening, and Tara was out for a little walk to go visit Storm in her paddock.
The wind was blowing, and leaves were floating around the ground, coming to stop in little piles. Fall was coming, and with it would be the Virginia Special show.
The mood throughout the riders of Virginia was strained. Riders everywhere were friends all the time until mid-August, when they weren’t friends anymore. They were opponents. Friendships would stop abruptly, and people would go in opposite directions, distancing themselves from friends, training their horses in private.
Then, after the show, the mood hung around for a little while, what with the winning and the losing that had gone on in the show. But when the end of October rolled around, everything would be completely normal—well, at least for some people.
A whinny cut through Tara’s thoughts. She turned towards Storm’s paddock and saw her cantering alongside the fence, her gray mane billowing in the wind, her tail streaming out behind her. Her ears were pricked forward, eager for Tara to arrive at the fence.
Tara laughed. She loved coming right into her backyard and seeing her horse right there. Storm was like a sister, a sister of a different species, but Tara loved her immensely all the same. They could communicate with each other, not through English, but through a language of their own. It was a language that involved the eyes, the body, and the heart. They both could entwine into each other’s feelings and thoughts, soothing each other’s minds. It’s a magical mix, a girl and a horse. When they are together, jumping or galloping, they have the same mind, the same body, the same spirit, and the same soul. Together, they can fly.

It was September 28th, the dawning of the show day.
“Mom! Help me here!”
Evelyn Baker rounded the corner quickly.
“I’m coming, Lila, dear. What do you need?”
“Can you help me with this pin? I keep sticking myself in the throat!” Lila shoved the pin at her mother.
Evelyn came over and easily slid the pin into place. “Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” She smiled. “Good luck today, sweetheart. If the stallion doesn’t do what you ask, just whip him until he does. Are you all set?”
“Yeah.” Lila patted her stomach. “I’m really nervous, though. Where’s Dad?”
“He’s getting the stallion ready, what else?” Evelyn handed her a number on the back of a cardboard strip. “Here’s your number. 246. I picked it up at the grounds of the show yesterday. Your father and I booked front row seats. You’ll do great riding him, Lila. You’ve been fine and dandy for all the practices.” She glanced at the clock. “Go stand by the car and the horse trailer. Dad will meet you there with the stallion and then we’ll go.”
They both hurried off.

I paced circles in my stall. My mane was knotted up in little balls, and it was horrible. What happened to it being long and flowing? My tail was wound with flower stems, which were tickling me and becoming more and more uncomfortable. I was practically sitting on pins and needles, because of the way I was groomed and that my natural mane and tail had been fiddled with.
I could hardly wait to get out of the stall and start running.
I hoped that was what all the fuss was about—just excitement prior to a long, hard run.

Tara raced around the house crazily for hours, gathering everything she needed, wailing hysterically if something was missing, and getting Storm groomed to the fullest.
The show started officially at 1:00 in the afternoon, and officially ended around 4:30. It was 8:00 in the morning now.
Tara was in the barn for an hour from eight to nine ‘o clock, grooming Storm relentlessly. Soon her mane was braided and sprinkled with blue confetti, and her tail was braided together at the very bottom, tied together with a large red bow. She looked very pretty and neat, and her grey fur gleamed like a brand new quarter. Her dapples, a darker grey, shone bright and shiny on the lighter color. It was a very beautiful sight, and Tara’s eyes bulged while looking at her. She couldn’t wait to be aboard her horse, to feel the power of Storm through the reins, to gallop in the race, soar over a jump in the steeplechase and the cross-country and the stadium jumping. She couldn’t wait to feel graceful, melted into her horse, during dressage.
She awaited the show with nerves squeezing her stomach and excitement coursing through her, sending chills down her spine.

At 12:30pm Lila, Mr. Baker, Evelyn, and the stallion had arrived at the stable and the grounds where the show was taking place.
Mr. Baker unloaded the stallion from the trailer and led him to the barn he had been assigned to for the day.
Lila followed, frowning as she surveyed the grounds. She saw other riders and their horses everywhere. She passed two barns and when she peeked inside, almost every rider was busied with their horses. Some were chattering outside a stall with another rider, some were feeding their horses, some were grooming, and some were tacking up. When Lila passed an exercise arena, she saw several horses and riders warming up
at the walk, trot, and canter, and occasionally some went over a low practice jump.
One dark brown horse was going incredibly slowly; when his rider pointed him at the jump, he lumbered over it sloppily and knocked down several rails. The rider turned bright red in humiliation and dismounted to rebuild the jump.
Lila continued on, nerves beginning to dampen her excited, pre-horse show feelings.

I was slightly confused here in a new place, but maybe excited, too. Was I going home?
Those hopes were dashed as soon as I was led into another barn and locked into another stall.
I gave a loud whinny; the air shook with the power of my bellow and several horses whinnied back.
I was shocked, surprised, and unbelieving. There were other horses here? I whinnied again, wanting the horses to return my call. Some responded.
“Hello?” I called into the barn. “Are you there?”
“Oh, there is quite a lot of us here, actually,” A high, female voice replied. I lunged at the stall door and poked my head over it. Across the barn aisle was another stall, and in it was a lovely Palomino mare. She spoke again. “We’re all here for a show, it seems,” She remarked, bobbing her head. “I hope I do well. My human has been going crazy lately. I can’t even get one carrot out of her, and the working has gotten
so much more serious. It’s that time of year, I guess.”
“A show?” I cocked my head. “Do we get to gallop?”
“I have no idea.” The Palomino’s ears swiveled back and forth. “You can only tell if they give you a racing saddle. You know, the small ones?”
“What’s your name?” The Palomino gave a little whinny as she spoke.
“I don’t have one. My herd calls me Highness. Does that qualify as a name?”
“Certainly,” The Palomino bobbed her head. “My name is Sprinkles.” She pricked her ears in interest. “And what do you mean your herd?”
“I used to live in Assateague,” I replied sadly. “I was caught by my rider, whipped, and entered in this show. I miss my herd.”
“I’ll bet you do,” The Palomino said softly. “But don’t worry—Rusty, Angelfire, Halo, Poppy, and I can be your friends. Those are the other horses in the barn. They’re all sweet and kind. You’ll love them.”
“Thanks,” I replied. “I’ll see you again soon—right?”
“Yeah. Have a good day!” The Palomino’s head disappeared as she retreated further into her stall. I did the same with mine.

Lila hurried to catch up with her father.
“Dad!” She called.
Mr. Baker turned around and gave her an impatient glare. “What is it?”
“I just wanted to know what name you registered the stallion as,” She asked, twirling a crop between her fingers. “Because he’s got to have a name, you know.”
“I know,” Mr. Baker said shortly. “I entered him as Star, because of that star on his forehead.”
“I like it!” Lila exclaimed. “And what were the results of the vet check?”
“He’s perfectly healthy. Remember we had that other vet check him and give him all the necessary shots and treatments when we first captured him?”
“Yeah. He was perfectly healthy after that.” Lila waited. “And?”
“Well, they found out his breed.” Mr. Baker paused and smiled. “We have no idea where he came from and I’m very surprised at his mix of breeds. He’s not pure, but his first breed is Quarter Horse and his secondary is Trakehner.”
“Wow!” Lila clapped her hands together. “That’s great! Don’t you think so?”
“I do.” He smiled again, rubbing his forehead.
Lila sighed. “It seems too good to be true. It feels like something was supposed to go wrong, and the absence of that makes me feel like it will happen…today.”
“Are you talking about some kind of jinx?” Mr. Baker asked, his eyebrows high.
Slowly, Lila nodded.
“Silly, ridiculous idea!” Mr. Baker boomed. “That is not true. And don’t you dare dwell on it! Got that?” And he strode away.
Lila stood there, watching her father march off. But, try as she might to delete the idea, she was beginning to doubt her father’s judgment and believe her own silly suggestion.
She decided to take a walk to sort her thoughts out. There was still about an hour before she even had to get on the stallion—Star—and she needed to relax. A walk was the perfect solution.

Tara paced the barn aisle in front of Storm’s stall, rubbing her jodhpurs every now and then and messing with her jacket. She bit her lip to hold it still. It was trembling.
She looked at Storm. The horse looked somewhat haughty and confident as her liquid brown eyes gazed fixedly down the aisle at another horse.
Ha! She seemed to be saying, I could beat you anytime of day, and I can’t wait to show it.
The language they shared sprung to life.
I bet you can, Tara replied, her eyes screw shut tightly in concentration, her lips moving, you’re the best horse in the world. You could jump the moon if I asked you to.
Ah, so modest, so complimentary, Storm answered, a laugh in her low, melodious voice.
No, I’m not being modest, Tara said firmly, her hands twitching, I thank you greatly for everything you’ve ever done for me. I cannot do these things alone. Together, we can. You have the other half of my body. Without you, I am spiritless, deprived of a soul.
Same goes for me, Storm replied, you are my mind. I am known to go crazy without you.
Tara opened her eyes, staring at Storm with those deep, emotional eyes of hers. She smiled, reaching towards her to pat her soft, smooth muzzle. Storm bobbed her head, nuzzling Tara’s arm with her velvety soft lips.
Tears of joy and happiness sprang to Tara’s eyes. She could never live without horses.
Without them, she would die, shrivel up and peel, her bones would rot…
Things would go terribly wrong. Drama was appropriate for Tara’s deep feelings about horses.
Later, Tara tacked Storm up. It was ten minutes until the horses had to be in the starting ring while the announcer and the judge went over the rules, the method of points, and what each round would consist of. When Storm was ready, Tara took a deep breath and led her out of the stall. Her mother was walking alongside her with a worried expression on her face. Tara’s insides churned and she felt like she was about to vomit.
Storm, sensing her feelings, gave a loud whinny. A touch of confidence replaced the nervous nausea, and Tara smiled weakly, blessing her horse.
When she arrived in the ring, about forty other riders were there too, competing in the exact same show, the exact same rounds.
As Tara was standing beside Storm in the ring, she heard a strong whinny. She knew right away it wasn’t Storm and it wasn’t happy—it was pressured, panicked, depressed, and miserable. Tara looked around for the horse that had emitted that horrible sound. She immediately found it. It was a stallion with beautiful chestnut fur and a long, flowing tail, which happened to be braided at the bottom. His mane was neat and braided as well. He looked extremely well groomed. Tara eagerly searched his eyes, looking for a personality and a spark of uniqueness, or why he seemed so miserable.
All she saw was a dull glint, and the longing for somewhere far away in his expression. He was clearly not in the moment. He was as far from the moment as anyone could be—he was miles away. Tara frowned, reaching for the communication that burned between horses and her. The horse did not respond. With a sigh, she gave up. Who is his owner? She thought, and then found them. A girl who looked about her age was at his head with a sullen expression on her face, and an older man was
holding the reins, his lips pressed together, a faded old cowboy hat perched jauntily on his head.
Tara didn’t think they were the sort of people to make friends with, so she turned away, directing her attention back to the speakers and Storm.

“Welcome!” The announcer’s voice boomed into the clear air. “Welcome to the 25th annual Virginia Special!”
Lila turned her head in the direction of the speakers, listening intently.
“We have a huge turnout today, and we expect to have a alarmingly good show.” The announcer cleared his throat, and static buzzed over the speakers. After, he continued, “I will now explain the rounds and the points. This show consists of racing, stadium jumping, cross-country, steeplechase and dressage.” The announcer paused. “There are four days in this competition, as you know. Day 1 will consist of racing. Since there are about forty horses and riders here, we will break it up into about 12 horses to a race. There will be quite a few winners, but the one with the fastest record will win the championship for the racing round.” The announcer gave a deep laugh. “I’m riling you all up, aren’t I?” He went back to his dull, flat, loud tones. “We want horses to be properly cared for and prepared. They have to be checked by a vet. After the race,
horses are to be properly cooled down and cared for. Vets, again, will make their rounds.
“Day 2,” The announcer continued, “consists of the famous dressage and cross-country. Cross-country is demanding and long. Horses shall be cool, checked for dehydration in the warm temperature, and cared for well. Dressage requires proper attire; study your test, study. Day 3 includes stadium jumping. You know the drill for this; I don’t care to repeat it. And on to day 4—yes, this is the one and only—steeplechase!”
Again static rolled out the speakers, a garble of words. It was righted again. “Sorry about that!” The announcer continued, “Anyway, the steeplechase has six five foot high hurdles with plenty of running room in between. You must have a good, safe strategy and run fairly! The scoring for cross-country is not looking pretty, it is getting over the jump cleanly. Any refusals, run-outs, or pole falls will take points away. A fence judge will be present at each jump to make sure every rider goes
over it, and there are no accidents. Dressage, you know it. Steeplechase—horses might fall, horses might refuse, horses might halt and won’t budge. The horse who gets over the hurdles clean and fast will gain the most points. That’s it for now.”
Lila let out her breath. “Dad? Help me on,” She demanded. Mr. Baker grabbed her leg and boosted her into the stallion’s saddle.

I tried to buck as soon as the female’s weight was upon me, but the male had a strong grip on my mouth and I couldn’t move. Instead, I pawed at the ground, digging deep ruts in the once-smooth dirt. The business of other humans, other horses, the loud crackle of the speaker, the voices, the yells, the shouts…the noise was deafening and I
could hardly hear the male talking harshly to me as he stood right by my head. The female gathered the reins sharply, tightly, and an ache spread through my mouth, the pressure would not stop, it was hurting…with a strong surge of strength I lunged my head forward and ripped the reins from the female’s hands. I heard her cry out, and, alarmed, I started forward at a canter. The girl bumped along my back, screaming and
whacking my neck; the noise was louder, humans were yelling, “Catch that horse! Catch that maniac horse!”
Someone grabbed for the reins and pulled, but to no avail. I raced around the ring, dodging other humans and horses by the smallest of millimeters, sending saddles and hoof picks flying through the air.
All of a sudden someone grabbed my reins again; this time it worked. I skidded to a stop and stood, my sides heaving, sweat dripping down my neck and from under my tail.
My wild run didn’t change anything, and ten minutes later, I was lined up for the first race; sweat was still sliding down my damp coat and plopping into the dirt.
Suddenly a loud bell clanged. The young female kicked at my sides as hard as she could and gave me a smack with the whip. I sprang forward, leaping straight into a full-fledged gallop. I could feel the body heat of the horses pounding alongside me, their ears lay flat on their heads. The other humans shouted at each other; a horse on the right side of me found a new gear and left me behind. Suddenly, I felt a burning
inspiration to get in front of these horses, to win this race, prove to all I was truly wild, never to be owned, never to be handled.
I blew them away. My legs were working as pistons, the dirt flying from my hooves, the happy shouts of the female on my back…I was ahead two lengths, than three, four, six, nine lengths…the pounding of the horses were becoming fainter as I tore away. The braids in my mane were coming undone as I flew along the track. I was now ahead by fourteen lengths. I still had one more gear left; there was still power in my engine…my strides lengthened, stretching for the ground in front of me…sixteen lengths. And I was at the wire! The streak of silver happened and then passed, and I felt the female pulling me to a stop. Reluctantly, I slowed, breathing hard, my coat at least three shades darker from the sweat.
I had done it. I had shown my spirit.

Tara watched as the horse crossed the finish line sixteen lengths ahead of his opponents, his rider’s fist raised in the air in triumph…She sighed. If she had a horse like that, she would be with him all the time, treating him like he was a gift sent directly to Earth by angels with golden halos that rode silvery, smoky gray horses across the sky, painting the clouds and coloring the rainbows…She believed the horse had once been one of those creatures, a horse sent from Heaven. She wanted that horse. She was determined to get him.
At the end of the show, Tara was exhilarated and overcome with joy and a fresh ton of love for Storm, still her only love. Storm had carried her to win in almost every event. In racing they lost by a mere head bob, finishing in second. Tara had still been thrilled with that performance. In cross-country they had sprung over each obstacle with practiced ease, gliding around corners and sliding through lakes with the smooth fluidness of water when rippled delicately with a finger.
In stadium they executed the jumps cleanly and beautifully, and not one
pole hit the ground.
In dressage they had sunk into each other, taking each difficult move with concentration, focus, and confidence, and it was wonderful. Even the judges watched them leave the arena with their mouths hanging open. The wonder was her age. Fifteen was far too young to be perfect, and it was evident she had only a few steps left to becoming the perfect rider.
The rest of the show flowed easily, and the results were about to begin.
“We are awarding trophies and cash to the five best performances,” The announcer boomed, once again, through the speaker. “First, we want to congratulate a rider and horse who broke any racing record ever seen here at this show in twenty-five years. That congratulations goes to Lila Baker, riding Star.”
Loud, enthusiastic applause rang out; palms must have stung afterwards. It’s that horse! Tara squealed in her head. The one with the horrible whinny…the one that won by sixteen lengths! He’s also the one that tore around the cross-country course and jumped everything nicely. He’s the one that lost the steeplechase only by a mere foot—to me! And he’s the one that handled the dressage test quite well for such little experience, if you minus four sloppy transitions and a buck mid-test and several other
small mistakes. That was not his best event.
A few minutes passed as the announcer then pronounced four lucky riders second, third, fourth, and fifth place.
“But,” The announcer continued, rambling on, “the overall winner of this show is unexpectedly a young person, and this is her first time
competing in this show.” At that description, Tara’s ears opened to their fullest extent; a bird could have hopped in and made a nest.
“The winner is,” He said slowly, drawing apprehension, “Tara Lane, riding Storm!”
She stood, stunned, for several seconds before reality sunk in. Tara cheered, jumping up and down. Her father rushed up, he picked her up off the ground and swung her in a circle like she was a little kid. Her mother stood smiling, squealing, and shouting, her purse swinging every which way. Andrew was hopping up and down, shouting, “You did it, Tara! You did it! Moe and I are next now!”
Tara laughed aloud, and seized Storm’s neck. She gave her a long kiss on the nose and wrapped her arms around her chest and shoulders.
“You’re the best, Storm,” Tara whispered, her face buried in Storm’s warm, soft fur.
Suddenly, she snapped her head up. “I knew it!” She shouted hoarsely. “He needs to stay wild!”
She shoved her things at her mother and mounted Storm in one quick, fluid motion. She kicked her into a gallop. When she arrived at the barn that Star horse was stabled at, she swung herself off Storm and raced into the barn.
She found the girl sitting by Star’s stall, admiring her fifth place trophy; a check lay on the stool beside her.
Tara extended her hand. “Hi! I’m Tara Lane!” She said enthusiastically.
The girl looked up. “The girl who just won?”
“That’s me,” Tara replied cheerfully.
“What do you want?” The girl got to her feet. “I’m Lila, by the way.”
“I’m here to take your horse home.” She stood, waiting for the girl’s reaction.
“Home?” Lila looked confused. “You mean our place?”
“No,” She said. “Home. I’m taking him home.”
“To our place,” Lila repeated. “That’s his home.”
“It’s not.” Tara gestured toward the stallion. “He lives out there. Wild.”
“Yes, he does. I know what happened.”
“How?” Lila looked at Tara accusingly.
“The horse told me.”
“Sure.” Lila sat back down. “Please don’t bother me again.”
“I’ll pay you.” Tara showed Lila her own check. “How much do you want?
A thousand?”
“I got my own money.” Lila pointed to the stool. “I came in fifth, you know. I got my own one thousand dollars.”
“Well, a little more can’t hurt, can it?” She looked at her innocently.
“Fine.” Lila sighed. “He did what we wanted him for, anyway.”
Tara smiled. “I’ll write you an I.O.U for one thousand dollars.”
They shook hands.
Tara opened the stall and led the stallion out. His ears swiveled back and forth.
The secret language came forth.
I’m bringing you home, she told him.
Good joke. The horse gave a feeble whinny, his eyes still dull.
I’m not joking. You’re going back to Assateague.
How do you know I’m from there? The horse gave her a strange look.
Storm told me.
My horse. Storm. She gestured towards Storm. Storm whinnied.
The stallion gave a sigh. Home.

Two days later, Tara’s father drove her to Assateague, to the place where horses roamed free. Storm and the stallion were in the trailer, rattling along behind the car. When she unloaded them, the stallion gave a whinny so loud his whole body shook. She laughed. Storm unloaded next. She wasn’t wild too; she was along for the ride to accompany the stallion.
Tara led the stallion out into a clearing filled with lush grass and the faint smell of horses. Immediately, the stallion got down on the ground and began to roll. Back and forth, back and forth, his legs flailing in the air. Again, Tara laughed at the horse’s antics. When the stallion got back to its feet, Tara unclipped the halter and set him free.
“Go on!” Tara shouted. “Go gallop around and have fun! Be a true Assateague pony!”
He was off. He galloped along the ground, heading straight in the direction of the setting sun. His tail billowed out behind him, his legs a blur as they tore across the grass, dirt flying out behind him as he ran.
His mane whipped in the wind. As Tara watched him, the words Fireball on the Hill swept through her brain, and she smiled.
The last thing Tara remembered was the faint sound of a herd whinnying in unison, celebrating the return of their long lost friend.
(Summer 2004)

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Star Busters *AWARD WINNER*

By Ashley , 13, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

“Throttle…100%…velocity…756 mmph…3…2…1…FIRE!!!”
Sixteen-year-old Castor Ganymede pushed the red missile release button and watched as the blue laser missile hit the red practice target. He flashed a grin, which matched his sparkling blue eyes.
“YES!” He shouted and slapped high fives with his fellow students, Cassiopeia Ganymede, Lyra Deneb, and Aldebaron Deneb. That destroyed target meant only one thing: the four teens had passed the final grade of Junior Space Cadet Academy.
“Well done, you guys.” their professor, Perseus Pleiades, congratulated the students over the radar. “Next week, you can start on a real mission! You can turn the ship around now and head back to Andromeda.”
“I’m handing it over to you, Cass.” Castor told his younger sister. Cassiopeia looked a lot like her older brother, with black hair, fair skin, and brown eyes.
“Got ya!” Cassiopeia answered and turned the Orion back toward the mother ship. The four had been enrolled in the Junior Space Cadet Academy now for five (Cassiopeia and Lyra) or six (Albedaron and Castor) years, ever since they were ten. Every Monday, they would leave earth and head to Academy Control, the Academy’s training base. There they would board the mother ship and then transfer into the Orion for a week of vigorous training. After passing many tests, they were now ready for a real solo mission.
Cassiopeia docked the Orion in the docking area on the Andromeda. The four exited the Orion wearing matching grins.
“Excellent work, kids.” Perseus greeted them, his voice echoing off the metal walls. “Your first mission will be relatively easy – just escorting a mining
ship from the Europa ship to the Callisto.” The group walked up the narrow, spiraling stairs that led toward the cabin. “There’s pretty much no chance of an enemy attack, so you shouldn’t have a problem. I’ll explain it to you in more detail this weekend.”
The kids were staying at the academy base for the weekend to prepare last minute details and fully understand the mission.
“Sounds great.” Lyra answered as she turned on the audio-visual phone. And dialed their home number.
“Hi, Mom!” Lyra greeted her mother, as her mother’s face crackled to life on the screen. Unlike Lyra’s rich auburn hair, her mother had short blond hair
always tied back. Today, she wore a sliver top and black pants.
“Hi, honey. How is your training going?”
“Great. In fact, Perseus said that we’re ready for our first mission this weekend. We’re going to stay at the base to prepare.” Lyra answered.
“Wow! That’s awesome! Say, is Al there?” Her mom asked.
“Al!” Lyra called to her older brother. “Mom wants to talk to you. Bye, Mom.” Albedaron took over and Lyra sat down in her seat for the 2-minute ride to
Academy Control. A few minutes later, Al took his seat beside Lyra, and the ship headed toward the base.
“Did Mom say where Dad was, Al?” Lyra questioned.
“Yeah – he’s on Mars escorting the president on a peace tour, or something like that.” Al explained. The Deneb’s dad was escort to the President and often
traveled for his job. Albedaron looked a lot like his Dad, with his red hair, freckles, and green eyes.
The Andromeda docked in the Academy Control docking base and everyone piled out to the kitchen for a snack. They spent the rest of the afternoon going over maps, charts, ship functions, last minute details, and being drilled about the mission. By the time they went to bed, the four were drained.
“OK, everybody up!” The cabin supervisor’s crisp voice cracked through the quiet hum of the base. It was 5:00 in the morning – normal rising time. The twelve students in Room Star, one of the girl’s rooms, rubbed their eyes sleepily. Meanwhile, the other students in rooms Sun, Moon, and Comet were waking as well.
For the rest of the day, while the other students went about their daily training activities, Cassiopeia, Lyra, Albedaron, and Castor were finishing their last minute arrangements and training.
“Ok, so, Castor, tell me the overall view of your mission.” Perseus imposed the question with a smile.
“Well” Castor began, “We’ll leave the Academy here.” He picked up a pointer and referred to a chart on the wall. “Next, we’ll head to the mother ship, then board the Orion and proceed to the Saturn sector right here and go to the ship Europa. We’ll let the mining ship, Brigade 332, know that we’ve arrived, then we’ll escort the vessel to the Venus sector where we will make sure that it docks
safely on the ship Callisto.”
“Excellent, Castor, excellent!” Perseus exclaimed. “Now, Lyra, tell me what would you do in the small chance of an enemy attack? “
“We’d put our shields on to 100%, ready our missles, and call Star Patrol to let them know of the attack. We would then radio you and you would give us further instruction.” Lyra answered the question confidently.
“Right again, Lyra!” Perseus answered with a broad smile. “Well, I think you kids have had enough training for now. Go and take a break. We’ll be starting
early tomorrow.”

(a place of hide-aways, bandits, and sly, devious business owners)

“A visitor to see you, sir.” An attendant informed a man sitting in a large room.
“Who is it, Norton?” The man asked grumpily.
“Carmen, sir.” The attendant answered stiffly.
“Well, send him in!” The man thunders. A few moments later a man, identified by his nametag as Jonathan Carmen, enters with an expression of fear on his face.
“Jonathan Carmen! What do you want?” The man asks impatiently.
“Well, you see, Mr. Menade, there’s a little…setback… in our plan.” Carmen answers timidly.
“MY plan, Carmen, my plan.” Menade corrects Carmen. Carmen nods quickly. “Now what is this about a setback, you say?”
“Yes, sir. You see, well, we didn’t know this, but, um, well, um, the Academy Base is sending up some kids tomorrow to escort the Brigade 332, so, um, we are going to have a hard time planting the bombs, as all ships leaving the mining base are thoroughly checked. So, you see sir, we’ll have to find some other means to destroy it.” Carmen explained, and smiled nervously.
“Well, then find some other means of attack. Just destroy it. I don’t care how. Just destroy it!” Menade answered gruffly, with annoyance in his voice.


Brrrrrrrrrrrrring! Cassiopeia groaned as her alarm clock went off. 3:45 a.m. She quietly crept out of bed and went to wake Lyra. Thirty minutes later, Cassiopeia and Lyra, along with the two boys met in the kitchen lobby.
“Where is Perseus?” Albedaron wondered aloud as he covered a yawn.
“There he is!” Lyra announced as she saw the professor walking through the kitchen toward the lobby.
“Are you kids all ready to go?” Perseus asked.
“Yup!” They said in unison. The five walked down many halls and corridors until they finally reached the garage. There they boarded the Andromeda. Once in space, they made sure that the Orion was working properly and boarded it.
“OK, guys, you can depart now. You know where to head. Radio me once you’ve reached the Europa. Good luck!” The professor said. Lyra took control of the ship and headed toward the Saturn sector, where Europa was located. She took a deep breath as they neared the blue, swirling sector gate. A sector gate allowed you to move from one place to another very quickly. The four were going
from the Earth Sector, where the earth’s atmosphere was contained, to the Saturn Sector, where Saturn’s atmosphere was located. The ship entered the gate, and within minutes they had reached the Europa.
“OK, professor, we’ve reached the Europa. We’re going to radio the Brigade 332.” Castor radioed the professor.
“Right. Proceed.” The professor answered back.
“Brigade 332, this is the Orion reporting for escorting assignment. Come in, Brigade 332.”
“Orion, this is Brigade 332. We’re prepped and ready to go. We’re launching in ten seconds.” The commander of the Brigade replied. The Brigade
launched and followed the Orion through the Venus sector gate. Just as they exited the gate, Cassiopeia noticed something wrong on the radar system – enemy ships!
“Lyra!” she said. “Look at the radar.” Lyra gasped as she saw the red circle on the radar identified as a VMI Arrow. “Oh my goodness!” she cried.
“What?” Albedaron and Castor asked in unison.
“Enemy ships!” Cassiopeia cried urgently.
“I’m going to radio the professor.” Castor declared. “Professor! This is the Orion. We are detecting enemy ships on our radar. What should we do?”
“Are you sure, Castor?”
“Positive. They’re Arrows. From VMI, I believe.” Castor answered. VMI was Venus Mining Industries, a competitor of Saturn Mining Industries. The Brigade
332 was part of SMI and VMI would go to any length to stop their competitor from
gaining business.
“OK, I want you…” The professor’s voice crackled out.
“Professor! Professor! Are you there? Do you read me?” Castor tried regaining communication with the mother ship, but to no avail.
“Academy Control, this is the Orion. We are under enemy attack. Do you read me?” No answer.
“They must have cut off our radar signals!” Albedaron exclaimed.
“Brigade 332! Brigade 332! Do you read me?” Castor tried calling the mining ship. No answer.
“Lyra, put our shields to 100%. Cass, ready the weapons. Al, stand by.” Castor directed taking charge. Suddenly, a jolt hit the ship. Laser missiles! “Al,
get ready to fire!” Castor shouted. “ Ready…now!” A blue laser shot out toward the enemy ship, but missed the target. Another jolt rocked the ship.
“Our shields are down to 85%!” Lyra exclaimed. “Engine A is losing power!”Albedaron shot another missile, this time hitting the wing of the ship. A large chunk of it fell off.
“Careful, Al. Only three lasers left.” Cassiopeia warned. Albedaron gulped. He wiped the sweat off his forehead and aimed the missile. He made sure the
crosshairs were directly on the target and fired. Everyone cheered when they saw that it hit the ship dead on. The Arrow, not yet defeated fired another laser, hitting the Orion’s engines.
“Engine A is gone!” Lyra cried. “Al, you’ve got to keep shooting.” Al nodded, and lined up for another shot. He fired the second to last missile and watched as
it hit the engines of the Arrow. Five seconds later, the Arrow exploded!
“You did it, Al!” Castor cried. “You did it!” Everyone cheered.
“Oh no!” Cassiopeia suddenly exclaimed. “The Brigade! Where is it?” The four looked frantically out the window.
“There it is!” Lyra shouted, spotting the ship. “It doesn’t look damaged.” The Orion moved up beside the Brigade 332, and, indicating that it was OK, the Orion
finished the mission. The Brigade 332 was safely escorted to the Europa. The four headed toward the Andromeda and, after docking the Orion, rushed out to meet the professor.
“Am I ever glad to see you guys!” He exclaimed. “What happened up there?”
“Well, it all started when Cass noticed enemy ships.” Castor explained as they walked up to the main control room. “I radioed you, but I think that the Arrow
cut off our radar. Anyway, it started firing missiles at us. Al fired some back and finally destroyed it. The Brigade 332 was unharmed. The Arrow probably wanted
to destroy us then go after the mining ship.”
Up in the control room a man dressed in a Space Patrol uniform introduced himself as Jack Preston. The foursome told him what happened and he said grimly,
“Sounds like a VMI attack. We’ll see what else we can find out. Thanks for telling me what happened. We’ve actually been on the trail of some VMI pirates
for some months now. This incident just may be the tip-off we need.”
Once they had returned to the Academy Base, Al noticed an envelope on his bed. It was labeled ‘Star Busters’. Since the teen’s nickname was “Star Busters” he decided that the envelope was for all four of them. He found his friends and they opened the envelope together. Inside they found a cheque for 25,000 credits. (1 credit = $1). The check was signed “Jack Preston”.
“Wow!” Cass exclaimed. “I can’t believe that Jack actually gave this to us!” Just then, a cabin supervisor informed the teens that they had a phone call.
They turned on the audio-visual phone to see all four of the kids’ parents.
“Hey, kids!” The Ganymede’s mom greeted them.
“Congratulations!” Mrs. Deneb said.
“Thanks.” They replied.
“I’m sooo proud of you kids!” Mr. Deneb said. “You did a great job. By the way, when are you coming home?”
“ We’ll be home tomorrow.” Lyra replied. “Well, we’ve got to go.” The four said good-bye, and turned the phone off. Just then a reporter approached them
for an interview. They happily agreed. The next day, a report appeared on the Space News Now electronic newspaper. This is what it said.

"Space Cadet Teens Take on VMI Ship"
Earlier today, at 6:45 a.m., four teens, Lyra (15) Albedaron(16)Deneb, and Cassiopia (15) and Castor (16) Ganymede left the Space Cadet Academy for their first solo mission. Everything seemed normal as they escorted a mining ship to it’s base. Then suddenly, they were being attacked by a VMI ship.
“It was really a shock. I mean all of the sudden we saw an enemy ship on the radar, then felt this jolt.” Lyra Deneb recalls.
The teens fought back and although one of their
engines was damaged, they managed to get through safely
while destroying the VMI ship.
“Al was the real hero. He was the one who actually hit the VMI ship.” Castor tells us.
While the teens and their families celebrate, the police force is celebrating their own victory, too. It turns out that the VMI ship that the students destroyed belonged to some pirates whom the police had been tracking for months. Jack Preston of the Space Patrol Unit, or SPU had this to say,
“We’re truly grateful for what the kids did. This frustrating case had been going on for months with no tips, no leads. Again, we’re really grateful.”
To show their appreciation, the SPU rewarded the kids with a 25,000 credit check.
(Summer 2004)

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My Secret Way of Traveling*

By Kathy, 9, Surrey, B.C., Canada

Have you ever dreamed of going to the ancient times? I have. And one day my dream did come true. I would like to share some of my thoughts about the many great times I had.
My favorite trip is to Ancient Egypt to see the great pyramid of Giza. It is the one and only Wonder that is still standing. It is also the oldest.
You won’t believe what I saw and what I did! I saw ten people pulling 1 huge stone brick up the spiral ramp of the pyramid. The ramp was covered with mud so it would be easy to push and pull in to place. All the people seemed so tired. I decided to help. And it was not a good idea. By the time I had finished, I was covered in mud and stressed out. But I was proud, for one of the bricks on the pyramid might just be the one I helped put on.
When the pyramid was built, it was 481 feet high and 751 ft in length! The most fascinating fact was that it took a 20-year period to finish!
After my visit to the pyramid, I decided to explore more about a mysterious island that I had passed while on my way to Giza. As I was rowing my boat towards the island, an amazing light high up in the sky attracted my attention. I was very curious, so I paddled faster than ever and finally I was there. The amazing light was actually Pharos, the first lighthouse finished in 250 B.C. in Alexandria. Since I saw a doorway under the lighthouse I decided to go in. Once I was in, I met Pliny the Elder who told me a lot of things about the lighthouse. He said that the reefs around Alexandria’s harbor made it dangerous for ships to navigate. So this gigantic tower was built to serve as a lighthouse. At the top of the tower there was a mirror that reflected sunlight during the day while fire was used during the night. He also said that there was a legend that says that the mirror was also used to sense and smolder enemy ships before they could reach the harbor! That was interesting. I thanked him and went out of the famous lighthouse of Alexandria.
Do you like my trips to Ancient Egypt? If you do you’ll also enjoy my trip to the hanging gardens of Babylon, the most beautiful place I have ever been to.
The moment I got to Babylon my eyes were dazzled by all kinds of flowers hanging from the palace terraces, and waterfalls going through the gardens. Can you already see how it looked like? There I sat on a seat and watched the garden like world around me. Then I had a wonderful stroll on the slanting hills admiring densely planted trees. Surprisingly the garden might have only existed in the Greek poet’s mind to please King Nebechadnezzar’s wife! This trip is a trip I would never forget.
I plan to go and see the other wonders in the ancient world and discover more facts. Do you want to go? Do you know how I got there? I didn’t go by airplane, train or boat. I went by using my imagination and the help of a book!
Editor's Award Winner for March 2004

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Scary Poems

By James, 10, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The darkness chased me like a hungry Cheetah,
The wind was howling like a wounded Wolverine,
The sand lashed at my face like an evil slave driver
Trees surrounded me like a million prison guards,
And I felt scared!

The wind was knocking on my window like a cat wanting in from the cold,
The explosion was blazing as tall as a giraffe,
The hot ash ran down the mountain side,
And I felt scared!

The sea was as rough as a Porcupines needles,
The water dragged me in like a dog pulling at me to go outside,
It dragged me away from the shore like a fishing hook,
It pulled me down like a hungry shark,
And I felt scared!

The tall tree fell like an eagle swooping down on its prey,
The arrow flew through the air like a jumbo jet,
It pinned me to the ground like a bull,
Blood poured out of me as fast as an Olympic sprinter.
And I felt scared!!
(March 2004)
Read More Scary Poems from Inchmarlo School

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The adventures of Jessie

By Eleanor, 10, Nottingham, UK


I stretched my paws and turned around to face my mum. I opened one eye and saw her furry face looking down at me and I saw a smile on her face approaching as she saw me look at her. I stuck my tongue out and leant into her warm, soft tummy. I yawned as I put my paw around her beautiful black and white coat. I wonder what I’ll do today? Maybe I’ll play with mum or make something out of the hay outside our house. I could dine on fishes and mice until I was sick. It was a hard decision. I closed my eyes. Just then, I heard voices in the distance; I tried to listen to them, to make out what they were saying. I could just make out a soft voice saying ‘we’re going to get a cat,’ A cat, I thought, it could be me! I opened my eyes, turned around, pulled myself up and stretched a huge stretch.
‘Mum!’ I purred. ‘Some people are going to get a cat! Maybe they’ll chose both of us!’
‘Don’t get your hopes up, now come back down and lie with me … ’

Read more of this super story

More from this author, Eleanor from Nottingham

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The Tale of 13 Shadow Lane

By Jessica & Chloe, 11, Bristol, UK

200 years ago... "Victoria, Alexander, Peter! We must hurry we must leave Farfold House forever, never to be opened again."
But at that moment the door crashed closed with the family trapped inside and they just fell into the floor and the house COLLAPSED.

200 years after... "Vic, Alex, Pete come on! We're going to be late for school!"
"OK we're coming!"
The children went to school and their mum was alone.
She went up to her room to relax. She looked into her antique mirror - at that moment a lady in a big green flowing dress stepped out of the mirror ad pushed her through and trapped her inside.
Vic, Alex and Pete came home. To their surprise they saw a lady who looked like a twin of their mum. They just carried on as usual. Vic had to get changed for drama class but at that moment a young girl struggled out of the wardrobe and pushed Vic in. The boys didn't notice and carried on as normal.
Alex was bored so he went to get his bike but a small boy stumbled out of the shed and locked Alex in.
So Pete was the only one left. He liked looking for bugs in the garden so that is what he did but as he stepped out of the door he got pushed back in forever.
Now that is the tale of 13 Shadow Lane and the family from 200 years ago and the house they haunted again.
Josh and Helena were in love. It was Christmas Eve. Josh wanted to propose to Helena on Christmas day. He'd only just thought about the ring on Christmas day morning. Josh was eating his breakfast.
"Uh Oh," said Josh.
"What is it Josh," questioned Helena.
"Nothing," said Josh.
"Just tell me what's wrong."
"I left your Christmas present at work." At this point he was lying through his teeth.

He ran out of the house drove to the nearest jewlers. It was shut.
"Please open up it's one minute till opening time!" Josh shouted at the manager who was waving the shop keys in his face.
"Stop teasing me just open the door," Josh shouted again.
The manager pointed at his watch and shook his head as an evil smirk appeared on his face.
"Look at the time,it's ten o clock now." the manager finnaly opened the door.
"Thank you," gasped Josh.
"For being so rude you can't come in," said the manager.
Josh had to drive home and tell Helena the truth.
Helena thought it was sweet that he told her the truth and said: "It doesn't matter as long as we're together."
(February 2004)

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Limerick - Mike

By Robert, 9, Ravenshead, Notts, UK

There was a young man called Mike
Who went to the park on his bike
Slipped on some cake
Fell into the lake
Then was bit on the bum by a pike!
(January 2004)

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To Soar

By Ethan, 12, New York, USA

I can soar, when I want to.
People say you can't be a bird
But when I see them
Fly in their own perfect motion
So free
So awesome
So amazing
I long for more
I long to soar

I sit or I stand or I lay
I spread my arms and close my eyes
And I see it
I feel it
The scenery below me
The sky around me
(January 2004)

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The window

By Sasha, 11, Gibraltar

I remember when Jeremy Hunter scratched his initials in my frame.
Of course he’d been caught and had got into a lot of trouble,
Not enough for my liking. It had only been two weeks since the first day school had opened. My coat had been shining white and my six glass panes gleamed with pride.
I still remember crazy Pete the painter singing that infernal song and that Bob, the whistling window cleaner. I am so glad he left.
Here I am today at Sacred Heart Middle School standing strong and tall. My rectangular wooden frame scratched and peeling in need of yet another coat of paint (hope they get someone who can sing this time).
My glass is no longer shnning with pride for now the dust has started to collect in the little scratches.
Little fingerprints have smudged my two bottom panes, but the sun still shines through, warming my top two panes, shining on the hard working students (all except little Amber Hunter scratching her initials into her desk --- her father's daughter I think).

Sometimes I wander if they know how important I am, I mean I am the one who keeps the heat from the radiators from seeping out and the cold, wind and rain from flying in. Maybe if they realised how important I was I might get what I want most, shall I tell you? I would like a new pair of shiny posh silver handles.
(Editor's Award winner: November 2003)

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From My Window

By Rebecca, 12, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK

I look from my window,
What do I see?
At least a dozen pixies,
By the old oak tree.

I look from my window,
And by the wood shed.
Are seven tiny dwarves,
In seven tiny beds.

I look from my window,
In the garden is a knight.
A dragon arrives,
Then they're locked in a fight.

I look from my window,
There's a witch by the well.
She's captured a princess,
And is casting a spell.

I look from my window,
The characters disappear.
I start to wonder,
If they were ever even there.

I look from my window,
Then shut the book on my knee.
I don't notice the pixies waving,
From the old oak tree.
(Editor's Award winner, October 2003)

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The Human-Bee

By Joe, 17, Oxford

I plant this potato
so that it'll grow
and I can eat,
but as I sow
on new soil
a plant which tempts
us and our desires
(to cook in deep fat friers)
will begin to grow
in earth it never would have known
if men like me
one hundred years ago
hadn't planted
row upon row.
(October 2003)

(More poems from Joe)

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Joe’s Brilliant Ice Tube Between Mars and the Moon

By Ohie, 6, London, UK

Once upon a time in the future there was a six year old boy. His name was Joe. He was very smart. It was 2110.

Joe lived with his Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister. He had a dog, called Peter.

One day Jo thought that he could get water from Mars’ frozen seas to the Moon so that it would have water, hydrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide.

He thought that would be enough to help life go on, on the moon.

“The question is this?” Joe thought, “how am I going to get the frozen water from Mars to the Moon?”

Joe came up with a plan.

There would be a big lunar space station on the moon. The space station would be used to create a super powerful electromagnetic ray.

Joe then would turn the ray on one of the frozen oceans of Mars.

The ray would be very big and extremely hot. Joe’s idea was that the ray would heat up the ice and make water.

The super powerful electromagnetic ray will force the water out of Mars atmosphere and then the water would be rushing out of Mars and into the space.

The water would follow the path of the hot ray.

Joe thought that the space would be very very cold and as soon as the water came into the space it would make an ice tube.

The ice tube would carry the water onto the moon.

Joe was very excited about his idea. He ran to his dad.

“Dad, I can get water out of Mars to the Moon!”

“What! Water out of what? Mars!” Dad asked.

“Yes, out of Mars!” Joe said.

“How would you do such a thing?” Dad said, “And there is no water on Mars, so far as my knowledge goes!”

“Well, there is ice and I will melt the ice and bring it to the Moon.

Joe then explained his idea to his dad. Dad helped Joe to send his plan to NASA.

NASA liked his idea and asked Joe to work for them and start his project to get water out of Mars to the Moon.

Joe went to the Moon in a special rocket with huge loads of materials. 200 astronomers went with him to the Moon to build the space station.

They built a giant space station in a few months.

They then got the super powerful electromagnetic ray to Mars and got the water to the Moon.

Joe’s Mum, Dad, Sister, Brother and Peter, Joe's dog watched the water coming through the ice tube to the Moon on television. It was on every television around the world.

NASA was very impressed with Joe’s work that they decided to call the super powerful electromagnetic ray as Joe’s Ray and the ice tube as Joe’s Tube.

Then the Moon became full of life. Because people went to live there. The Moon became green. People, animals, plants and grass every where. 200 people came to the Moon in a lunar rocket to live.
(An Editor's Award Winner, October 2003)

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Still Life

By Kathryn, 16, Arcanum, OH, USA

You came with your
designs of beauty
painted kisses on my lips
defined me in blues and yellows
in colors of
sunshine and melancholy.
There you stopped
leaving me unfinished and
taking your vibrant colors with you
denied me even the sunlight
left me with only melancholy.
Now I lie alone,
a child's scribbling
and not
I look on as
You color new lives,
drawing the essence of love
on their lips and
sketching sunbeams in their hearts
as I slowly fade
into darkness.

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*My Brother

By Caitlin, 6, Scarisbrick, Ormskirk, UK

My brother is a pest
He scares me in the dark
Pretending to be a big black spider
We fight over the remote control
And we both argue about our toys
He is the biggest pest in the world

But my brother is the best
He gives me piggy backs
To cheer me up
When I am sad he makes me laugh
When I am scared he gives me a hug
He is the best brother in the world (March 2003)
*Editor's Award Winner March 2003

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By Alex, 11, Manchester, UK

Yellow is the sound of blinded mewing kittens in the
Yellow is the daisy looking up towards the sun for
Yellow is the cool, creamy butter taken out of the fridge
to help toast with his taste.
Yellow is the color of freshly squeezed lemon juice on a
hot summer day.
Yellow are the soft, fuzzy ducklings paddling in the pond
near our home.
Yellow slows down at the stoplight.
Yellow collides with blue to make green.
Yellow is a new beginning in life. October 2002

* Editor's Award winner for October 2002

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By Amy, 14, Oxfordshire, UK

They watch you as you enter the school. You are like a rabbit, waiting for the predator to creep up behind you and pounce. You quicken your pace, hurrying towards safety and shelter. The foxes are moving, quickly, assuming their attack positions, waiting for just the right moment to pounce. You walk faster and faster, a terrified bunny, when the pack’s leader crosses your path. Your eyes are watching the sides and behind you, flicking back and forth like a clock’s pendant. You don’t see their move; missing a crucial statement in this unofficial act of war; and bump into them. The papers you clutch in your hands escape, and fall - as if slow motion - to the floor, as far away as the bottom of a mountain from someone standing on the edge.

The collision has angered the Leader, and they send one of their sharp, malevolent sidekicks to pick up the escaped papers from the floor - a subject’s duty to their Leader - as they will not lower themselves to that. They are handed the papers, and they hold them, stare at them, as if hoping for inspiration. You wait for your inevitable punishment. It is a rule of nature - the predator will always catch and punish the prey, before the final blow.

Onlookers - the insects and stronger, overlooked rabbits, huddled in tight packs - buzz with amazement and curiosity at their actions. The suspense is frightening, and the atmosphere is prickly and worrying. But, no, their eyes just gleam, and they drop the papers an inch away from the muddy puddle on the ground. They can’t be blamed now. They haven’t done anything wrong in their eyes. And then the pack prowl away, nonchalantly and victorious, as innocent as newborn babies, with the knowledge that you were scared. They needed nothing else. Just knowing that they’d hurt you. That what they’d set out to do had worked. Perhaps it doesn’t show externally, but inside you, your stomach aches badly, and your body stings like you’ve been scraped all over with poison ivy.

You feel the stinging icy stare of their cool, heartless eyes all through the first lesson. It is created only by the pack leader and one of their gang. But even that is enough. You feel their concentrated, hard, unbroken gaze on your back. Rooted to one part, never moving, as if a stick of unmovable iron, dug deeply in, piercing your spine. Unchanging. Unnoticeable on the surface. But it is there, and you know it is, and they know it hurts.

As you walk out the room they giggle. A thing only done by happy rabbits. And foxes. Foxes when they have cornered their prey. You have forgotten how to make the sound; it is so long since you have heard it coming from your own mouth. Formed it on your tongue, and let it roll off the tip of it, surrounding the air, and being heard by anyone nearby, bringing delight and giggling and laughter to all that hear it, warming the heart. But the fox’s giggle is not contagious, nor is it joyous. It is hateful, spiteful laughter. It is a separate breed of laughter, without comfiness, like happiness without joy. It sends a strong silent message. A message reminding you that you cannot laugh.

The day moves on, as slowly as a limping tortoise. The day has no respect for you, and when you want it to hurry. It goes at it’s own pace. Time does not know that to you it is going slower than usual. It doesn’t care. The hands on your watch are relaxed, unhurried. They are oblivious to the fact you want to escape. Run, leave, and hide in your burrow, and pretend nothing is wrong.

But even in your burrow you can’t escape. Their laughter is still there, their actions still in your mind. They are the sort of things that stay eternally imprinted. Branded into you forever like a hated tattoo that no laser surgery will remove. Memories are there to remind you of the hurtfulness. The person who created memory must have been a fox. They created it to make sure that suffering was remembered, and replayed constantly, like a video. A short video, playing clips in your mind. Over and over, repeating themselves, determined to make you cry.

You want to beat them but you don’t know how. Helplessness settles in you, takes over your body, and you shed the forbidden tears. The ones that show they have triumphed. You don’t want it to be like this- to show them that they have won, confirming it, like the referee’s whistle at the end of ninety minutes in the championship football game. You can see the goal, at the other end of the pitch. It seems like it’s miles away, impossible to reach. Especially in a one-person team, against one that is unbeaten, the champions, that seems like they have a million players on it. But the game can go you way if you want it to. If you try. And then you can get that ball into your goal. You can call on people from the sidelines. People who had been just watching, hoping before. But if they care they will come on and help and cheer you on. And before you know it you can feel happiness inside once again. How long ago was it that you felt like this? And you feel a flicker of hope inside you. That flicker of hope is all it needs to replenish, revitalise you. And you get a sudden burst of energy, and you can rush passed the fox’s blockades, on the way to the end of the match. On the way to becoming the victorious, triumphant one. On the way to justice, to all things good. To happiness. Sep 2002

* Editor's Award Winner, September 2002

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By Charlotte, 11, Jackson, MS, USA

In the car, driving, driving,
left, in the night,
Parents gone across the world
To get Frances

At my grandma's, waiting, waiting,
waiting, all alone,
very anxious
For news about Frances

Very exited, jumping, jumping,
jumping, to the airport
In the car, beaming broadly
I'm going to see Frances!

At the terminal, looking, looking,
looking for my sister Frances,
Here she comes! I hug my parents,
Then I hold my sister Frances

(Frances was adopted from Novosibersk, Russia) September 2002

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Treasure Of My Heart

By Ann, 12, Vancouver, BC, Canada

My heart shall treasure

A fiery spark from the never-ending sun
A snip of the sparkling silver moonlight
A cupful of the clearest water
A handful of earth’s freshest soil.

My heart shall treasure

The tip of a unicorn’s magical horn
A curl of the fearsome dragon’s angry fire
The swiftest stallion with its pounding hooves.

My heart shall treasure

The finest wooden piano
The cello of truest sound
The lilting voice of an orchestra.

My heart shall treasure

Memories of my family
Thoughts of my friends
A library of never ending books
Magic of the fairy queen’s wand.

My heart shall treasure

Secrets of the universe
Keys to the past, present, future
Colours of the rainbow
A star of my own.

My heart shall keep
My quietest secrets,
My most treasured memories
And my truest wishes.

My heart will weep
In times of loneliness, sadness, despair.
My heart will anger
In occasions of insults, fights, fury.

My heart will sing
In moments of joy, bliss, love.
My heart will SOAR!
When I accomplish
My goals, dreams, wishes.

My heart will follow
Wherever I go,
Reaching for the stars,
Aiming for my dreams,
Always with me.

(August 2002)

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A Final Farewell

By Sarah, 13, Northampton, UK

I stood in the hallway waiting for them to come and collect him. It was going to be hard to part and say a final good bye. How was I going to cope without him? He had been part of my life as long as I could remember. I paced fretfully, anxious that it should be over quickly to save the pain, yet not willing for it to happen.

Memories crowded in. The times when my brother and I climbed all over him, involving him in our games of make-believe. He was ever patient and never complained, even if we were rather boisterous. The times when we snuggled into his large and comforting arms when we were sad or unwell. The times when he mysteriously hid our small treasures only to reveal them as if by magic later on.

Suddenly they were here! This was it. The men entered respectfully and were ushered into the room, his room. They looked back through the hall to estimate the clearance distance of doorways before they lifted their precious burden. I watched tearfully as they carried him out.

It was the end of an era for me. I knew that it had to be done, but how could anything replace Grandpa’s old armchair?
(August 2002)

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