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Our January Flash Contest was based on our weekly creativity prompt #134, challenging writers to project themselves 100 years into the future. Entrants took us on journeys to other planets, introduced us to amazing futuristic inventions, launched spaceships and created inventive architecture. Like a lot of the best science fiction, our writers used elements of the present to project us into a possible future. We met realistic characters encountering real problems (such as the longer term effects of climate change), as well as alien creatures and sentient robots. Well done to everyone who worked so hard on their stories, we really appreciated the quality of all the entries this month. In addition to our usual 5 winners and 5 honorable mentions, we selected one entry for publication on the Stone Soup Blog in the coming weeks. Thank you for sharing your creative visions of the future world with us!

In particular, we congratulate our Honorable Mentions and our Winners, whose work you can appreciate below.

Winners
"Stranded" by Rex Huang, 11, Lake Oswego, OR
"The Turning Point" by Kaidyn Robertson, 11, Sooke, BC, Canada
"A Knock on the President's Door" by Ava Shorten, 11, Mallow, Cork, Ireland
"The Meteorite" by Julia Wang, 12, Wynnewood, PA
"True Self" by Yasmine Weinberger, 11, Washington, DC

Honorable Mentions
"Lunar Scavenger Hunt" by Riya Agarwal, 10, Portland, OR
"Zen the Space Robot" by Ender Ippolito, 9, Portland, OR
"Bobbo" by Cathy Jiang, 11, Portland, OR
"Under the Sea" by Grace Mancini, 12, Glenside, PA
"A 100 years by Anaiya Nasir", 12, Bellaire TX

Chosen for the Stone Soup Covid-19 Blog
"2020" by Eden George, 10, Brooklyn, NY


Rex Huang, 11
Lake Oswego, OR

Stranded

Rex Huang, 11

The cool breeze whistled Anya to sleep as it always had. There were so few comforting things here, she had to talk to the rocks to keep her sanity! The world has long lost their charm of the bright holo screens or the rainbow colored outerwear. No, all that has sunken beneath the waves, across the miles and miles of vast empty sea that was once known as earth. Thankfully, Anya had found a patch of ground not yet swallowed by the ocean’s expanding belly. She still shivers at the thought of her little sister screaming at the top of her lungs “Help me Anya, help me! Help me!” but both of them knew it was hopeless. The ladders, destroyed. Fire escape, long gone for luxury reasons. And the hoverdrones? This makes her shake her head in disappointment. The people were drowning and the wealthy wanted to watch them die? She screamed and screeched at the flying tortoises but to no avail. She could even hear the faintest bit of laughter. But that doesn't matter. Any day, the water will swallow this tiny patch of land that she has called home for nearly a year. She had been living, surviving each day by drinking the rain water she collected in a bottle that washed ashore, and was eating the tough coconuts from the tree next to her. She guessed they were not ripe, as she had eaten some before and they were much more soft. She had always hoped for the government to make an effort to drain the water, so that she could at least return home albeit without her family. And yet, she knew in her heart that her death by the sea, which agonizingly only came up an inch each day, was inevitable. She stomps the ground in frustration, remembering this, but when she lifted her foot, she found a piece of paper.

The paper was really only the second she had seen, besides the sheet from the museum labeled “Ancient Civilization”. She picked up the paper, ever so gently. It shows a drawing of an island similar to hers. It illustrates an island having the crescent shape of a banana with a pin straight at the top. Could it be? She had always thought of her island more like the funky flower pots at home, but she started to visualize the possibility of the bottom of the banana being flooded, she realized this map was about her island! She was excited to the bone, and kept examining what the paper had to show. There was a dot trail from the rose bush she had stumbled upon when first reaching the island leading up the very palm tree beside her feet. This was it! She had heard stories of the olden day’s pirates finding treasures as many times as she had laid in her bed! But there was no big fat X as the old stories had said. So, she flipped the paper, and on that sign there was a mutated grasshopper face. She knew what that meant. It was the new world’s sign of labor and duty. Which meant she had to dig up every place on the island. She quickly assessed the size of the island, and quickly came to the conclusion that it was at least as large as 9 parking lots. No chance. She frantically scanned the paper for any extra clues. And after a couple minutes, she found something. There were trees drawn where the actual trees on the island weren't. Wondering what this meant, she walked up to a tree and realized what type of tree it was. It was a Corrion tree. Then it struck her: Corrion leaves were notorious for being more moist when being close to metals! She frantically felt the leaves, knowing she had little time to find whatever was buried deep beneath. She eventually found out that it was facing to the very center of the line, and began digging as fast as a dog who knows there's a bone, knowing that treasure awaits her. She soon found a large metal cone striking out of the ground. This is it, she thought. There has to be some absurd piece of technology hidden beneath, hopefully one that could get her off of the wretched island that was bound to sink as low as all that sunk before. Digging some more, she found. . . another piece of paper.

She bellowed in frustration so hard that she made a seagull that was on a nearby Corrion tree squall and fly away. After overcoming this frustrating moment, she had the sanity to pick up the paper to see what it had to offer. It had a picture of one of the old pirate ships she had seen in the past in the same museum. After a brief moment of questioning, she remembered that boats float on water! This was it! Whatever was on the other side would be her getaway! She flipped it over, with as much anticipation as she ever had. And it had the same map as before except there was a picture of a shovel at the top end of the banana. She frantically ran over to the side that it illustrated and sure enough, there was a shovel there. However, the thing next to it shocked her to her very core. There was a boy standing right there, already digging up the location. She didn't dare try to come up, only when the boy panting in exhaustion sat down to rest did he see her. Being as shocked as Anya, he slowly backed away. She asked “I think we have the same plans.” The boy, probably surprised that they were on the same page, said “Yes, let’s get out of here.” So day and night, they chipped away at the ground ever hoping there will be a boat, but none was found. Each day the water grew closer inching its way up until . . . “I FOUND IT!” the boy said, and Anya who had been resting then came to see. Sure enough, the entire thing had been uncovered. It was a lovely sight, their escape plan finally being uncovered after each day of agony, knowing they would surely drown. They both ran up to each other, hugged each other and broke into tears. The Seagulls seemed to be rejoicing too. The water was nearly at the excavation site, about a foot from covering the site! So, they hopped on board and began to see how to utilize the thing. But then the same seagull flew on board, squealed a bit, and they looked at each other. Then they realized that they needed to grab the seagulls, the crabs, and all the animals that couldn't run away like them.

What happened next was a mad scramble for 1 male and 1 female of each animal on the island. Each day they put a couple families of animals on the boat, which at this point was already cruising toward the remaining land. And each day Anya felt a certain friendship toward this boy, how he did not hesitate to admit her as an ally, and his sheer kind heartedness. She also thought what if he had his little brother taken away by the flooding? Been in the same despair? Solved the same puzzle? And each day they began to have a self conscious appreciation of each other. By the time they were done with the entire affair, the water had risen so that only the center of the banana was untouched. Every animal they had seen on the island was gone, and they were going to get on the boat. But right as they got to where the boat was bobbing along, the crab pinched the boy. She rushed over, only to see him faint and fall over. Knowing that by tomorrow morning the island will be fully submerged, she desperately tried to pick him up but to no avail. The new race of humans had mostly given up on athletics, so she couldn't budge him. She had no choice but to heave the crabs and bring them on the boat, leaving her only friend she ever had behind.

As the boat was cruising along the vast ocean, Anya saw a bright blob along the horizon. As she squinted across the horizon, it quickly dissipated into a small line. And she couldn't help but think of how she had left her friend, and her savior to succumb to the fate he had saved her from. And she saw the new island, and with it, new hope and sacrifice.


Kaidyn Robertson, 11
Sooke, BC, Canada

The Turning Point

Kaidyn Robertson, 11

Jane CONG Loydson 3 was the third Jane in the Loydson family since Jane Loydson 1 who was born just over a hundred years ago. Jane was a CONG (Child Of New Gonsver). She was currently seated in a gondola rail pod with her parents on the way to a youth environmental movement club. She was part of the group which had been founded nearly a hundred years ago in the 2020s. The rail pod docked alongside a great many other rail pods on the above-ground terminal. The pod doors opened. The trio stepped onto the large pod terminal surface. They walked on specified sidewalks so not to get squished by landing pods, even though the pods were equipped with collision detection technology. They stepped into the elevator capsule which take them to subterranean floor three.

“Have fun!” her mother told her when they reached subterranean floor three.

“Just call the chaperone bot when you’re finished” Her father said. “We’ll see you when you get home”

“Bye!” she said and was guided away by a Pathfinder Robot.

Jane enjoyed her meetings at the environmental club movement so much that she devoted much of her time to it. Another aspect she liked was that it was in person, most clubs and gatherings were held over holo-call, a form of holographic video call. She had always liked knowing that people were actually there rather than a holographic image. She proceeded to the club’s meeting room. The door’s screen was on code pink today, so she switched her holo-lenses onto the specified setting. The door opened once it had finished scanning her for viruses. Since it was code pink today, her contact lenses were making the room feel like a restaurant. Though all restaurants did drone delivery her grandpa had once told her that when he was a boy, you actually had to go to the restaurant with a bunch of other people. Disgusting! Imagine all those germs in one small space!

The contacts made the room look like it was lit by candlelight and there was holographic food being placed on holographic tables on the other side of the room.

Jane sat down on a hover chair and asked the service robot for a Fizzer Pop. Kids talked though not loudly, shouting disturbed the surveillance mechanisms. When the club leader came to the front of the room and sat at his chair a holographic image of him appeared above him so the people in the back could see.

“Today we are going to discuss the history of the environmental turning point” He said, his large eyes gazing around the room. “does anyone know anything about that time in our history?”

A kid seated at one of the tables raised his virtual hand.

“Yes?”

“My grandma said that was when the world really took action to save our planet” He said.

“Yes, that is considered the fundamental part of the 2020s” The club leader said. “We’re just going to watch a short film about what happened”

A holo film projected over his head. It showed a crowd of young people, gathered in a square holding signs above their heads. ‘there’s no planet B’ was written on one, on another ‘save the Earth’. At the head of the march was a boy saying something into a megaphone.

“We are going through a planetary crisis!” his voice echoed through the city square. “But if we keep going, if we keep fighting for it, humanity can still thrive! We must bring justice to what we have done!”

The crowd cheered. The film continued, showing disasters of the climate crisis. The film ended with a girl in front of the camera saying “I believe we can find an end to this crisis. And I believe that the world will once more be restored for our descendants to thrive in”

Then Jane realised something.

This girl was Jane CONG Loydson 1.


Ava Shorten, 11
Mallow, Cork, Ireland

A Knock on the President's Door

Ava Shorten, 11

One cold Irish evening, there was a knock on the President’s door.

"Come in." came the answer. Two burly men entered the room.

"It’s ready, sir." said the older of the two.

"Very good; I will be there in a minute." answered President De'Higgins. The men nodded and left the room.

The President picked up a leather bag, and began packing it with a number of different things: a torch, a world atlas, a bar of his favorite chocolate, a bottle of water, his folding walking stick, a compass, and a book of languages.

He nodded to himself, picked up the bag, slung it over his shoulder, and left the room.

It took ten minutes to walk down to the science lab. When he reached it, he opened the door, and stepped into a room full of people dressed in lab coats. "Good evening." he addressed the crowd. They nodded their heads respectfully.

In the middle of the laboratory there was a large, faded silver machine, about the size and shape of a refrigerator. It was humming softly, and every few moments it made a little "bling!"

The President noticed that the rim of the machine was solid gold, and he worried if it would even lift off the ground.

"I shall test it." he said suddenly.

"But, sir, it could be dangerous!" said the chief scientist. "Don’t you think one of my men should try it first?"

"Your men are no less valuable and important than I am. Besides, I never said my job wasn’t dangerous." replied the President. "And I don’t see why your men should have all the fun!" He gave the scientist a wry smile, then stepped into the machine.

"Are you absolutely sure about this, sir?"

"Absolutely."

The chief scientist sighed and stepped behind the control panel reluctantly.

"Ready?"

"Ready."

The scientist pressed the "Go"button with a trembling finger.

 

The world was ending. The President was sure of it. It felt as though his insides were having a disco party in his stomach. He was being shaken violently inside the machine. Then suddenly, THUMP!

Everything was still. All was quiet. The President felt as if he had been tossed around in a washing machine with a few bricks. He looked at the dial. It read "one hundred years into the future." He composed himself, took a few deep breaths, and stepped outside.

 

At first, all he could see was darkness, and the air had a sense of gloom about it. Slowly, he began to make out buildings and factories spewing out rotten fumes and smoke. He was standing in a field, if that's what you could call it. The grass was brown and the trees were dead. There were a few miserable looking cows munching half-heartedly on the grass.

"Incredible," he whispered aloud. "So this is what it’s going to be like in 100 years."

 

He took the torch out of his bag and turned it on. The cows began to moo violently, and kick the air. He turned it off.

"Looks like they aren’t used to light," he murmured to himself. He turned it back on, keeping the beam down so that it wouldn’t scare the cows again, and began to walk towards what looked like the lights of a city. It was only when he got there that he realized that he had left the time machine out in the open, but he decided to ignore it. After all, it was just the cows that had seen him, and they couldn’t take it. He walked on.

Then, all at once, it hit him.

The smell.

It was horrible. It was like rotten eggs, mixed with smelly socks, but ten times worse. As he walked, the city got dirtier and dirtier. The muddy water trickled down into drains, and the polluted air made him cough and splutter.

 

Finally, he reached what might have been a square, but it was so muddy and dirty he wasn’t quite sure.

Somewhere in the distance a bell rang.

Suddenly, the doors to the houses seemed to open at once, and out came people. At least, that's what he thought they were. Covered from head to toe in muck and dirt, they were dressed in rags, and some were dressed in nothing at all. They all carried bowls, or tubs of some sort. Then two young men, who were dressed in perfectly clean clothes, emerged from an immaculate house, hauling a large iron pot behind them. They stood in the centre of the mass of people. All went still.

 

As if on cue, the people all rushed up to the massive pot, fighting to be first in line. The two men began to ladle out whatever was in the pot; it looked rather like month-old porridge. The President began to back away. He couldn't take much more of this. He turned around, stumbling up the dirty streets and broke into a run.

He had to get away.

He had to warn Ireland.

He had to warn the world.


Julia Wang, 12
Wynnewood, PA

The Meteorite

Julia Wang, 12, Wynnewood, PA

Prologue

100 years ago, our ancestors had to flee a planet called Earth. They lived on a spaceship for a few years, trying to find a perfect planet. Over time, we adapted. Our lifespan grew longer. We can see in the dark. We now look young and never age in looks. Light can be made solid. We found a planet called Doreryn, and have settled here. We live in what looks like trees but on the inside it’s a house. It gets energy through the Sun. Although, one thing that is the same is school homework. 100 years ago, school homework could be totally irrelevant to the world around you, but 100 years later, school projects can be a little more interesting. . .

Her mom’s voice jerked Elraen back to reality.

“Elraen!!!!! Are you done yet???”

“Not yet!” she called back.

She turned back to her homework and started writing. It was a school assignment. To condense all their history into one piece of paper. It wasn’t that hard, but then her teacher just had to make them include shimmerlines, the cables that allowed house-to-house communication, watches that could turn into pretty much everything and also tell you the time, and hoverboards. They helped you move around outside the house. Also she had to describe the new invention: an invisibility cloak. It bent light, so others couldn’t see you. She badly wanted one, but as it was, she didn’t have enough coin. Most people didn’t anyway. Back to the paper.

Shimmerlines are invisible cables. Watches tell you the time, but if you tap it twice, a screen will appear on your arm, and you can move it around. Tap the watch twice one more time, and it will become a watch again. Clothes are one long piece of cloth that could turn into anything, and it never needs washing, since it never gets dirty.

“Are you done yet?” her mother’s voice cut in impatiently. Again.

“Yes,” she said. “Finally.”

“Good. Dinner’s ready. I’ve been keeping it warm.”

She quickly ate dinner, and tapped her watch, turned on the TV, and watched the news.

“And now, for a very bad piece of news,” the reporter droned.

Just get on with it! Her green eyes flickered impatiently.

“It appears to be a large piece of space-rock,” the reporter said boredly.

Get to the point!!! Her brown hair swayed. She was almost tempted to turn it off, but if it was bad news, perhaps, just maybe, she could stand this bored reporter.

“Namely a meteorite is passing, and will hit the planet head-on, in a few days. Our scientists still have to figure out when it will hit. They estimate it will hit in the exact middle, causing complete destruction. We have no idea how to block it. Schools will be presenting ideas,” the reporter went on, in a completely monotonous voice.

Seriously! How can he be bored at that! She turned it off and anticipated very long school days.

The next few days proved to be hectic, not at all boring. Everyone racked their brains for an idea. Elraen simultaneously did her homework, and tried to think of an idea. Nothing came up. She thought of an idea to blast it to pieces, but realized that would probably make it worse. She went over to the library. She found an old movie that sounded sorta interesting and she rented it, and watched it. When she watched the bad guy move a truck that was going to hit a baby using a laser, she got an idea.

“Mom! Do we have any old laser lifters?”

“Yeah, we do.”

Her dad helped her take it apart, and enlarged all the parts. She ran over to the field, taking the old laser lifter, wanting to test her idea. She spread a map of Doreryn, and had her sister hold a rock, and then drop it. She held her breath. The laser caught the rock. She moved the laser and the rock moved with it. Her sister clapped. She turned the laser off, and  the rock fell to the ground, away from the map. Her sister clapped harder. People were attracted by the noise and watched her do it again, and again, and again. All the times were successful. The leader nominated her idea.

On the TV, the reporter was droning once more.

“It seems we have an idea. Fortunately, the meteorite will fall 3 days from today.” the reporter said dully.

She turned it off, and expected 3 very busy days.

3 days later . . .

She journeyed to the very middle of Doreryn, and set up her very large laser. Her sister, Elewen, helped her position it just right, being very good at calculating exactly where  this meteorite would fall. They heard it before they saw it. A loud whooshing noise filled the air.

“Now!” Elraen yelled.

Elewen pressed the button, and the meteorite was held in place. They slowly cranked it to the angle, and let it go. They held their breaths, waiting to hear a crashing noise. None came. Then they heard something else. A cheering noise.

Back at home, Elraen turned on the TV while Elewen jumped on the couch to join her.

“It appears that two girls have successfully thrown the meteorite off course,” the reporter said, finally sounding excited to their surprise. Elraen turned the TV off, and they both went to bed, looking forward to a few calm days, for once. The lights went out one by one on everyone’s houses. Doreryn slumbered peacefully. And above them in the sky, as if in celebration that the meteorite was gone, two comets, one slightly smaller than the other, crossed the night sky.


Yasmine Weinberger, 11
Washington, DC

True Self

Yasmine Weinberger, 11, Washington, DC

I’m flying. I pass millions of tall buildings as I soar through the air. I take a little object out of my pocket and press a button. It places me gently on the ground and I look at Mom and Jamie, both staring at me in awe. I smile at them, and their jaws drop.

“Essie… how???” Mom asks, bewildered. I flip the little object around in my hands and grin. “I made it.”

“No way!” Jamie says. “You HAVE to teach me how you did it!”

“An inventor never shares her secrets,” I say mysteriously, grabbing all the attention they’re throwing at me. Crowds form around me and everyone starts auctioning for the little object.

“I have a thousand! You want a thousand for it?”

“I HAVE A MILLION!”

“Two million!”

“SIX MILLION!!!!!!!!!”

“A BILLION-”

All of a sudden, I feel myself being lifted into the air. I shoot my eyes open just as I get carried out of my bed and into another room. I hear a giggle and I grumble. I start feeling my head, waist, legs, and the rest of my body for something to take off me. But I can’t find anything.

“Way to go, Jamie! You made a levitation device that doesn’t have to be touching someone. I am so proud. NOW PUT ME DOWN!!” I scream at my little brother. I hear him giggle again. “Nah, this is fun, Essie.”

“MOM!!!! MAKE JAMIE PUT ME DOWN!” I howl. “I HAVE SCHOOL!”

“Well, Essie, you didn’t get up when I first called you, so I had to resort to Jamie using his new inventions on you.”

That’s Mom for you. She always takes Jamie’s side. The levitation device spins me around until I’m facing Jamie and Mom. Mom is rustling Jamie’s reddish-blond hair and kissing his forehead. I groan loudly. “Okay, we get it! You love him! NOW GET ME DOWN! I have to eat breakfast and GO TO SCHOOL!” Jamie and Mom look at me like they forgot I’m here. UGH. Mom nods at Jamie and he lets me down with his levitation device that looks like a remote control. I fall down toward the floor and land with a thump on Mom’s very expensive kitchen tile. Mom shrieks.

“Oh my God, IS THE TILE CRACKED?” Mom says, pushing me out of the way and checking her precious tiles.

“I’m not hurt, Mom, thanks for asking,” I grumble. I stand up and rub a bruise on my leg. Jamie is twisting some wires in his levitation device and muttering things to himself. “I think I need a softer landing added to this… I’m totally fine with Essie falling on the ground, but if I wanted to try this out with my friends…” Jamie rushes off to his room (AKA his engineering office , as he has written on his door) and locks the door behind him.

Meanwhile, Mom has finished up checking her lovely tiles and she has decided none of them are cracked. She stares at Jamie’s closed door with a loving grin on her face. I want to throw up. I know Jamie’s smarter than me and I know he’s way more advanced in inventing than I am. It’s also extra mega embarrassing because he’s ten years old and I’m thirteen.

“Oh, Jamie is so brilliant, isn’t he?” Mom gushes. “You should be more like your brother, Essie! And it starts with waking up much earlier and creating an actual invention, not some random toy!” I roll my eyes. “I get it, Mom. You love him more than me. You’re always finding some way to praise him and some way to punish me!” I yell.

“Essetra Cinder Vincent! That is no way to speak to your mothe !” Mom scolds. I scream right back at her, “Exactly my point!” Mom’s face is as red as a tomato. “Go get changed into clothes, young lady!” I storm off and slam the door to the kitchen walk-in closet behind me. It actually isn’t really a closet, it’s a changing room. HOHHA changes our clothes and he chooses our clothes based on our mood. HOHHA stands for Harold, Our Helpful House Assistant. We decided it was funnier if we called him HOHHA instead of Harold. HOHHA is basically a part of the family… sort of. Maybe he’s the only person in the family who understands me. Okay, he is the only person in the family who understands me. And he’s a robot!

“Get me changed, HOHHA,” I grumble.

“You do not seem very happy, Mistress Essie Cinder,” HOHHA says. I programmed him to call me that because I think it sounds cool.

“I’m not happy, HOHHA,” I say as he uses his claws and levers to dress me.

“I am very sorry to hear that, Mistress Essie Cinder,” HOHHA says as he finishes changing me. I smirk. “Now you’re just flexing that you know my name by my voice,” I say. HOHHA responds, "Ha ha ha, Mistress Essie Cinder.” I feel a little more happy after talking to HOHHA, but when I look in the mirror, I scream.

“What is wrong, Mistress Essie Cin–”

“HOHHA, WHAT AM I WEARING?!?!” I have a black veil over my face and a long, ugly black dress that goes to my toes and these hideous black shoes.

“I dressed you into those items of clothing because you seemed upset, so I dressed you appropriately for a funeral.” I want to punch HOHHA’s robot brains out, but instead, I say calmly, “Please change me, HOHHA.”

Finally, I get out of the closet in some nice jeans and a T-shirt. It’s fall, school started recently, and it’s steaming out. I know it’s because of global warming, but the majority of the world is incredibly stupid, and they seem to believe it’s because aliens are mad at us. At least President Carlotta Shivene has told the world that aliens are mad at us because we leave our trash in the oceans and we do a whole bunch of polluting, and that has pretty much done the trick. People are now more careful and they don’t just throw trash on the ground. Well, people also don’t go outside often anyway, so there’s that.

I slide into my chair and I gesture to HOHHA to serve me some cereal. He pours me Choco Chip Cheerios, my favorite. The flavor Choco Chip came out, like, 50 years ago, so it’s pretty old. It’s still good, though! The newest flavor that came out in 2120, so last year, is Caramel Cheerios, which seems honestly disgusting to me. Jamie really likes it though. He always has HOHHA bring him a ton of bowls while he’s doing his engineering. I hear him chewing while I’m trying to do homework.

All of a sudden, I’m lifted into the air again. I scream in frustration and my bowl drops out of my hands, heading toward the ground. Jamie’s eyes go wide, and he quickly drops me with his levitation device and catches my cereal.

“Can’t have Mom getting mad for spilling cereal, ha ha!” Jamie chuckles. I rub my back, which Jamie had dropped me painfully on. I mutter, “Mom wouldn’t get mad at you anyway , she’d get mad at me,” just quiet enough for him not to hear.

“C’mon, Mom said to get you up and into the car,” Jamie says, waving his hand at me. I reluctantly follow him, grabbing a granola bar (caramel chocolate, YUM!) while he wasn’t looking. Mom is always telling me about how I shouldn’t be eating as much as I do, but honestly, I don’t even eat that much. I think Mom is the one who’s influenced by social media girls (totally photoshopped!). I call social media “death to us all” to myself. I’m not one of those girls who stares at her phone all day. Everyone owns a phone here. I heard that like a hundred years ago, not everyone owned a phone. That’s just nuts! If the problems with social media back then were bad, they have escalated times a hundred. My ex-best friend, Chloette Javeris, used to be really fun and only looked at her phone to text me and play some games. But then, in 6th grade, Chlo started to hang out with Taylora Markson and Roseline Frank. Then she was posting thousands of pictures of her horrifyingly photoshopped all over social media. Anyway, Chloette is in the past.

“Hey, nerdface!” I yell to Jamie. “I’ll be right there, I’m going to the bathroom!”

“Whatever, geekface!” Jamie yells back. “Hurry up!” I rush into the bathroom and quickly use it. I look out of the bathroom window as I wash my hands. It’s a long, LONG, way down if I were to jump. Someone would have to be immortal if they survived that fall. We all live up high now. I learned that a hundred years ago, people lived in houses on the ground . Talk about nuts! We call the little homes where we live pods. Our usual view from our windows are of other pods and clouds. A LOT of clouds. I rush out of the bathroom quickly, grab my backpack, and open the door to the garage. Inside is our pod-car, but we just call it a car. It mostly looks like cars a hundred years ago, but it flies in the air and doesn’t have wheels. All of our streets are in the air now. It sounds weird, but it’s not like there are roads. It would make more sense if you’d see it. I sit in the front seat and I try not to look Mom in the eye. I don’t want to talk to her. Instead, I look out the window as she propels the pod-car out of the garage and we go into the air.

“So. . . Essie! How is school?” Mom says in that fake voice of hers that shows that when I speak, she will bring up something I do wrong.

“Mmmph,” I grumble. I’m not falling for Mom’s fake voice.

“Speak, Essie!” Mom says sternly.

“Okay! Sheesh! School is good.” That’s all I’m saying.

“Do you think you’ll pass to move on to Engineering High like Jamie?” Mom asks. Oh no. Not on the topic of Engineering High School again. Engineering High School (or just E High for short) is a school that Jamie got into last year (yes, he’s multiple grades ahead of me; don’t rub it in.). It’s the school Mom wants me to go to, because engineering apparently has always run in the family. AKA my dad was an engineer. Mom misses Dad. I don’t remember him. He died a couple of months before Jamie was born. He was sick with some disease I don’t know the name of. Mom likes to use the excuse that Dad was an engineer to try to make me be one when I grow up. As I said before, I don’t remember Dad, so it doesn’t really work. I can tell it means a lot to Mom, though. Jamie is like her perfect child. I guess I’m the mess-up. I could never tell Mom what I really want to be when I grow up, she’d never allow it. I want to be an author. Mom would probably laugh if I told her that. I love the way words flow together so rhythmically and I love metaphors and similes. Sometimes, I write some stories on my laptop, but I don’t show them to anyone.

“Essie! Do you think you’ll pass to move on to Engineering High?” Mom asks again. I stare out the window some more.

“Essie, ANSWER ME!” Mom screeches.

“I don’t know,” I respond, begging for the subject to be changed so it’s all about Jamie. Jamie can talk for a very long time about himself. “Jamie, how is E High going for you?” I ask, changing the subject myself.

“Oh, E High is awesome!” Jamie squeals. “My teacher is already thinking about putting me in the grade above! My best friend is Chars Messer! Chars is really awesome, he’s not totally jealous of me like all of the other kids in my class. Everyone is jealous because I’m many years younger than them, maybe like six years or something? I lost count. Anyway, Chars is cool. I think I’m going to be the youngest person ever to graduate from E High and I’m also going to be the youngest to graduate from IID University!” Jaime babbles on, but I’m more than annoyed that he brought up IID. IID University stands for Ideas, Inventions, and Discovery University. It’s a weird name, but it’s all about engineering and actually becoming a real engineer and doing all of the complicated stuff.

My head shoots up and I grow a wide smile when I see the school building coming up. Finally, I’ll be free! Mom zooms into the parking lot of the school and lowers the pod-car to the ground. I hop out of the car and rush away before anyone realizes I’m related to the practically famous Jamie Vincent. People have realized we’re related before, but I’ve made them swear to secrecy. I’d never go to school again if anyone knew. It’s too embarrassing.

I try to ignore Chloette, Taylora, and Roseline giggling and gossiping to each other as they get out of the same car. The woman driving the car, Chlo's mom, sees me and tries to wave me over, but I quickly rush away. Chlo’s mom was always awesome and super nice when Chlo and I were still friends, but now that we’re not, I don’t really want to talk to her. I look at Violetta Chase biting her fingernails as she waits for me by the school building. I rush over to her and pull her inside school before Chlo, Taylora, and Roseline can see that we’re together.

Violetta Chase has got to be the dorkiest kid in the school. She has been deemed “uncool” by all the popular kids, but she’s kind of the only friend I have. Violetta is also extremely clueless that everyone else thinks she’s weird.

“You were late, Essetra! I thought you left me!” Violetta says, annoyingly loudly. Then she bursts into tears. I sigh. This is already a horrible start to the school day.

 

A couple classes into school, I’m already feeling like I’ve run out of steam. I’m sick of everything at this point and I just want to leave. Lucky for me, I still have MANY HOURS left in school. Yay. I trudge down the halls with my hoodie pulled over my frizzy hair. I don’t want anyone to recognize me as “the girl who hangs out with Violetta.” I look to my sides and in front of me, and I see all kinds of different kids heading to their classes. There are students on flying objects, students scribbling things in notebooks, and students laughing with their friends. Friends. What a foreign word. I don’t use it much now. Violetta isn’t really my friend. Jamie isn’t really my friend. Mom isn’t really my friend. Aren’t friends supposed to always have your back and never push you to do anything? Aren’t friends supposed to never make fun of you unless it’s in a loving way? Aren’t friends supposed to always be strong for you and never really show that they’re not strong themself? If so, then I don’t have any friends.

I rush into my classroom and I stand in a circle with the rest of my classmates. Taylora and Roseline are in my class, and I try my hardest to ignore their whispering and staring at me. Ms. Mellis is standing in the circle with us, and she waves for everyone to join as they come into the classroom. She speaks when everyone in the class is here.

“Hello, my darlings! Today, we’re going to be discussing the future. The future is a strange topic, because of course, we cannot alter the future, but we can make little changes on our behavior and decisions. I think the best thing in our topic about the future - and the most exciting! - is talking about our future jobs. I assume you all have wishes on what you want to be when you are older, but I bet you don’t discuss it regularly. I want to change that! I want this classroom to be a safe community where you can talk about whatever you want to be when you are older! If you do not feel comfortable sharing, please write it down on a piece of paper that explains why you want to be that when you are older and what you want to do with that responsibility and hand it to me! Alright, let’s start!”

Immediately, Taylora and Roseline shoot their hands into the air. Of course. They’re always sucking up to the teachers even though they’re really jerks. But Ms. Mellis seems so excited to have people raising their hands, like the teachers always are.

“Wow! Already two volunteers! Let’s see. . . Taylora, I saw your hand first. Go ahead!”

Thank you, Ms. Mellis,” Taylora says dramatically, as if Ms. Mellis just told her that she would donate her heart to save Taylora. “When I am older, I want to be a veterinarian, because I love animals, and I want to make sure that they are always safe and healthy.”

“That’s awesome, Taylora! I think that a high school you might want to apply to is Samil High School, named after Jave Samil, a very well known vet. Shoot me an email whenever you can, and I’d love to help you with your application!” Ms. Mellis says, and Taylora squeals in excitement. “Roseline, go ahead!”

“Thanks!” Roseline says in her voice that goes up higher when she’s in front of an adult. “When I am older, I want to be an artist! I want to create paintings that younger and older people would both enjoy! I want to work with many different styles, like digital art and watercolor! I would also like to donate some of my art to homeless shelters and schools!”

“Wow, Roseline! I think a high school that you might want to apply to is Marshall High. It’s very well known for young aspiring artists like yourself! Send me an email as well and I’d love to help you with your application!” Ms. Mellis says. Roseline grins from ear to ear. A couple other people share what they want to be when they grow up, and Ms. Mellis throws out high schools they might want to apply to. Finally, only me and three other people haven’t gone yet, and the four of us ask to write our dream jobs on a piece of paper. I stare at the paper, wondering if I should lie or really tell the truth. I finally decide and start scribbling on the paper.

When I am older, I want to be an author. I want to write fictional stories, realistic fiction, fantasy, and all types of different stories. I want to write for kids, and I want my words to inspire people to show who they truly are.

I read and reread my writing many times before finally handing in the paper to Ms. Mellis before I change my mind. Then I rush out of the classroom just as the bell rings and I go to the next class.

 

Finally, the school day is over, and I rush into the parking lot. I hear a pod-car honk, and I run toward Violetta’s dad’s car before anyone can realize that it’s Violetta’s car. I run into the car and duck my head so I can’t be seen through the windows.

“Hi, Essetra!” Violetta says excitedly, like a little girl. I wait until Mr. Chase has the pod-car up into the air and school is out of view before answering. “You can call me Essie.”

“Oh, Essie, of course!” Violetta says. “Sorry!” I see Mr. Chase grin from the rearview mirror, and I have no idea why. He says, “So, Essie and Vi, how was school, girls?” Violetta’s face lights up, and she starts to babble on about who-cares-what. I just stare out the window and don’t say a word. Finally, I see my pod and I grin with excitement. I’m finally home ! Mr. Chase pulls into our garage after Mom opens it from inside our home, and I quickly jump out.

“See you tomorrow, Essetr- Essie?” Violetta says when I hop outside the pod-car. But I’m just too excited. “Yeah, whatever,” I say and I slam the car door shut, running inside the pod. Once I’m inside, I call out to Mom. “Mom!!!!! MOM!!! I’m hungry, can you make me a snack?? MOM!!!!” But I don’t hear anything. I wander into the kitchen and I see Mom’s back. She’s hunched over the table in the kitchen, and she’s shaking a little.

“Mom?” Mom spins around and her eyes are filled with anger and confusion. “Why wouldn’t you tell me?” Mom demands. I look at her with the same confusion, maybe even more confused. I can just get out, “Huh?”

“Why, Essetra, why?” Mom asks again. She’s still shaking, and a tear falls down her cheek. Oh man. She just went for the full name and she’s not even screaming! Something is up here.

“Mom . . . what did I do?” I ask weakly. Mom’s eyes shine with anger. “What did you do???? WHAT DID YOU DO???? ESSETRA CINDER VINCENT, ARE YOU REALLY ASKING ME THAT?!?!?” Mom screeches. Before I can respond, she topples onto her knees and bursts into tears. I’m not totally sure what I just walked into. What did I do? I have no idea what’s going on. I lean down and hug Mom. She just cries and cries. Finally, she rubs her red eyes and speaks.

“Ms. Mellis, your teacher . . . she sent me an email today. Apparently, your class was doing an assignment where you talked about what you wanted to be when you grew up? Ms. Mellis was telling me how you wanted to be an author and she was suggesting some schools–oh, that’s not the point! Essie . . . why did you not tell me you didn’t want to be an engineer?” There’s a silence. I don’t know what to say. After an awkward pause, it’s suddenly me who starts crying.

“Mom . . .  you never asked me! You just had my whole future laid out for me and you didn’t even ask my opinion. I guess you realized since Jamie was fine with having his future planned out for him, I was fine with it too! But I’m not! I’ve never been! But you never asked, you just decided!” Mom hugs me and cries again. I’ve never seen so many tears in just a couple of minutes.

“Oh, honey, that’s not what I was going for at all! I want you to have full control over your future. I am so sorry I never asked you before how you really wanted to live your life. I was stuck thinking about your father and I could never pass on from that moment he died. I was stuck in that time, and I wanted you and Jamie to follow in your father’s footsteps. But I realize it now, and it’s not too late to change things!” Mom leaps up from our hug pile on the kitchen floor and she grabs her phone, scrolling through her emails while wiping her tears away. “Here, Ms. Mellis suggested Creativity High. Get up, Essie! We have to start working on the application right away!” Mom and I laugh our tears away and rush to the home computer, looking up Creativity High. I immediately fall in love with the school, and we start working on the applications before I have to do my homework and Mom has to make dinner and pick up Jamie from his afternoon classes.

“Essie, again, I am so sorry . . .” Mom tries to say, but I stop her.

“Mom, we won’t get anywhere if you keep on apologizing. It’s behind us, and I forgive you. Now go pick up Jamie!” I say, the happiest I have ever been in years.

 

The next day, Mom kisses my forehead and I jump out of the pod-car in the parking lot. I search the crowd for a specific someone. I’ve made up with Mom, but I know that she’s not the only one to make up with. Finally, I lay eyes on the girl I’m looking for. I run toward Violetta Chase and I wrap my arms around her. “Hi Violetta!” I say, not caring all of the smirks being thrown toward me. Violetta has always been here for me, I realized last night. Just because she’s not popular, doesn’t mean that she’s not my best friend, because she is. Violetta is taken aback by my odd gesture, but she quickly hugs me back, and we walk into the school building, discussing everything we can discuss. I tell her about how I’m going to apply to Creativity High, and she says she’s so happy for me.

I see Chloette, Taylora, and Roseline are staring at me and whispering, but I don’t care and I completely ignore them. They’re not my friends, they’ve never been. It’s about time I realized that. Instead of paying attention to the gawking girls (OMG, I think I’ve just created a new nickname for them!), I hook my arm around Violetta and we skip down the halls.

There’s no way I can’t be happy right now. This day is perfect. Even though I don’t know if I’ll even get into Creativity High, right now I’m 100 percent full of hope, and nothing can get me down.

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Comments

  1. Yasmine did a great job in connecting the future to current culture; her idealism and truth telling makes her an example for young people to follow; this also represents a warning to corporations that have lost their business ethics; it tells them that they are being watched by the future leaders of our world.

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