But There's A secret...
This week, the writers wrote around a prompt chosen by @liquidcreampuff and created intriguing, mysterious works of literature. If you would like to choose our next prompt, keep an eye out on our Instagram @theoutlet.inspire :)
By: Laurie Jin
I can see them judge,
I can hear them talk.
Plotting against me-
Stop, I say. Stop.
Next to them, a machine
It growls at me:
Jaws opened, teeth sharpened,
Ready to bite.
Did I tell them to stop?
Stop, I say. Stop.
Why do they plan my death?
Every step laid out so carefully.
I look at the door,
The window on the door,
And I run.
No! They scream.
Facing me, with their malicious red grins
As their vile green hands get closer.
The wicked men… the machines
Now my mother, a doctor, a table
I have… to die?
They grab me, tie me down,
Turn on the brightest light,
I close my eyes. Wait...
The Man on 23rd street
by: Austina Xu
To the man on 23rd street
I saw you walking to work today
The first time was with a briefcase
The second was with an orange vest and boots
You gave me three dollars
I told you to keep it
And handed them to me anyways
To the man on 23rd street
Your daughter loves drawing- her favorite color is orange
Though you probably already know that
She did exceptionally well on her quiz today,
as expected from a student at the top of her class
That one was always a bit harder anyways
To the man on 23rd street
I know your usual: two chicken sandwiches
A small scoop of ice cream on a good day
You always order two but end up eating only half
The rest you give to your daughter
She’s adorable by the way
To the man on 23rd street
I saw you walk your daughter back home from school
Her eyes turning into crescent moons at the sight of dinosaur nuggets
After dinner, you help her with her homework
When city stars align and the windows glisten obsidian black
Your light remains on
And your endless night begins
The Opal Eye
By: Ava Arasan
2313 sat on a rickety old bench in her school’s courtyard. Nose buried in a book, she couldn’t help but scream a little when 6054, her best friend, popped his head in over her novel, breaking her intense focus. The book, an old, rattled little thing, dropped to the cobblestone ground with a dull thump. A white scuff mark crawled up the title, Earth’s Top 100 Destinations.
“6054, I thought you promised you would stop doing that!” 2313 complained sourly, snatching her novel off the ground and swiping at the new blemish on its cover.
6054 exposed his toothy grin, “Oh, give it up, Teen! I don’t understand why you bother with these things,” he said, pointing to the book with obvious distaste, “Opal Eye provides all the best videos! “12 Ways to Make Smoothies,” “Make Your Bedroom Clean,” and “How to Sew” are classics and my personal favorites,” he said with a smile. “Maybe if you gave the Opals a chance, you would realize that aren’t as bad as you think they-”
6054’s rant was stopped by a looming shadow.
“Did I hear that correctly?” An Opal Eye officer stood above them, words rolling off his tongue like an ice gliding across polished cement. Fluent. Measured. Practiced. “Certainly, “Teen” is not a proper name, and, as you both know, intolerance of the Opal Eye is an infraction that is not taken upon lightly,” he scolded, his burning eyes never breaking eye contact with 2313. “And what is this in your hand?” Before either had a chance to respond, the Opal grabbed Earth’s Top 100 Destinations from 2313’s trembling hands and ripped it in two. “Don’t let this happen again. The punishment will most definitely fit the crime if it does.” Pushing one half of the ruined book into 2313’s chest and holding the other close to his own, the officer turned on his heel and glided across the courtyard to remain stoically at his post by the oak tree.
“I guess it’s Earth’s Top 50 Destinations now,” 6054 said with a shudder. “What’s an "earth” anyway? Whatever. It sounds dumb.”
2313 studied her shoes. There were so many things they would never let him understand.
“And that’s why we bless the Eye every day and every night, it brings us good fortune, health, security, and happiness.” Teacher 5955 stood front and center arms open wide as if she was absorbing some kind of radiant energy. 2313 only saw her teacher acting like a half-maniac in a dull classroom.
“Why should we “bless” the Eye? I mean it’s so far away! We don’t even know when or how it got there!” 2313 said pointing out the window. Although it could barely be seen in against the pale blue sky in the light of the day, the whole classroom knew what she was talking about. That little silver disc that glowed softly in the night. No one knew much about it, only that it was the Eye of the Opal Eye and that it ought to be worshipped properly.
“Well, I suppose it wasn’t always the Eye,” 5955 said, clawing through her memories to find an answer her student’s question. “AH, YES! OF COURSE!” she exclaimed, ecstatic to have found the word she had been so desperately searching for. She watched as a wave of shock trembled throughout the room, her students’ eyes blown wide open at her outburst. Never had they experienced such a tremendous amount of emotion. “It was once called the-”
5955’s eyes began to tremble, a motion so slight that one would have to be nose to nose with her to view it. Her pupils grew large and dark until one could barely see the faint green ring of color around them.
“Ug, damn. Let’s turn to page 98 of How to Make Your Dishes Squeaky Clean,” announced 6054, taking control of the momentarily teacherless classroom. The other students complied with his request, opening their readers and beginning their classwork assignment. They were used to Fazing. It happened all the time to teachers, parents, students, friends, family, and themselves. Just a few more minutes and their teacher would be back to normal preaching her lesson as if nothing had happened. And to all concerned, nothing had happened. But 2313 felt differently.
Walking home from school, 2313 shuddered the whole way, chills stemming from the bottom of her spine, and running their icy fingers along her back to eventually tickle the tips of her shoulders. Fazing was exactly how it was all kept secret for so long. She knew that was a fact deep in her bones. Once home, she rushed straight to her room, knelt by her bedside, and lifted up one smooth floorboard to reveal her wide collection of books. Hundreds upon hundreds of titles all crammed under her floor, radiating their immense knowledge and whispering to her everything she was never supposed to hear. She picked one up and skimmed through its thin, crisp pages. I knew it! It was called a “Mo-oon.”
“Hey, Teen. Well, that was so funny. Never seen old Teach.55 fazed before. How nutzo was-” 6054 stopped short in the doorway. His eyes opened wide, not as a result of being fazed but of being purely shocked.
“What’s all this again?” he said voice quivering.
“54, I can explain. I can-”
“No more than 3 books per household. And all of them must be approved by an Opal first. That’s the rule. This is wrong, soo wrong!”
Anger flared in the room, buzzing through the thick air in a chaotic frenzy.
“But there is so much more to know! Three books are nothing just listen, please, just give me a chance to explain!”
But 6054 was already halfway to the door, leaving her house. She could faintly hear him yell, “I’m getting you the help you need!” as he nearly tripped over himself to get away from her. 2313 weighed her options. Runaway or get caught by an Opal. Runaway or get caught by an Opal. Run away!
She flung open her window and jumped out, barely thinking, her fall cushioned by the soft grass of her lawn. She had to make it to the Woods: no one would ever find her there. Her legs seemed to be darting beneath her, propelling her toward her destination. She could see the first few trees dotting the landscape ahead. She was almost there, almost safe.
A sharp pain seared through her shoulder, forcing her feet to slow their desperate escape. She felt as if she was wading through honey, and her eyes felt weighted and heavy. She caught a glance of a bright red feather sticking out of her shoulder. Every color imaginable swirled in her vision before it all went black.
The room was dark. Thick leather-bound her wrists and ankles to the cold stone wall behind her, and a metal band ensnared her waist, clutching her so hard that she could barely breathe. She didn’t even have room to shiver.
“I am loyal to all policies of the Opal Eye.” A smooth voice crept around her consciousness, making the edges fuzzy and gray. “My name is 2313, and I am loyal to all policies of the Opal Eye.” It sounded familiar. Soft and stern. Fluent. Measured. Practiced. In front of her, a sparkling blue gem hung from the ceiling by a silver thread, swaying softly with some unknown stream of air.
“No. My name is Teen, and the Opal Eye can’t make me do anything. Not anymore. Not ever.”
The band around her waist tightened. Teen could already feel bruises and cuts swelling along its edges.
“My name is 231-”
“NOOOO,” tears were falling fast now and she choked on them as the screamed her opposition.
“I am loyal to-”
“NOTHING. I AM LOYAL TO NOTHING! MY NAME IS TEEN. TEEN. TEEN.”
“All policies of the Opal Eye.”
Suddenly, the dynamic shifted. Teen felt relief. So pure and warm that she felt as if she could bathe in it forever. 2313’s eyes blew open and her pupils dilated and began to shake a little, buzzing from side to side.
“What’s your name?”
“What are you loyal to?”
“I am loyal to all policies of the Opal Eye”
And there she was; 2313 back to where she had started for the 142nd time.
By: Sawyer lai
I can feel them, those eyes, watching me as I walk down the subway corridor. Uneasy, I sit down in the seat closest to the door before pulling a book out of my bag. I maintain a semblance of reading as I carefully sneak peeks at the fairly crowded subway car. Everyone’s staring, the voices whisper to me. Some of the passengers are muttering to each other, but I just can’t make out what they’re saying.
The eyes started months ago. I haven’t been able to go out in public without being constantly watched since. And it’s not just people I know, random strangers stare as well; it’s like they’re all in on a big secret I’m not privy to. My friends told me to “go get help” and that I’m “paranoid,” but I know I’m not— I just don’t know why they don’t see the eyes too. At first, I thought there was something physically wrong with me, something that only I couldn’t notice. I spent hours obsessing over my reflection in the mirror, searching for something, anything that they could be staring at. I saw doctors too. Even as they tried to help me, I could still feel them staring and hear them whispering to each other outside of my room. Soon afterward, I started hearing the voices, voices constantly telling me things from people I can’t see.
You’re stop’s coming up, isn’t it? The voices remind me to start packing up my book. Cautiously taking another look around the subway, I stand up and ready myself to walk into the throng of people on the subway platform. I jolt sideways as the train screeches to a stop, bracing my hand with the wall so I don’t fall. The doors open and I immediately feel the immense wall of more eyes. They’re staring at me, waiting for me to get off the subway. I freeze, unable to move, and I hear the shuffling feet of impatient people behind me wanting to depart. Just walk forward, the voices encourage me, Just. Walk. Forward. The voices around me coupled with the weight of all of the eyes overwhelm me and I stumble forward onto the platform. Almost immediately, I break into a run, pushing people out of my way and rushing up the stairwell before breaking into the soft afternoon sunlight. I gasp for breath and sit down on the nearest bench to catch my breath. The eyes aren’t as intense up here, with the nearly empty streets. I’m almost home.
I reach my apartment and fumble with my keys. As soon as I close the door, I can’t feel the eyes anymore. Relieved, I collapse onto my bed. Seconds later, I jolt upright, hearing a sound coming from the corner of my bedroom. Looking towards the source of the sound, I see my sister, whom I haven’t seen in years, sitting in my apartment. For a split second, I realize I don’t feel the eyes. It doesn’t matter, I think to myself as I open my mouth to greet her, overjoyed. Overjoyed, that is, until I remember that she died years ago.