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Excerpt for Courage: 2015 - Year Seven - Heaton Extension Writers Anthology by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Courage: 2015

Year Seven

Heaton Extension Writers Anthology

Edited by Beaulah Pragg

Table of Contents

The Mystery Of 88 Tenth Avenue - Bahar Parsaei

Paige Pancakes - Becky Bates

When Nana Died - Hanna Wikstrom

Autophobia - Holly Abell

Little Elephant - Kate Gardiner

When Everything Takes Flight - Lucy Murray

The Prison I Called Home - Marissa Gaffney

From Matamata to Rio - Matthew Brown

The Peanut Butter Sandwich - Ngaio Shaw

Above the Blue - Olivia Hawtin

But What If? - By Olivia Schupbach

Forced To Fly - Paige Bowman

The Courage To Kill - Rosa Blake

Saving Leah - Tess Nord

About the Editors

Other Titles

The Mystery Of 88 Tenth Avenue

by Bahar Parsaei

- One -

My eyes scanned the flat, closely inspecting every inch. It wasn’t the best house I’d seen, but it wasn’t the worst either. It was quite modern. Judging by the looks of it, you could see that it was built no less than two years ago. I didn’t want to stay in New York. I wanted to go back to California, but on the bright side I didn’t have to stay here for long. I just needed to live here until I turned twenty one, which would give me access to all the money my parents had left me in their will. Taking a deep and not-so-fresh breath, I picked up my luggage and confidently walked over to the door. There was a little bell ring on the door directly above the doorknob. I rang it and waited patiently. No answer.

I tried again. Once again, no one opened the door. I wrapped myself tighter in my leather jacket as my long black hair blew into my face. If the owner of the house doesn’t hurry up and open the door I will probably freeze to death out here, I thought.

Frantically, I started pressing the bell non-stop while I knocked on the door with my foot. As I was thinking about smashing open a window, the door opened and a guy looked out. “What do you want? I’m busy!” he asked with an annoyed expression.

I stared at him in awe. Is this really what my lawyer meant when she said that the owner of the flat was a person with great responsibility? This boy was probably no older than me! The boy stared back at me impatiently. “Well? Are you just gonna stand there staring at me?” he asked.

I pulled myself together and picked up the document that my lawyer had signed. “I am the flatmate that you accepted. My name’s Elizabeth Hunter,” I said as I handed the letter over to him.

He looked at it with clear disinterest and then tossed it behind his back. “Okay, sure. Come in.” He beckoned me in and went back inside.

He didn’t even offer to help me with my bags! I thought as I dragged my six overstuffed suitcases and duffel bags into the flat.

- Two -

The flat was bigger than I had expected—sort of like the TARDIS in Doctor Who, it was bigger on the inside than on the outside. It had a nice cream coloured carpet with some black leather couches and two huge sixty five inch TVs. The kitchen had three coffee makers and a shelf filled with all sorts of candy. Everything was incredibly high-class, which made me feel very odd in my leather jacket, ripped jeans and converse. The boy, whose name I didn’t even know, flopped onto one of the couches and turned on one of the TVs, which was placed straight in front of the couch.

I stared at him with a disapproving look. “I’m supposed to be your flatmate and I don’t even know your name,” I said, hinting that maybe he should be opening up a bit more.

The guy turned his focus away from the TV and looked at me. “If you really need to know, my name is Jay and this isn’t even a flat. I just said it was a flat so that I can get some money!” he said, laughing. My jaw dropped in disbelief.

“Why on earth would YOU need more money?” I shouted. “Look at your house and the furniture. You have two sixty five inch TVs AND two leather couches!”

Jay looked at me like I had just shouted the worst insult at him. “Well, let’s just say that I went a little overboard with the furniture shopping and that now I don’t have enough money to pay the rent,” he said with a tone that suggested I should change the subject. I was about to ask where my room was when a ten-year-old boy jumped into the room and belly-flopped onto the couch beside Jay.

“Hey, Big Brother!” the boy said enthusiastically. Then he turned to look at me with the same expression that Jay had greeted me with. “Who’s she?” he asked Jay as he pointed at me.

Jay sighed. “This is Elizabeth. She is our ‘flatmate’,” he explained. Then he turned to me. “Elizabeth, this is the other person that lives in this house who is also unfortunately my younger brother William.” He was clearly not happy that his TV time had been interrupted again.

I looked down at William. He had the same dark brown spiky hair as Jay and the same colour eyes, but apart from that, he was totally different. There was an awkward silence which was broken by the noise of some cars beeping outside. I stepped forward. “So Jay, where is my room?” I asked.

Jay glanced up at me. “Did you say something?” he asked, his attention still on the TV.

The anger rose up in me. I grabbed the TV remote and turned it off. “Can you please stop watching TV and listen to me for a second? I said where is my room?”

Jay looked taken aback at my actions with the remote. “It’s upstairs in the left corner,” he said and then held his hand out for the TV remote. I sighed and dropped the remote in his hand. I went through the corridor that led upstairs.

As soon as I reached the top of the stairs, my Phantasma started. I hated the sensation so much, but it was something that couldn’t be controlled. There was something special about it, though. It only started when there was a ghost around.

- Three -

All my friends had told me that my Phantasma was special, but they had no idea how hard it was. You would see ghosts all the time, everywhere you went. I’d only found out that I had it when I was twelve, which was six years ago. Back then, I thought I was so special to have the ability to see ghosts, but all that changed. I still, to this day, feel guilty about the fact that my brother followed me on a ghost hunt under my insistence and died. I hadn’t been able to stop the ghost that attacked him. After his death, I had made a promise that I would never make contact with a ghost again, so I ignored the alarms screaming “Ghost alert! Ghost alert!” inside my mind and turned to the left to go and find my room.

The door was painted a light blue colour with a grey doorknob. Inside was quite plain. There was a bed and a dresser with a huge wardrobe which was situated beside the bed. I looked at myself in the mirror beside the weirdly huge wardrobe. My straight black hair was messy as ever and dark brown eyes looked extremely tired. I didn’t fit in with the rest of the room which was clean and tidy.

“Elizabeth!” Jay’s voice shouted from the living room. “Come down here. I need to talk to you.”

As I went out of my room, my Phantasma perked up again. I shook the feeling off and walked downstairs to where Jay was standing.

“I’m going out to see some mechanics because the car has sort of broken down,” he said as he put on his black leather motorcycle jacket. “Would it be okay if I left William with you?”

“Sure,” I muttered. To be honest, I didn’t really want to spend the rest of my night with a ten-year-old kid, but I didn’t really think I had a choice.

“I’ll be back in no more than two hours. See you soon!” he said as he walked out the door.

William jumped onto the couch. “Come on Lizzy, let’s play video games!” he shouted as he threw me a remote. Things just couldn’t get worse could they?

Five hours later, I put the remote down and looked up at the clock. I got a huge shock when I realised that it was three hours past the time that Jay had promised to be back. I knew where the mechanic store was, but it would be at least an hour if I had to get there by foot. I knew I had to go and find Jay, but I also knew that there was a ghost in the house. My Phantasma hadn’t been very strong which meant that the ghost wasn’t very strong either. I went over to William, who was lying down on the couch.

“William, I’m going to go out for an hour. You need to stay here. Do you understand?” I asked.

“Sure, have a good time wherever you’re going,” said William.

I took my white jacket from the coat rack by the door and went out into the cold.

I reached the mechanics quicker than I had expected. Jay was there talking to one of the people. When he saw me, his expression changed.“What are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay and take care of William!”

I looked at him angrily. “If you hadn’t notice, Mr. Jay Maxwell, you have been gone for over five hours now,” I said.

“I’m finished now anyway, so come on, we need to go back.” he said.

Jay didn’t talk to me all through the way back home. I could hear him muttering something under his breath, but when I asked he didn’t answer. As we reached the front door, my Phantasma started again—though stronger this time. The alarms in my head were twice as loud. Jay opened the door and stepped inside.

“William, I’m home,” he said. “William?”

He rushed upstairs to check William’s bedroom. I followed him up.

There was no sign of William. He had completely disappeared.

- Four -

Jay threw a huge tantrum. “Why did you leave him? I gave clear instructions that you were to stay with William until I came back! Who cares if I was gone for over two hours it’s not like I had died or anything!” he shouted.

I got red in the face. “He’s your brother so he’s your responsibility. I just arrived here today and you’re already giving me my own responsibilities, one of them being to look after your annoying as brother!”

Jay stared at me blankly before quietly replying, “He might be annoying, but he’s my brother.” Then, for the first time, I realised that Jay cared about something other than TV. I gave him a determined look and said, “Don’t worry, Jay. We’ll find William. I promise.”

Jay was looking at the door of the closet with a weird expression on his face, as if he was in a sort of trance.

“Jay? Jay are you even listening to me?”

Jay suddenly snapped back into reality.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

He looked at me in a weird way and asked, “Have you ever got that feeling when you’re in a room and it’s like there’s something else in the room with you, but you can’t see it? You know like there’s another person, but no one’s there, and you get that really creeped out feeling?”

I looked at him in shock for a few minutes and then it hit me. Of course! Jay didn’t have Phantasma, but he could still feel that the ghost was there, even though he couldn’t see it. I just nodded to him and looked around at my surroundings. I had never been inside William’s room, but my Phantasma was stronger than ever. Like my room, William’s room had a huge closet.

My senses came back to me and I walked over to the closet. Even by putting my hand on the door, I could feel that there was something supernatural in there. Without thinking, I turned the doorknob and walked into the closet. Jay’s voice sounded from behind me. “Elizabeth what are you doing?”

I ignored his question and beckoned him to follow. Just as I had thought, there was a mini black wooden door right at the bottom of the closet. It was unlocked, which saved me the job of looking for keys. I crouched down and crawled through the door. Jay looked unsure, but with a surge I grabbed his arm and pulled him through.

“What in the world are you...” he started, but I stopped him. I put a finger to my lips and carried on, looking at my surroundings. It was a big room. Probably an old storage or attic. My Phantasma got stronger and stronger until... I saw it.

A big ghost—probably a Poltergeist, though they weren’t supposed to be visible. Its face wasn’t visible which made it impossible to tell how strong it was. It was hovering beside an unconscious William, who lay on the floor. By the looks of William’s white face the ghost had already sucked out a quarter of his life force, and that was never good. Jay, who of course couldn’t see the ghost, rushed forward to help him. I held a hand out to stop him.

“Do you have any silver?” I asked. Jay looked at me like I had gone mad.

“Silver? How is silver gonna help?” he hissed.

I gave him a look that said ‘don’t-question-me’. He looked at me in a ‘you-are-just-crazy’ way and took off his watch.

“I have a Rolex watch. Is that going to help?” he asked.

I gave him a dubious look. “I don’t think there’s any actual silver in a watch, but it’s worth a try.” I said as I took the watch. “Any more?” I asked.

He turned his pockets inside-out and looked at me questioningly. I sighed. “So much for being a billionaire,” I said.

Jay looked around the room and grabbed a little box that was gathering dust in a corner and handed it to me. “Is this gonna help?” he asked. I fiddled with the lock for a while until it clicked open. I studied the contents closely. Necklaces, rings, lockets and pendulums were stuffed into it carelessly and it was overflowing with little coins. I nodded approvingly.

“Yes. Yes these are absolutely perfect.” I put the jewellery in a pile with the Rolex.

“Here’s the plan,” I said. “You can’t see it, but there’s a ghost here and ghosts hate silver. When I throw these silver items at it, I want you to grab William and run as fast as you can out of here and don’t make a sound.” I explained

Jay opened his mouth to argue, but then decided against it. I took my position in front of the ghost. All my fears came rushing into my head. I had faced ghosts before but only weak ones. I had definitely not faced a poltergeist before. I revised everything I knew about poltergeists. They were blind ghosts and could only find you by movement and noise which meant that as long as I didn’t make a noise I should be fine. I pulled myself together, grabbed the silver items and aimed them straight at the poltergeist. With all the force that I could manage, I thrust the things at the ghost. The figure started to fade slowly starting from the top to the bottom. I felt pride that I had defeated the ghost and shame that I had broken my promise of never being in contact with a ghost.

Jay had already got William and was on his way back to the house. Checking for the second time, I made sure the ghost was gone and slowly backed out of the hidden room. The silver items had all been burned with ectoplasm. Jay would be so mad when I told him that his Rolex watch was burnt.

When I entered the living room, William was still unconscious and Jay was sitting on the couch. “Did you get my Rolex watch back?” he asked.

I laughed. “You’re rich. Go buy another one.”

He stared at me. I stared back. “So are you going to thank me in some way?” I asked.

He gave me a smirk. “Sure. Thanks. And don’t think that saving William is going to stop me from getting the rent from you. Did you expect that?”

l smiled back. “That’s exactly what I expected.”

About Bahar

Once upon a time…oh wait wrong story. So Bahar is a girl that was born in Iran, but moved to New Zealand when she was six. Even though she knows that she will never see a ghost, she is still keeping an eye out just in case. She spends her free time with her friends and at Starbucks. She enjoys writing stories and eating pizza. Though she hasn’t written any stories about pizza yet.

Paige Pancakes

by Becky Bates

Paige Pancakes had never quite mastered the talent of expecting the unexpected, though no one really could have expected the sorry events of the day to come. It wasn’t like there was any fault in Paige either. She was an intelligent and sporty child, loved dearly by all and most gregarious. And it didn’t just stop there. Paige looked after her body and was a most attractive young lady. Her bright sense of humour brought much joy to her classroom. She enjoyed touch rugby, netball, hockey, and the arts. Her most favourite thing to do was play with her cheeky seven-year-old brother, Stanley, whom she dearly loved and treasured. Yes, Paige had a perfect life, until a fairly ordinary day turned into the worst and most horrible day of her life.

The prim and proper headmaster of Fairville Intermediate marched into Room Twenty Two with a grim expression on her face just before morning tea time and requested to speak with Paige. Paige was annoyed, as she and her best friend Becky were working on a fun project together, but was not surprised, for she was often called into the headmaster’s office for various academic and sporting reasons. Paige was bewildered, though, over the fact that Mrs McDermott hadn’t just asked for her over the intercom. Hopefully it wasn’t something serious. The intercom was probably broken, she surmised. They strode down the hallway together towards the headmaster’s room for the obscure meeting.

After reaching the small tidy quarters, Paige took a seat in the hard wooden chair across the desk from the wizened woman. She saw the sadness in Mrs McDermott’s eyes and wondered once again why she was here. She was about to say something when Mrs McDermott cleared her throat and began to speak. “Your brother is in a coma in hospital, Sweetheart. While biking to Fairville Primary, Stanley turned a sharp corner and was hit by a bus. He is extremely lucky to be alive. I’m so terribly sorry, dear,” she finished.

As soon as the words sunk in, Paige’s heart leapt into her throat and she felt tears sting her eyes. “No! No! Not Stanley. You must be mistaken! It wasn’t him. It was someone else!” Paige screamed, sobbing in pain, though deep in her heart she knew it was true.

“Go through to the office and the secretary will drive you to the hospital where your parents are waiting.” Mrs McDermott’s soft voice reminded Paige that she was in the room. Paige nodded vigorously through a fountain of tears and hurried over. She desperately wanted to see her darling Stanley. She hoped Stanley was alright. The thought that he might have died already made her walk even faster.

After a short car trip, Ms Rolanda dropped Paige at the large bleak hospital and a kindly young nurse escorted her to a small waiting room. Her eyes darted around finding her parents sitting on a patterned couch, their hands grasped tightly together. She saw the fear and worry in their eyes. “Where’s Stanley!” she exclaimed. “I need to see him now!”

Her mum blinked away tears and explained gloomily that he was currently being operated on. He had major head and brain injuries, a dislocated hip, his leg was broken in two places, and he had bruises all over his body. Paige began to shake with crying. She wriggled into her Dad’s comforting arms and felt like she wanted to die.

After four strained hours of waiting in the same space, fidgeting, chewing nails in concern and attempting to read magazines, a male doctor with a grave, wrinkled face appeared in the doorway and updated them on Stanley. “We’re doing our best, but he’s not looking too good,” he told them. “Stanley’s limbs are healing and bandaged, but he has severe brain damage and is heavily comatose. You can see him now, but please be very quiet and aware that he will be in huge amounts of pain beneath his unconsciousness.”

Paige and her parents tiptoed along the hallway and into a small white room, anticipating how horrible Stanley would look. At first, Paige assumed they had walked into the wrong room, and almost turned around. Stanley looked like a completely different person, but the sign at the end of his bed read, ‘Stanley Pancakes’. They saw a pasty white face, as pale as a ghost’s, sticking out of layers and layers of blankets. Many machines were hooked up to his body in various places. His usual cheeky and adorable expression was replaced with blankness. Paige felt like her heart was being torn into tiny fractured pieces. She had to turn away from his poor feeble figure and deathly face. After half an hour of squeezing Stanley’s hand and talking softly to him, the emotionally depleted Pancakes family retreated back to their house in solemn silence, making plans to return the next day.

Back home, Paige didn’t feel like dinner, and excused herself for an early night. As she lay in bed, tears stung her eyes—not for the first time that day—and she passionately hoped that this wasn’t the end of Stanley’s small life. She couldn’t bear a single day without her brother’s contagious smile and twinkling eyes. It was a long, hard, lonely night for poor Paige.

The next morning, she woke to an eerie silence and her whole attitude dropped like a weight right down to her slippered feet. She spent that day in depression and devastation, trying to forget the horrible happenings that were imprinted on her mind every moment. Becky comforted her with all the love in her radiating heart, but Paige was immensely miserable and the day dragged by like a month. She yearned to see Stanley awake and well. All day, Paige wished and wished for him to be better and as bright as birds when they next saw him.

At the end of the school day, both of her parents met her at the gate, looking as gloomy and forlorn as she did. They explained that they were going to visit Stanley again, and Paige obligingly agreed. She desperately wanted to see her darling brother, and even more so wished for him to be sitting up in bed, smiling his beautiful wide grin with holes from missing teeth, when they entered the bleak scary hospital room. Her parents embraced her briefly, and then helped her into the back seat of the car.

Dark raindrops streamed down the window and ominous black clouds blanketed the sky. The weather completely resembled Paige’s upset and weary mood. As soon as their silver Honda pulled up the gravelly hospital driveway, Paige flung open the car door and sprinted to her brother’s room. She ignored the scolding nurse and went straight in. Her heart dampened as she saw the shocking sight of her terribly poorly little brother. He looked like a frail old man. Even though she couldn’t bear it through the pain, Paige forced herself to go to school the next day in her grieving state.

The weeks went by in sadness and despair and Stanley’s condition got worse and worse. He was obviously going through agony beneath the coma and his wounds were not healing without his brain in full function. Paige and her family supported each other and went on with their normal life, however there was a hole in their hearts where Stanley’s cheery smile was meant to be. Only Becky could relieve her eternal pain and gave her endless kindness, and many hugs. School was truly tough as many people treated her awkwardly, and every second without her little brother went by like an hour. Teachers tried to comfort her, but their words dripped with sickly sweetness.

After about six difficult prolonged months, Paige’s mum and dad sat her down on the couch and told her gravely that the doctor had explained to them that the chance of Stanley recovering was about one in a thousand. They knew that he was in pain and wanted to do what was best. They had found the right time to let go but, as Paige burst into exasperated sobs, they told her they would wait until she too was ready, since she and Stanley had been as close as Siamese twins.

Giving Paige the decision was meant to comfort her, but in fact it put a large weight on her shoulders. She was absolutely torn. The idea of turning off Stanley’s life machine brought her immense fear, but it was clear that he was suffering deeply. She firmly told herself that Stanley was sure to wake up soon.

Over the next couple of days, her decision painfully lingered in the back of her mind and she tried everything she could to awaken Stanley. She squeezed his hand and whispered comfortingly in his ear. All her efforts were in vain though, and Stanley’s pale eyelids remained closed.

That night Paige lay in bed with a hard lump in her throat and tears stinging her eyes. Great fear hung over her heart as she thought of the task she would most probably have to do at some point. She cried with all her heart that night as the thought of losing her irreplaceable brother was horrible.

After another week dragged by Paige had reached the climax of her fear, but was immensely worried about Stanley’s pain. She didn’t want him to be going through that and so told her parents at dinner that night, with tears in eyes, that she had made the decision to let him be free. It hurt her heart like a dagger but she knew it was what was right. Her whole body shook with crying and her parents brought her into a warm embrace.

Standing by Stanley amongst many relatives and friends the next day was hard, but she knew it would have been what he wanted. As the doctor unplugged the various blinking machines from his limp body, almost everyone in the room was crying. The little remaining colour on his pale skin was slowly sucked away, leaving the sobbing group with a malnutritioned ghost. Everyone paid their respects to Paige and her parents and slowly walked out of the door wiping away their tears.

The following days went by with Paige and her parents feeling like an important organ was missing. They supported each other and received many benevolent gifts, but were immensely upset. Paige went through minor depression and couldn’t even remember his funeral but as the weeks went by the pain eased. Stanley always would have that special place in their hearts. Paige slowly began to adjust and accept life without him. She was glad she made the decision and Stanley was no longer suffering. A huge weight was lifted from her shoulders, because sometimes it hurts more to hold on than it does to let go.

When Nana Died

by Hanna Wikstrom

- One -

I tapped my foot impatiently as I waited outside the door. My boots were buried in the snow and my hair was wet with rain. How long was this going to take? I heard a click as someone unlocked the door from the other side. I hurried inside as soon as it was open.

“Sorry dear,” apologised Nana. “I was a bit busy to get to the door straight away.”

“No problem,” I said as I warmed my frozen hands by the fire. Nana wandered into the kitchen.

“Did you get the shopping, Tyra?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, handing her the overstuffed bag of groceries.

“Ah,” she mumbled to herself as she started unpacking it. “Eggs, milk, cheese, bread…” I took my long purple coat off and hung it on the coat stand. I shuffled out off my two-sizes-too-big snow boots and walked down the short corridor to the back door. Unlocking it, I made a dash for the shed. Once I was in there, I lit a candle and wandered through the cobweb-covered garage to the stable where we kept our horse, Mackenzie. She was lying down on her hay pile, looking tired. I grabbed a carrot and held it out for her. She lifted her head and stood up. Her beautiful black hair glistened slightly in the candlelight. I held the carrot out further.

“Come on, Mackenzie,” I whispered to her. “Come get the tasty carrot.” As she began to eat it I looked over her shoulder and realised that her food bowl was empty. I sighed. Mackenzie ate so much food we might run out of money to keep buying it!

~~~

“Tyra!” Nana’s voice echoed through the house. “Time to get up!’ She wandered into my bedroom as I sat up in bed and started rummaging through one of my drawers. “Now don’t forget dear, I need you to go down to the market today to buy some more food for Mackenzie. And when you get back if you wouldn’t mind collecting the eggs from the chicken pen. And the sheep need shearing, dear, if you could do that as well.”

“Yes Nana,” I said as I pulled on my long white dressing gown. I had a long list of jobs for today.

~~~

“Just this please, Sir,” I said as I struggled to lift the enormous bag of horse food up for the man running the stall to see.

“That will be twenty dollars,” he said. I rummaged through my pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar note.

“Here,” I said, handing him the note. He put the note in the money draw and started serving the next customer. I began the long walk home, tugging the bag along behind me.

~~~

By the time I had made it to the front door, I was completely exhausted and out of breath. I knocked urgently on the door. No answer. I knocked again. Nothing. I banged my fist against the door.

“Nana!” I called. “Hurry up! This bag is heavy you know!” I stood there for another few moments before giving up and stomping around to the side of the house to look through the window. What I saw made me drop the bag of horse food in horror. I could see Nana through the window; but she was lying on the couch, as still as a stone. Nana was dead.

- Two -

I curled up in a corner of the hospital reception room, my face wet with tears. Why did Nana have to go? The hospital said she only died of old age, but eighty seven? That isn’t very old at all! I know I will have to get over it eventually, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to.

A man in an official-looking suit walked into the room. I’d always hated official-looking suits. They were too officialish. “Tyra, is it?” he asked me. I nodded.

“What a pretty name,” he said. “Anyway, I’m here to inform you that you have a plane flight to New York city at exactly eight am tomorrow. Your Aunt Maria has offered to look after you. You will need to have your luggage ready by four am and be at the airport promptly by five am.”

‘Five am?’ I thought. That is way too early! Don’t these people have any sleep? Are they Vampires? I shivered. Better not think about that.

“Yes, Sir.” I nodded.

He showed me to a taxi waiting outside. “This’ll take you home. I’d suggest that when you get there you pack your bags, and then have a bit of a rest. There will be another taxi coming to pick you up tomorrow at four am. I’ve organised a babysitter for you to stay the night, as you are too young to be home alone. Other than that, I’ll see you at the airport at five.” He smiled and shut the door.

As the taxi was driving down the road, I squeezed my eyes shut and shivered. Tall buildings. I’d had a fear of them ever since I was four, when my parents died in an earthquake and a building collapsed on top of them. Well, better not think about that either.

I started to ponder what I would take with me to New York. Well, since it was summer over there, I’d better pack suitable clothing and accessories. My red maxi dress, my tie-dye t shirt, my multi-coloured leggings… Is that enough? And I hadn’t even begun to think about shoes yet! Oh my god, there was so much to think about when you were moving to another country in the morning, especially a really awesome country like America. And I was going to live in New York! I started singing a song to myself. “Celebrate good times, come on!”

It was only after I’d been singing for a full five minutes that I realised the taxi driver kept looking at me in that weird way like, “What the heck is up with you?” because I was singing at absolute full volume. Oh well, at least now everyone could see how happy I was!

- Three -

I sat on the plane in complete silence, staring out the window. Why did plane flights have to take so long? I looked at the screen in front of me that was tracking how long it would take to reach America. The screen showed twenty two hours and fifty five minutes. ‘What?’ I thought. ‘I’ve only been on this stupid plane for one hour? No way! Why couldn’t they break the journey up with a holiday in Mexico? Then I could eat tacos all day long whilst wearing a sombrero!’

I woke to smell of delicious food. ‘How coincidental!’ I thought. ‘They’ve made tacos for lunch! Mmmm, tacos. Finally, a decent dish!’ All we had for breakfast was scrambled eggs on toast. Yuck! But then I had some apple juice. And then I had more apple juice. And then I ended up drinking twelve cups of apple juice in the space of five hours! Maybe this plane ride wasn’t so bad after all.

~~~

The aeroplane swayed slightly as it began its descent over New York. I sucked on the lolly that the air hostess had given me. Before I knew it, the plane’s wheels hit the ground and the air hostesses were opening the exit doors. “…and we hope you enjoy your time in New York city,” the voice over the intercom finished.

I grabbed my handbag and climbed down the steps of the plane. I turned around to try and get a glimpse of the airport, but crowds of people pushed me onwards and I couldn’t see anything. It was only when I got inside, and all I had to do was wait for Aunt Maria to arrive, that I got a proper look at the distant city. And that sight made me drop everything I was holding—my three purple suitcases, my red suitcase and my two pink handbags. The city was full of tall buildings! Everywhere I looked, there were crowds of them packed tightly together. I felt like I was about to faint, but then a cheery voice from behind me interrupted my thoughts.

“And you must be Tyra!” I turned around to see a lady wearing a long red coat and black high-heel boots standing behind me. She looked like she was somewhere in her mid-thirties. A girl about my age stood next to her.

“Yes, I am,” I said with a faint smile.

“Well then, welcome to New York city! I’m your Aunt Maria, but just call me Maria. Don’t bother with the ‘Aunt’ bit. And this is my daughter, Lydia.” She gestured to the girl next to her. “I heard that your grandmother passed away. That must have been really hard for you.”

I nodded.

Her face brightened. “But I like to look at the bright side of things. Now you can come stay with us!” She smiled at me, then at Lydia, who smiled in return.

“Yay?” I said uncertainly. I severely hoped they didn’t live in one of those tall buildings.

Lydia kept trying to start conversations with me during the car ride, but they were mainly one-sided. One of them went like this:

“You’ll really like our apartment, Tyra!”

I was silent.

“It’s got a great view of the city ‘cause it’s on the top storey!”

Top storey?

“The building’s, like, a hundred and ten storeys high!”

A hundred and ten storeys? No way, no way, no way! I’m never going there! I closed my eyes as we drove further into the city.

“Tyra, why have you closed your eyes?”

I opened my eyes. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

Lydia laughed. “Cool. It would be so funny if you had a fear of tall buildings!” She laughed again.

You have no idea, I thought.

- Four -

As we climbed out of Maria’s purple Lamborghini, I got a good look at the apartment. It was fancy, that’s for sure. Every window had a balcony and ivy climbed up the cream-coloured bricks. In fact, it was probably the nicest apartment I’d ever seen (not that I’d ever seen any in person). But it was tall. Lydia wasn’t kidding about the hundred and ten storey thing. And it was only when Maria pointed to a high-up window and said, “That’s our apartment right up there,” that I realised she wasn’t kidding about the top-storey thing either. All I could think was, OMG, OMG, OMG, how am I expected to live here? But I can’t tell anyone. They’ll think I’m crazy for having a fear of tall buildings!

I took a deep breath to calm myself and thought, Oh well. You’re here now, Tyra, and who knows? Tall buildings might not turn out to be as frightening and dangerous as you think!

My legs were aching and I was out of breath by the time we reached the apartment. The elevator had taken us to storey one hundred, but we’d had to climb the rest. And I thought I was fit!

“So, Tyra,” Lydia began eagerly. How could she have so much energy after that climb? It was like she did this every day! Oh wait… she did do this every day. “You wanna tour of the apartment?”

“Um… sure,” I said, avoiding any windows and trying not to think about the fact that I was at the top of a hundred and ten storey building in the middle of New York City. Aka the-city-of-tall-buildings-and-the-scariest-place-I-have-ever-been.

“So, we’ll start with the bedrooms,” Lydia said as she led me down a long corridor with a deep red carpet. She pointed to each door as she told me what they were. “That’s Maria’s bedroom. She doesn’t mind if you go in there. The rules aren’t super-strict or anything. By the way, I don’t call her Mom. She prefers Maria. And that’s my room. I don’t mind if you go in there either. It isn’t that private—just don’t go rummaging through my desk. This here is your room; complete with a four-poster, just like mine!”

My eyes scanned the bedroom. The floor was made from polished wood and a light grey carpet lay underneath my white four-poster. The cream-coloured walls looked great against the white draws, on top of which there was a glass bench. A large mirror stood against the wall. The pale curtains opened onto a beautiful view over New York city. Well, what everyone else would call beautiful and I would call the most frightening sight ever. Glass French doors stood in the corner and opened out onto a small balcony.

“It’s lovely,” I said to Lydia, making a mental note to keep the curtains closed at all times.

“So, I take it that you had dinner on the plane?” Lydia asked. I nodded. “Well I know it’s late, but do you want dessert? Maria’s made chocolate cake. We can have it with some ice cream whilst watching TV if you’d like?”

“Yes please! If you’re sure it’s no trouble.”

“No trouble at all!” Lydia said as she walked out of the room.

“And by the way, now that you’re living with us, you might as well call me your sister,” she added with a wink. I threw my suitcases on the floor and flopped down on the bed with exhaustion. I made a mental list of everything that had happened to me today.

I took a plane flight from New Zealand to New York city.

I ate tacos and drank apple juice.

I found out that New York is the scariest place I’ve ever been.

I met Maria and Lydia.

I found out that Maria and Lydia are really rich.

I got taken to live with Maria and Lydia.

I got given a really cool bedroom.

I am about to eat chocolate pudding with ice cream whilst watching TV.

Yep, I think I’m having a pretty good time in New York city.

- Five -

The room around me was shaking. My eyes snapped open. I’m dreaming, was my first thought. But when I looked out the window I realised how wrong I was. It wasn’t just our apartment that was shaking. It was the whole of New York.

“Earthquake!” I heard Maria shout as she came rushing into my room. I leaped out of bed just in time as the top of my four-poster came crashing down.

“Where’s Lydia?” I shouted over the noise.

“I can’t find her! She’s not in her room! She must have gone out before the earthquake started and she didn’t get back in time!”

“We have to look for her!” I yelled.

“I tried! But I can’t find her anywhere.” Maria grabbed me by my shoulders and looked me in the eyes. “You have to help me!”

I looked frantically around the room. “Look! The door is still open. We can get to the staircase!”

Maria nodded and we hurried across the room, just as the earthquake slowed and eventually stopped. When we reached the stairs, Maria went first. As soon as she was out of the way I followed.

“Maybe we should split up. It will be quicker that way.” I said.

Maria nodded. “Good idea. I’ll take the left side of the house, you take the right.” She hurried over to the nearest doorway. I rushed into the kitchen. I didn’t have to look for long. Because right in the middle of the kitchen floor was a huge hole. And clinging to the edge of the hole was Lydia.

“Lydia! It’s me, Tyra. Are you Okay?”

Lydia looked up. Her eyes were filled with fear. She looked so helpless. “Um, not really!”

“Are you hurt?”

“Yeah. My leg feels like it’s broken, but apart from that I’m good. Oh, and I also happen to be dangling over a 50-metre drop, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind helping me up.”

I would usually laugh at her sarcasm, but now wasn’t the time for humour. I reached over and grabbed her wrists. With a lot of effort from both both of us she finally managed to roll over onto the floor. I was about to call out for Maria but at exactly that moment an aftershock began and some of the walls began cracking. I saw Maria run towards us, but she was cut off by a collapsing wall. As soon as the quake slowed I hurried over to the pile of rubble.

“Maria!” I yelled, in case she could hear me.

“Tyra? Are you alright? Where’s Lydia? Did you find her?”

“I’m fine. Lydia’s right here. Can you get out?”

“I can. The staircase is right here. But I’m not going until I know you and Lydia can escape.”

I glanced over at the staircase. It looked safe enough to climb down, but Lydia couldn’t walk.

“Yeah, we can get out.”

“Is Lydia hurt?”

I looked at Lydia. Blood was seeping uncontrollably from the wound. If she didn’t get help soon she was sure to die of blood loss.

“Lydia’s hurt. Badly. But there’s no time for you to go and get help. It’ll be too late by then. I’ll carry her down the stairs. Don’t try and find us.”

“Alright.” Maria agreed. “But you have to hurry.”

“Don’t worry.” I said. “I will.”

I heard Maria’s footsteps echo through the building as she hurried away. I rushed over to Lydia.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her.

“M-my head’s sore. And I can’t stop the blood. I feel like, like I’m going to pass out.”

“Alright. I’m going to carry you down the stairs. It’s the only way out. Your mum’s safe, don’t worry about her.”

Lydia nodded.

I used all my strength to hoist her up off the ground and make sure I was comfortable carrying her. Then, slowly but steadily, I made my way over to the staircase.

~~~

As I sat in the ambulance and watched Lydia lying on the bed with a nurse next to her, I remembered how I had had to make a decision on whether to guarantee my own safety or to help Lydia. My mind had been spinning over the options. It had felt like I had two personalities.

Personality 1: Save Lydia. Her life depends on you.

Personality 2: No way! Escape whilst you can.

Personality 1: But if you help Lydia then she’ll at least have a chance of survival.

Personality 2: But if you save Lydia then you’re putting yourself into danger.

Personality 3: Why don’t you just commit suicide and then you wouldn’t have to decide!

I was so glad that I had chosen to save Lydia. Because now she was going to live.

- Six -

Three months later

Lydia came out of hospital three weeks ago. Apparently that scratch of hers was really nasty. Good news is, she’s better now. She won’t be able to run as fast for the next month or so because she’s got stitches in her leg, but at least the pain has mostly gone away. I’m kind of the hero of the family now because I saved Lydia’s life. Maria was thanking me so much during the helicopter flight.

“Oh, Tyra, you saved her! How can we ever repay you?”

And I said stuff like, “It was no big deal. I just pulled her out of a hole and carried her down a staircase.. Maybe risked my own life as well, but whatever!”

We moved back into our apartment yesterday. The rebuild workers had been fast to fix it. It was perfect. Everything was exactly where we had left it and nothing showed any signs of damage. Maybe tall buildings are safer than I thought.

About Hanna

Hanna is an eleven-year-old girl who loves writing, playing the guitar and singing in the shower. She love animals, especially canines, and her favourite book is the School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. She has a German Shepherd dog called Chewbacca (Chewie for short) and he is the cutest dog ever. Hanna’s favourite animal is a wolf.

Autophobia

by Holly Abell

Why do they have to leave? They know how much I hate it when they leave. Of course it was another one of those ‘holidays’ that they went on without me. The truth is, my parents, Sandra and Will, are...spies. Tomorrow they are getting on their spy plane and going nine hundred fifty four miles to London. It’s a secret that I can’t tell anyone (except for you)! My parents have both been spies since they were twelve and are now both forty six. I, Clara, am seventeen, almost eighteen, so I can stay home alone, but I hate it. I am an only child. I had a brother, but he died a couple of years before I was born. I have only one picture of him, which I look at all the time. The photo is old and crumpled but it is better than nothing. It’s a photo of him before school one day. He had scruffy brunette hair and a crooked smile that makes me grin.

My parents have been away twelve times (as far back as I remember). Every time that they go it is torture! I absolutely hate it when they leave. I always feel so lonely and abandoned. My parents think that I have a problem… but I don’t, trust me. At least I don’t think I do.

I storm out of the house. I can’t stand it. Right now, I am walking down my lane. I just have to get away. Running makes all my fears go away. I have been out for eighteen minutes now—it’s probably time to go home, although I don’t want to. I get to the bottom of our drive, puffing and panting. I felt my face burning bright red, for two reasons: I am furious with mum and dad and I’m so tired from sprinting, trying to loose all my anger and sadness. I stroll up the drive, my legs feeling like jelly. I can hear Mum and Dad arguing,

“She doesn’t like it, Will!” Mum yells.

“She has to get over herself, Sandra. She’s almost eighteen. Plus, she has to get over this autophobia!”

My eyes well up. Dad is right, I have to get over it. Autophobia—the fear of being left alone—is pathetic!

I knock on the door. Silence. Mum opens up, her eyes red. She has definitely been crying. She gives me a massive hug,

“I’m sorry we have to leave,” she whispers in my ear, “I love you. You know that, right?”

“Yes,” I say, on the verge of tears. It is almost ten o’clock at night. Mum cuddles me all the way to my room.

“Love you,” she said.

“Love you too,” I sobbed.

Mum closes the door so only a small glimpse of light shines in. I lie in bed and cry myself to sleep.

I wake up to my pale blue curtains being drawn. The sun is blinding. I pull the covers over my head, then realize there is a black stain on my white satin duvet. Mascara.

“Rise and shine,” Mum says, sounding joyful.

“How can you be happy,” I moan. “Today is going to be the start of the worst week of my life.”

“Cheer up,” Mum says, “We’re only going for a week”.

“But in that time, bad things can happen.”

“Like what?”

“First of all, your plane could crash or, when you’re on your mission you could get hurt… or even die!” Saying this makes me cry. “Please don’t go,” I say. I put the waterworks on, full blast.

“Come on! Nothing is going to happen, Clara. I’m telling you.”

“Okay, okay.” I get up out of bed and put on my comfiest clothing, jeans and a t-shirt. I know that I can’t stop them, whatever I do or try. I give them both a hug and a kiss and tell them to go on their way. I put on a confident face, watching them drive away, but my eyes start to water.

“Come on, Clara,” I say to myself. “You can get through this!”

I go inside, get myself a packet of chips and watch my favourite show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I sit on the couch, weeping through whole series. After five hours and ten shows, I start to feel a bit better. Maybe this won’t be so hard after all!

I push myself up off the couch. My legs ache from sitting down for so long. I see a picture of mum, dad and me. It is one of us at the beach, smiling as big and as wide as we can. I’d thought that I’d finally got over it, but...no. The tears start flowing again. I wipe my eyes and turn the picture around. I go to the landline and call Ariana.

“I’m all alone,” I sob.

“Sorry, Clara, I told you, I’m in Hawaii, remember?”

“Oh yeah. Damn!”

“Sorry, if I could, I’d come back, but as you know, I’m afraid of flying alone.”

“Okay,” I say, trying to hold back tears.

“Bye, love you!”

“Love you too.” I put the phone down and look up at the ceiling. It is an old trick my grandma used when she went to funerals. She knew the ceiling of the church like the back of her hand.

It is almost five pm. I need to start thinking about what I should have for tea. Fish and chips? Pizza? Subway? No. I don’t feel much like food, but I needed to eat away my loneliness and sadness. McDonald’s it is then. Hopefully no cops will pull me over for driving without a license.

I arrive at McDonald’s, hoping my eyes aren’t red and puffy. I buy a double cheeseburger and a large frozen coke. I hop in the car and drive off.

Oh no! I think. I can see red and blue flashing lights up the road. “Crabs!”

I quickly turn down a side street and park. Luckily, they drive past. A wave of relief comes over me. I start the car and drive off.

Finally, I arrive home, safe and sound. I open the bag and breathe in the delicious salty smell.“Yummmmm!”

I get out a white china plate and put my cheeseburger on it. Something posh and something not! I think to myself.

I slump down on the large, soft, comfy couch and pull a fluffy blanket over me, then I turn on the news.

“Breaking news,” the news reporter says. “Two secret agents are being held captive by the most dangerous villain out there.”

I start to freak out. What if it’s Mum and Dad? What if I never see them again? It shows a video from the room’s security camera. Two people, a lady and a male. It is Mum and Dad! I can’t hold it back any more. Tears flood out. My head falls against the arm of the couch. My life is over.

No, I think. I am not going to be a prissy girl who is too scared to save her parents. I am going to be a…hero. Mum had put five thousand dollars in an account for ‘emergencies’ only. I’m pretty sure that this is an emergency, I think.

I log onto my Mac Book Pro and look up flights to London from Barcelona. Air Europa or Albastar are the two options for flights today. I need to get there as soon as possible. Albastar leaves forty five minutes before Air Europa, so Albastar it is. I fill out the online form and press ‘Buy’.

Done.

I print out my tickets and quickly pack my suitcase: three tops, four pants and three pairs of shoes (and of course I pack the other garments as well). I hit the road in my mint green Mini. It only takes thirty five minutes (according to my phone) to get to the airport. I arrive in the airport car park. I am going to leave my car there for a week so it will cost thirty dollars.

I park and walked in with my suitcase trailing behind me. It is quite heavy even, though it isn’t even half full. I find my way to the ‘check baggage’ area and sit down on an empty row of seats. The flight is due to depart in one hour. They open the gate and I put my suitcase up and it is scanned. All clear.


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