I woke up in pitch darkness to the sound of an engine and the smell of exhaust. My head hurt where someone had hit me. We went over a bump, and a dim red light flashed. I was in the trunk of a car. My wrists and ankles were tied. I felt something wet and warm running down my head and onto my cheek. Blood. Mine.
I am Deborah Sokolov. I am not dying today.
I twisted around, trying to find something sharp to cut myself free. Another bump, another brake light, and I saw a familiar green blanket stuffed in a corner. I wiggled forward to put my face in it. The blanket smelled of cigars. I was in Grandpa’s old Buick.
As I reached behind me to pry up the thin board covering the spare tire, the car came to a stop and I slid forward. A car door, two car doors slammed. The trunk lid opened. I squinted at the flashlight shining in my eyes. Two shadowy figures hovered above me.
“My ub’yem yeye seychas,” a gruff voice said in Russian. In Ukrainian, “kill her” is “vbyy yiyi.” Different spelling, but it sounds exactly like the Russian.
From Tommy Collins: Operation Overlord
The teams formed up, one at each end of the pitch. Lymes blew his whistle, and the game began. Stumpy forwarded the ball to Tommy. He kicked it downfield toward the opposing goal, called “Worms.” Felton, a lad from College, snatched it up and ran down the field to the goal.
Tommy called out the foul: “Handiwork! Handiwork!” He stepped in front of Felton to block his progress. “Taking more than three steps whilst holding the ball is against the rules.”
Tommy looked to Housemaster Lymes for support, but the man’s attention was elsewhere. Every boy on both sides stared up into the thinning clouds, recognizing the sound of an aircraft engine. Reynolds, the house kicker, shouted, “Doodlebug!” and started running across the field toward the gate. The town air raid sirens started wailing.
The engine noise grew louder. Then the craft descended below the clouds: not a V-1 aerial bomb or the doodlebug Reynolds thought it was, but a German fighter plane. It was speckled with green, brown, and olive camouflage paint, the swastika clearly visible on the wings and tail. It was coming in low, not two hundred yards away, and heading for the muddy field. Its engine had stopped, and the propeller fluttered. Its fuselage was peppered with bullet holes.
“Form up quickly!” the housemaster called. “Back to the College!”
From Losing Normal
A black big-screen monitor hung on the green wall in the Resource Room. This was not normal. Mr. Bates, who usually wore a white short-sleeved shirt and a bow tie, stood behind his desk, next to a blonde woman I’d never seen before. She was wearing a black pant suit and held a tablet computer.
The three other special kids were already there: Bobby turned his head from side to side, going “Woo, woo, woo.” Fat Carlos had his head on his desk. The new girl, Sara, who has red hair, freckles, and green eyes, played a game on her phone. She had transferred from another school in the middle of the semester. She looked at me and nodded. “Hey, Rinato,” she said.
I stood at the door until Mr. Bates motioned to me to sit down. Emilio went to his regular seat behind me.
Mr. Bates adjusted his glasses and turned to us. “Sara, put your phone away. Everyone, settle down, settle down.” We mostly settled down.
Mr. Bates pointed to the monitor. “We’ve got something special today, class. The Calliope people have come up with a brand-new curriculum, just for us.”
He nodded to the blonde woman. She stepped to the front of the class. “Hi. I’m Lucinda Clark and I’m in charge of new technologies at Calliope. Watch this short video; we’ll talk about your experiences afterward.” She pointed a remote control at the big screen. The man I had just seen on the big screen on Woodbine appeared on this screen, but now he wore long khaki pants and a blue shirt.
“My name is William Locke. You’ve probably seen me on TV,” he chuckled. The blonde and Mr. Bates laughed, but no one else did. “When I was growing up, I had learning problems and behavior problems in school, like some of you. I wish I could have had the program we’re about to show you.” He smiled. “All right, let’s give it a look.”
A logo of a yellow sun held in bright blue hands and the word ‘Calliope’ appeared on the screen. A woman’s voice said: “Welcome to Calliope Education! We know that these years of rapid changes in your growing minds and bodies can be challenging and even a little scary at times. This program is designed to help you meet these challenges.”
My hands started flapping on my legs. The room disappeared and all I could see were the swarms of fruit flies, spinning like a whirlpool, stretching from the screen, coming at me. My head started to hurt. I closed my eyes and covered my ears with my hands, but I could still see the fruit flies in my head. I tried to push them away.
I heard a crash and opened my eyes. Fat Carlos was sprawled on the floor. Emilio stared at the screen, a little smile on his face. Bobby banged his head on his desk, screaming “Woo! Woo! Woo!” Sara squinted and held her ears. Fat Carlos got up off the floor, then ran out the door, screaming, “Bad! Bad!” Mr. Bates waved his hands in the air, like one of those inflatable things they have in front of stores. My legs started bouncing up and down, my hands flapping. The picture on the screen was a fountain of red and black, filling the room and filling my head, pushing everything else out. My name is Alex. My name is Alex.
I pushed back, there was a loud crash, and everything went away. I opened my eyes and found I was lying on the floor. Sara knelt beside me, holding her head. “Ow! Ow!”
The day before my dad left for Afghanistan, we went to a seafood restaurant on the coast highway. I had a hamburger. When we left the restaurant, the fog had come in, making halos around the lights. I watched out the rear window of our Volvo as we drove away. The lights grew dimmer and dimmer, then disappeared into the gray fog. For three seconds, I remembered something red and black that came from the screen, but then it faded into gray.
I had a headache. I sat up and saw that the monitor was shattered. Pieces of the screen’s black glass covered the floor. The blonde woman looked at her tablet, and then she looked at me.