The Spring semester of my sophomore year was a pretty rough semester. Not only was I taking four art classes, (6 hours a week, each, although they only count for 3 hours a week,) but it was also my first year as a Learning Community Resident Assistant and I had other classes and commitments, as well. A lot of things went wrong that semester and made me miss school.

One of those things was a sparrow.

I can’t remember exactly what I had been working on, but I remember I had just come into the Tower Hall from the art building. I was either working on traditional photography or linoleum printmaking…both were really time-consuming and required a lot of work outside of class. Anyways, I entered Tower and walked behind the Front Desk where the RAs work and often spend a lot of time. I generally stop by to visit with the working RA before heading up to my room. RA Ariel immediately jumped up from her studying and exclaimed, “Noelle! Your residents brought something for you!” she exclaimed.

I had had a really long, hard, tiring day and I couldn’t wait to get to sleep. In fact, I had had a really long, hard, tiring semester. A little pick-me-up from some residents would be a wonderful little surprise! “Really? My residents brought me something?” I asked.

Ariel told her friend who was on the opposite side of the desk to get what the residents dropped off. She interrupted her studying and dashed to one of the tables that was in the center of the lobby. I saw her pick up a styrofoam container used for storing food you get “to-go” and began thinking, “Food? My residents brought me food? That’s sweet of them…I often miss meals because of how busy I am, so it’s nice that they thought of me.” My heart was filling with warmth until suddenly, it was crushed.

As the girl brought the container up, I became confused. It didn’t look like there was food in it…What was that? As the container was placed on the desk, I found that it was stuffed with a small blue towel. The girl pulled back the towel to reveal a small, injured sparrow. I gasped as my eyes took in the horrid sight of the bird. His head looked crushed as blood stained the feathers around his eyes and mouth. His body was limp as the bird lay in the container, wings withdrawn and legs drawn in. The bird’s entire body shuddered with each breath, appearing as if the bird was struggling just to breath. My heart dropped and my tears began to swell.

“Your residents found this bird lying in the road and came in here looking for you,” Ariel explained as her friend picked up the bird wrapped in the blue towel.

“Me? Why me?” I asked as the girl handed the bird to me.

“Well, they know how much you love animals. They figured you’d know what to do…”

“I-I don’t really know what to do…I don’t…I’m not a vet…Can we take him to a vet?” I began to hold the small bird in my hands. I held him close to my face to look him over, though it pained me to do so.

“I don’t know,” Ariel sighed. “We didn’t know what to do, either. The residents brought down this towel and we put him in this thing. It’s all we had…It’s been about an hour maybe…”

I continued to watch the small bird, holding him as carefully as I could. I felt that maybe he shouldn’t have been picked up in the first place. I watched his quick, short breaths. Huff, huff. Huff, huff. Huff, huff…His breaths seemed to be echoing his heartbeats. I didn’t know what to do. What could I do for this bird? What could I do?!

Suddenly, the huffs stopped. The sparrow did not draw another breath.

All three of us held our own breaths as we waited…

That sparrow died in my hands that night. I held that sparrow as he drew his final, dying breath. He was only in my life for about five minutes, but that tiny little bird has left a stain on my heart. I still feel deeply for that bird and it pains me to write this.

“Is he-?” asked Ariel’s friend.

“I don’t know!” Ariel cried out.

I stood silent, glancing from girl to girl, praying that the bird would begin breathing again.

He never did.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Noelle!” cried Ariel. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” I looked at her with tears welling in my eyes. “Oh, please. Please, don’t cry!”

As soon as she finished her sentence, the tears in my eyes broke their barrier and began streaming down my face. I began crying for that bird. I cried for his pain and for his sad ending. Not really knowing what to do, I cautiously placed the bird back in the container, moving slowly and methodically. I pulled the towel over the bird, just up to his neck as if I was tucking him into bed. I wanted him to be comfortable. My mind became overwhelmed with thoughts. Why did the bird die? Why couldn’t I do anything? Why did he have to suffer? I was so frustrated.

Ariel continued to plead for me to stop crying as she relentlessly apologized. She looked as if she was about to cry, herself.

After minutes of shock, I finally broke myself from that moment. I finally moved from that spot. I finally tore my mind from that subject. I finally left the bird.

I resumed my return to my room, unlocked the door, and fell on my bed. I cried for that bird. I cried and cried and cried for him. I stayed up several hours crying in sadness and bewilderment. I cried in frustration and regret. I cried.

Although I had planned to go to bed early and wake up on time for my 8:00am class, my plans were detoured. I was up all night with that bird in my thoughts. I did not go to class the next morning. I couldn’t bring myself to do it as my mind was entangled with emotions. I just couldn’t do it.

Later, when I finally returned to class days later, I ended up bring the bird with me in my heart. We were starting a screenprinting project and I created a design honoring the sparrow that died in my hands. I drew the sparrow flying off the edge of the image, representing his fleeting life and his departure through death.

Though that spirit may have been just a bird, I loved him, and he will be missed.

I’m sorry sparrow. I’m really sorry.

Born and raised in Texas, I didn’t actually see snow until I was 11 years old when my family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I remember my middle school was having a contest to guess the first day it was going to snow, and I raised my hand saying, “Well…I’ve never seen snow, so how am I supposed to guess?” They told me to just give it my best try, so I wrote some random day down. I don’t remember the day I wrote down, but I do remember that it was right.

I remember the first time I saw snow…It was a dark night and it was either a Friday or Saturday. It wasn’t a school night. My family and I had gathered around outside after hearing on the news that there was a possibility of snow. After a while, the first flakes starting falling. They were so tiny and fragile. I was amazed at how quickly they would melt in my hand and how from a distance the snowflakes looked like tiny white cottonballs, but up close they looked like complicated crystals. They were amazing.

I quickly called a close family friend and as soon as she picked up the phone I exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” She had told me to say that and she’d know exactly who it was. I was so excited to see snow.

That Monday when I went to school, I was eager to see what I’d win for getting the right day, but for some reason I didn’t win. The school said something about how it didn’t snow in that area, or it wasn’t enough to count, or something weird like that. I was irked, but whatever. At least I know I guessed the day right. Not like it matters anyways…

Now, nine years later, I live in Texas again and I haven’t seen snow in five years. There are times that I miss it’s magical, mysterious beauty, but then there’s other times when I think of the negative sides of snow. After living in Minnesota for a year, my family moved to North Dakota for four years where I got to spend a lot of time with the snow.

In North Dakota, it’s common for temperatures to go below zero and snow begins falling in October and doesn’t stop until April or May. It’s not a pleasant, peaceful snowfall, though, it’s a harsh, icy experience. In North Dakota, the land is barren and flat, so wind is extremely strong and unstoppable. This can make the temperatures even more frigid than they already are. Each winter night in North Dakota, the temperatures drop so low that it freezes everything from the day previous so that all the snow is turned to ice. This can be great for sledding, but it’s awful for actually living and getting around in.

In a North Dakota winter, people need to wake up extra early in the mornings to clear their driveways, especially before the temperatures freeze the snow on the driveway into a sheet of ice. When my dad would shovel the snow into a pile next to our house, I always got excited about building snow tunnels and burrowing a snow cave, but I was always disappointed when not long afterwards it’d be a giant chunk of unpenetrable ice. Also, whenever the snow plows would come down the streets, they’d push all the snow from the streets into a little pile at the foot of everyone’s driveway. Of course this would also quickly turn to ice so every home on the street would have a frozen, icy speedbump at the base of their driveway until summer.

Another problem with snow is that it’s only pure, white, and beautiful for a limited time. Once people begin walking in it or cars start driving in it, it just starts getting muddy and sloppy. There was always a muddy sloshy mess in all of the streets and on all of the sidewalks in the winters in North Dakota. Parking lots would have a few spaces dedicated to building a giant muddy snow pile that would accumulate throughout the winter. No matter how beautiful and magical a snowy night might be, it’d always be ruined in the morning…

I can still remember the most snowy magical sight I saw, and it was one random night in North Dakota around two or three in the morning. I was downstairs in my bedroom when my dad called for me from the dining room upstairs. I ran up to find him staring out the window. “Look, look!” he said as he opened the curtain for me. Outside was a gigantic white hare, about the size of a large dog. The hare was hopping down our street, teetering from yard to yard. He came across our yard, right in front of the window we were looking out of and continued through our driveway before following down the street. He didn’t stay long, but I treasured each second I saw him. The next morning, the snow had covered up any sight of tracks and the hare was nowhere to be found. Every now and then I would hear a neighbor say they saw the hare, but I never saw him, myself, ever again.

Snow has a special place in my heart. Every Christmas Eve when I was a child in Texas, I would pray for snow so that I could have that “White Christmas,” but it never did snow…But after living a few years in the stuff, I’m glad to be done with it. I wouldn’t mind if it snowed a little here and there, but I don’t want to shovel or pick at the ice or trudge through the slush any more. It’s also nice to be able to walk to a bus stop without the danger of frostbite setting in. In any case, I love snow, but I can love it from afar.

<- Nature & the Quest for Meaning #8 | Nature & the Quest for Meaning #10 ->

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Aboard a Ship

Aboard a Ship

You are slightly persuaded from side to side as the gentle waves rock the humble pirate ship that you stand upon. A distinct scent of salt lingers in the air from the ocean below and the sunbeams down from the cloudless sky. As the waves wash upon the rough sand of the beaches, they create tranquil sounds that accompany the crashing of the water against the rocks of the cove. Seagulls cry overhead, adding to the ocean’s symphony. Sails peacefully flap above you as a gentle breeze brushes against your face, whispering pirate songs in your ear that send a slight shiver down your spine. Although the tropical setting is relaxing, you feel a slight sense of fear with each new breath.

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I can vividly remember one moment of my life when fear seemed to be breathing down the back of my neck, as it lingers in my memories. The fear for a friend, is one of the worst kinds of fears…

With the sun still shining brightly in the evening sky, I, a seven-year-old second grader at the time, decided to ride my bike around the neighborhood on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Following the stonewall that surrounded my neighborhood, I found myself riding up to the inconsiderable park which I called “The Pony Park” due to the single bouncy horse that rested beside the only slide. I usually met with my friends here, but didn’t expect to this evening.

How was I to know that this would be the most fearful night of my life?

After throwing my bike to the side, I climbed atop the roof that covered the humble slide and surveyed my surroundings. Soon, I discovered my daring friend, Andy Hampton, riding his back between the two hills near the back of our neighborhood where the wall did not entirely enclose it. Nestled in the bottom of the “U” that the hills appeared to create rested a road the led to Medina Air Force Base, obscured by the tall, leafy bushes that grew atop the hill, nearest the houses.

My friend, Andy, was searching for thrills as he forced his bike down one hill, up the other, and back down again along with another person that I didn’t know. In a few moments, I jumped to the ground with a thud, quickly grasped my handlebars pulling my bike up, and met up with him.
“Hey, Andy!” I called out.

My friend pedaled down from the opposite hill and came up the hill that I was standing upon. “Oh hey, Noelle!”

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Just riding my bike,” he replied before zooming off once more. It sure looked like fun, and I was thinking of joining him.

At the time, Andy was one of my best friends, and we pulled off some wild stunts. Andy has rapped, shirtless, on top of the roof covering the picnic area of “The Lion Park,” actually drawing a crowd, with me sitting beside him, has rode his bike along with me off of a stone cliff trying not to hit my neighbor’s house right next to it, and was always trying to accomplish difficult skateboarding tricks without skinning his face off. He had even dared me to do a stunt once that trashed my bike, but that was nowhere as horrible as this time. Andy was a daredevil at heart and loved to feel his heart pump wildly as he ventured for thrills.

Tonight, he was going to find one.

I stood atop the hill, a witness to the upcoming event. Andy Hampton remounted his bike beside me and pushed off with his foot, his bike aimed downwards. As his bike gradually gained momentum, he smiled and laughed down the hill with his short, blonde hair blowing frantically in the wind. He pedaled as fast as his legs would allow and was traveling faster than any other time before. Maybe if he knew this would be the last time he would feel the rush down the hill, he wouldn’t have done it…

Suddenly, all thoughts escaped from my mind as a car emerged from the bushes, just as Andy was about to cross the road and ride up the opposite hill. I noticed Andy slam on his brakes trying to avoid a collision, but found that his speed was too great. There was a blur as he crashed into the front of the car with a sickening, metal-screeching sound. I watched breathlessly as the collision happened so quickly. It had all happened so fast that I was unsure of what to do. I opened my mouth to scream, but surprisingly no sound came. A hard, dry knot had formed within my throat making it very difficult to breath, and my body seemed to freeze from fright.

As I came back to my senses, I dropped my bike to the ground and stumbled down the side of the hill to the scene of the crash. I panicked, my entire body shaking rapidly, my heart thumping vigorously inside me, and my breaths coming sudden and tight. My thoughts were racing through my head, confusing me and leaving me in a daze.

Andy was sprawled across the road beside the car with his bike lying over him, crushing him beneath it. Somehow, his legs were twisted in the tires in a very painful-looking position. Tangled around his legs were the metal spokes that normally helped the tire keep its shape. I gagged in disgust as I found that some of the spokes were actually piercing through my friend’s right leg, spilling blood and staining the shiny, metallic silver. Crimson stained his clothes and his bike, continuing to flow from his wounds. I couldn’t imagine how the doctor’s were going to repair his mangled legs.

Andy’s face was red with pain and fear as tears poured from his clenched eyes. He screamed in agony and tried to push the heavy bike off of him, but was unable to. The horrible feeling of guilt continued to overcome me and I wanted to do something to help. I frantically looked over him and grabbed the bike, planning to pull it off of him. The moment I clenched the tires within my hands, the lady who had emerged from her car and was now calling 911 on her cell phone screamed at me to leave it be. “There’s nothing you can do until the ambulance arrives,” she said to me.

Moments later, sirens were blaring in the distance. It made me think that hope was out there but not quite in reach until the sirens gradually grew louder, reminding me that everything could be fine and that hope could be found. Soon, the normally empty street was filled with two ambulances, two fire trucks, and three police cars. Paramedics and firefighters quickly fled from their vehicles and swarmed over my friend like bees on a flower. A policeman approached me and escorted me to the top of the hill where my bike still rested. I watched helplessly as firefighters began to saw Andy’s bike into pieces and paramedics were busy trying to save his legs. I felt a few tears trickle down the side of my face as I quietly tried to cope with my racing thoughts.

The policeman was still beside me and began to ask me questions about the accident. I answered them, almost in a daze, unable to avert my eyes from the bottom of the hill. Andy’s horrid screams were still piercing through my mind, reminding me that I was there, he was hurt, and I was unable to do anything. “Were you the only one here when it happened?” the cop asked me, shaking me from my thoughts.

Suddenly I remembered Andy’s other friend was there and scanned the chaos for him. “No,” I began, “there was somebody else that I didn’t know-There he is!” I had found the other kid running through the neighborhood on the other side of the wall. He was running away from it all…

“Where are your parents?” he asked a few minutes afterwards.

“They’re probably back at home, over there,” I answered, pointing down the street towards my house.

“Can you get them?”

In an instant I had scooped up my bike and was pedaling down the street as fast as I could, gasping for air and nervously thinking over what I was going to tell my parents. After reaching my house, I threw my bike on my lawn and burst through the front door, finding my parents on the couch in the living room. I told them the news through gasps and tears, and my dad ran back to the scene with me, my mom staying home with my younger, four-year old brother.

After meeting up with the cop from earlier, I found that the other policemen were now busy trying to keep the neighbors on top of the hill. Once again, I was flooded with questions as my dad surveyed the chaos around me.

Hours later, paramedics were placing Andy onto a stretcher and wheeled him into the back of an ambulance. Firefighters were finished with their work and left also, leaving behind the shredded metal that used to be Andy’s bike. After the crowd began to leave and the excitement was ending, some of the policeman brought out some white chalk and traced around where the car was and where Andy had landed after the collision.

Why were they doing that? Was Andy going to live? Could I have done something to save him? My mind panicked as the terrifying questions and thoughts swirled in my worries. I felt nervous bits of sweat trickle down my forehead as I continued to shake in fear.

It was three hours later when the policeman asked the final question and asked my father and me to come to the police station later. My dad and I were the last ones to leave the scene, with guilt still drilled inside me. I was sure that there was something that I could have done…I took one final look down the hill glancing at the scrap of metal at the side of the road along with the gray mat that Andy had been placed on. The car was still on the street and the chalk traces still lied there, burning the question of “Death” in my mind, along with the blood, staining the tar.

My night wasn’t over until long after I had returned from the questioning at the police station, yet I couldn’t shake the thoughts from my mind. Andy was going to live, right?

After the terrible crash, the base continued the stonewall that surrounded our neighborhood with a chain metal fence and mowed down the leafy vegetation that had covered the road in a veil. To my relief, my friend, Andy Hampton, returned to school the following Monday with a bad limp and his right ankle in a small cast. He explained that he had the most boring weekend in the hospital without any thrills and that he had only come out with a sprained ankle and scarred legs. I laughed to myself when Andy told the story at school leaving out the parts where he cried and screamed and of course throwing in that he liked the pain. He told everybody that he would definitely do it again without changing a thing, and he was only disappointed that his bike was trashed and that he was grounded for months. What a guy!

Reminicing over his life as he stared Death in the face, Sacariss let the excruciating pain sweep over his scaled body, releasing the immense amount of pride that had swelled within him. He quietly accepted his fate, knowing that he was coming to his end. He knew that he must rely his trust upon Nadia and the others. He knew that he was no longer going to be there to lead them. He had used all of his strength, but he was unable to defeat Antracius. Sacariss was still the younger brother. He was not as strong as Antracius, just as no one else was. This was the end…this was his end. Antracius had won…

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I find it odd how one’s perspective can change instantly, especially about another person. In one moment, you may think one thing about a person, and the next, something totally different. The way that we take in life and express our opinions on a variety of different topics changes from time to time as we hear more on the topic or are exposed to the opinions of those around us. I came to a deep realization last week in my second hour physical science class that brought me to thinking of this topic. The more I think of it, the more questions and mysteries unveil before me, so I apologize ahead of time if I tend to ramble on.

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For all of you who have read my true story, The Fear for a Friend, this is another true story stashed in my memories that also happened with my friend, Andy Hampton. This time however, I was the one to pay the consequences.

“Come on, just do it!” urged my friend, Andy, as he rested atop the seat of his bike. “It’ll be fun!”

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Crying Out

Crying Out

I wasn’t always like this, alone and untrusting. I used to be friendly and I used to be happy. When I was young, I found the little joy there was in this snowy wasteland. I never complained of my life, and I never looked back. I kept my head up and I looked forward to each coming day. That all has changed now…changed ever since the humans came.

I was born into a loving family with a caring mother and a protective father.

My mother was the sweetest wolf that could ever walk the world for she was kind and gentle. Her patience was her greatest talent, as she kept calm through everything. She never worried about our situations for she knew that we were to get through everything. She knew that we would survive and that something good would always come along no matter how bad it would look at the time. Not only was my mother cheerful, but she was beautiful too. I take after her long, flowing white fur with the touch of sky blue along my stomach, ears, and tail, keeping me warm and comfortable throughout the frigid nights here. My mother had an unusually long mane also, which I have also taken from her, which would wrap around her neck and snug beneath her chin, giving her a “poofy” look. She was not, however, “poofy”. She was very trim, most likely from the small amount of food that lives in this environment, and I often felt worried when she would give me the little bit of food that she had. My mother was always looking out for me and she cared for me just as I did her. I looked up to my mother and I tried my best to be like her, however, I took more after my father.

My father was a strong-willed wolf with medium-length white fur that trimmed around his strong body. He took care of my mother and me very well as he hunted and found shelter for us. He was very courageous and brave, even against humans, and I marveled at his bravery. I am more serious like my father and always think of everything in a situation, including the negatives. Like my father, I often like to be alone and to stroll beneath the starry sky, thinking to myself. My father was very quiet and would often stare into the blaze of a fire for hours, just thinking. He wouldn’t say anything as he stared. He would just think. My father bore silver-tipped ears and tail, most likely giving me my “bracelets” of silver dots along with my silver nose. He was very protective as he loved my mother and I very much, and he would often go days without food, giving the few kills to us. He also put his family before him and I dearly loved him for that.

Together, my family and I lived in a distant snow-filled wasteland. The ground was mainly flat as it stretched for miles in every direction that I could see. I often felt dwarfed as I glanced at the infinite horizons, and the overpowering sky that loomed over. There were no trees or other beauties on this land, just snow. There was however food and my family was nomadic, following the food wherever it traveled. We were constantly moving and we never stayed in one area for long. We never found a place to call home, but the land was my home, and I was thankful.

It was the humans that changed everything in my life.

We were traveling through the blinding snow as it poured down on us. I remember that all I could see was the white of the world as I walked beside my mother, with my head turned to the side and my eyes clenched to avoid the piercing wind, blowing forcefully against my face. My long fur was blowing wildly making it difficult for me to continue. The sun glittered upon each snowflake casting a bright glow upon everything as it began to set below the horizon. The sky was filled with rays of pink, reminding me that night was soon to follow. I love night.

An unnatural, obstreperous sound came to my ears, yet I was unsure of what it was. “Snowmobiles!” my father cried out, alarming my mother and I. “We must go!” He quickly began to scan our surroundings but found that we had nowhere to go. The land was flat and barren for many miles giving us no place of concealment.

“Where are we to go?” my mother asked my father. For once I found a look of fear flash through her loving eyes as she thought of what was to come. “There is nothing here!”

As the horrible sound grew louder, I peered open my light, sky blue eyes to glance ahead. It was the first time that I had seen humans, yet my father had told me of his encounters with them before, warning me to stay away from them. “Humans are very dangerous, Snowfiss. You should never go near them if you see one, especially when they have a machine with them,” he had warned. Memories of when he had described the fearsome creatures to me began to recur. The hum increased in volume as the three humans drew closer. I found that they were on machines, which my father had mentioned as “snowmobiles” and they looked to be heading in our direction. A deep fear rose within me as I watched the treacherous beings draw closer and my heart rate began to increase. I wasn’t sure what to do.

“Run!” my father commanded my mother and me. He turned and valiantly ran up a slight hill of snow giving a final glance to us. “I told you to run!” he barked.

I remember that moment clearly as my father stood upon the hill, waiting and bearing a stern, determined look upon his face. His fur blew about wildly as the wind graced about him, and he kept his ground with a firm, proud stance, challenging the oncoming opponents. He did not look back to us, but kept his gaze focused ahead, preparing as the monsters drew nearer.

“Snowfiss! Come, Snowfiss!” I heard my mother cry out from behind me as she swept me up in her mouth and turned from my father.

I remember crying out for my father as I swung from my mother’s mouth, yet she did not listen. I batted my small paws at the air, calling and yipping as my father kept his back to me. I was too young to understand that he was protecting my mother and me. He was sacrificing himself for us, his family. I watched helplessly as the humans drew closer, the screeching roars almost unbearable to my ears.

Swaying from my mother’s rough bound, I watched as one of the men pulled his arm behind his head, armed with what appeared to be a large club. My father most likely took note of this as well as he flew from his snowy ledge and landed upon the man’s side, digging his claws through his clothing. There was a human yell as blood seeped through the man’s jacket and stained the white paws of my father, who continued to rip and slash at the man. As my father’s back leg hit the machine, turning a piece to the left I noticed the odd contraption turn suddenly, flinging my father from his unsteady position. Quickly bolting from the snow and regaining his stance, I felt a sense of hope spread over me as he lunged upon another man, stealing a ride on his snowmobile.

As the snowmobile that he had just left turned wildly through the snow, I found the driver unable to gain control and was sent crashing into the snow. He grumbled and yelled in his own tongue before glancing around, grasping his bloody side with his gloved hands. Just then he noticed my mother and me running from them and called out to the other humans, currently distracted with my father’s bold actions. I caught him pointing in our direction before snatching up his club and taking off on foot after us.

As the other humans started their machines after us, leaving my father behind, I felt joyful for him before quickly realizing that I was now the one in danger. My father would not have it as he darted across the snow after the machines, his legs swiftly carrying him across the frosted land. Luckily, his great speed enabled him to approach a human and lunge upon his back, nipping at his shoulders and neck. I felt a bit frightened as I witnessed his gleaming fangs tear at the man’s flesh before reappearing in their new, crimson shade. His face was twisted into a ferocious snarl that curled his lips back and wrinkled his nose and brow. Suddenly, I found my father pound into the ground below with a spray of snow as the human he had been attacking struck him with his weapon, sneering with delight.

I yelped in surprise as my mother glanced over her shoulder and turned to go back for my father. Just then, I felt a sharp pain explode throughout my quaint body along with the release of my mother’s soft grip and the new embrace of the cold snow surrounding me. I lay there in the frost with the excruciating pain weakening me each second. Soon, I found that my world had become dark and silent as I drifted from life.

There were stars tonight. I awoke to find the glittering constellations greet me with their mere presence. I felt a new comfort as I lay on my back, even with the frozen blanket covering me causing me to shiver as a slight smile spread across my face before I recalled the events that had just happened. Just then, I jumped to my feet and glanced around. Where was my mother? Where was my father? Were the humans gone? A sudden fear lurched within me as I checked the horizon only to find the dark of sky overhead. Then, I found a small figure ahead of me that caused me to instinctively run up to it. As I drew nearer, I recognized it to be my father, spread across the ground with a light dust of snow covering his fur. His eyes were clenched shut as he lay yet a mist emitted from the contrast of his breath and the air. He was still alive!

I nudged him with my snout to wake him from his slumber, yet there was no movement in response, forcing me to nip at his ear. The slight bit of pain flickered his eyes to blink open as he held up his head to look at me. “Snowfiss?” he asked wearily. “Is that you?” He returned his head to the ground as he gave a fatigued sigh. I watched his silver eyes widen with fear as he slowly began to remember the human attack. “Where is your mother?” he quickly questioned me as he attempted to lift himself from the ground. He moaned as he strained and found that he had not regained enough strength to come to his feet. It was then that I noticed the deep gash that tore into his right shoulder blade, revealing the blood and muscles that his skin had once covered. “Where is your-” he deliriously repeated as the weakness overcame him, driving him to close his eyes once more. “Where is…”

Silence returned to the barren land as my father’s placid breathing returned with his sleep. I felt alone as I sat beside him and decided to curl about his side in the soothing warmth of his fur. The thought of my mother taunted me, yet I felt my drowsy eyes begin to close. I fell asleep there under the night sky with my loving father beside, but I will never live to know what had happened to my mother that evening.

When I awoke the next morning, I found that my father was no longer resting beside me, but was off on the slight hill of snow. I slowly began to approach him with a heavy feeling within my chest. As his nose pointed towards the still darkened sky, I noticed his eyes carrying the sorrowful feeling of guilt and doubt. “Daddy?” I asked as I came up beside him.

“Oh Snowfiss,” he began glancing down from his sight in the skies to my young face. “You surprised me…”

I heard a new sound in his loving voice, one that had never been there before. Buried within the comfort of his words he carried a burden and I could sense it. “Where is Mommy?” I asked him, bewildered of where she could be.

There was no reply from my father as he broke from my glance. He turned his head to the ground as he contemplated his thoughts. I could tell that he was deciding how to tell me the unhappy news. “Your mother,” he began with a sigh, followed by a long pause. He glanced to the brightening sky before continuing. “I don’t know where your mother is, Snowfiss. The humans came, and I was knocked out. I do not know what happened. I don’t know what to do.” I heard his voice crack as he forced it to pass through his tense, dry throat.

Tears began to invade my eyes as I rested my head against my father’s leg. “Will she ever come back?” I asked him.

I felt the tension increase with my question as my father kept silent. I am not sure what he was thinking at the moment, but I know now that my mother never did return. The fur upon my face became matted as the tears emanated from my sorrowful eyes, putting me to sleep with the new thoughts of hatred and depression alive within me.

From that night on, my father and I lived without the loving comfort of my mother. I grew under my father’s guidance to be a young adult although we have been through some rough moments. It was very difficult living without my mother and we both suffered emotionally from the event. I often found my father blaming himself for my mother’s death for he thought that he could have done more to prevent her capture. He has never felt satisfied with himself since then and it has made me worry about him. I do not want him to be that way for he knows that there was nothing else that he could have done, yet I know that he is suffering from the loss of her. He misses her as much as I do and I can feel that from him. Without her here, it feels as if a piece of me has been taken away that I shall never retrieve. I will never know what is to fill that empty space, just what I can collect from my meager memories. My mother is gone…gone forever.

Although my mother was not there with me, I still tried to find the thin ray of hope that pierced through the darkness of our isolation. I helped my father along as he became older and often tried to cheer him up with encouraging words. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now, but then I was very trusting and hopeful. I hid the revenge and rage that I felt for humans and got through each difficult winter together with my father. He has helped me so much throughout the years, and then I felt that it was my turn to help him.

It was until just recently that I have turned against the world. It was not too long ago when my father left me.

It was one year in which the temperatures had stayed low with longer storms and longer nights. I did not mind so much for my long, overgrown coat kept me warm and I am very fond of nights, but I could see the damage it did to my father. Throughout the gray, hazy days we traveled, following the food, and came to rest more often than before. My father was growing weak and tired, causing my childish worry to return. He was growing sick and I knew that it was serious, yet I did not know what to do.

As we traveled through the blinding snow, following the hunger pains in our stomachs, I constantly glanced behind me to check on my father. I walked ahead of him to cease the wind from him a bit to ease his travels, yet he was not as strong as he had been. It was one day that I glanced behind me to check on my father that I found he had collapsed in the snow, several feet behind me. Suddenly, I darted to his side and looked him over. His coughs came rough and raspy as the frigid air froze the lining of his throat. Ice had accumulated upon his nose and I feared for his sickness. “Father!” I cried out. “Father, you must get up. Come on, you have to get up!” I leaned to press my shoulder against his to help him come to his feet, yet he did not have the strength to continue. “Father, please!” I begged.

As he peered into my sky blue eyes with his own, I saw the weariness within his. They bore down on my soul like the clouds upon the sun, and told me that something was not right. The usual sparkle of his silver eyes had dulled to a gray and they showed the travail that he was currently going through. As he peered into my timorous eyes, I felt his loving warm embrace within his comforting words. “Snowfiss,” he muttered between coughs. His breathing had become choppy and sudden as he wheezed for the oxygen in the thin, frigid air. “Dear Snowfiss, I can not tell you how you have made me feel over these past few years. You have lightened my darkened world and brought joy to my desolate soul. I know that I would not have been able to continue without your help and I appreciate everything you have done for me.” He paused as another storm of coughs came, and I felt the tears beginning to swell within my eyes. I turned my head to hide my woe from him as the snowy ground became blurred. “Please, please do not let this stop you. You are strong Snowfiss, for you have come this far. You can make it through the winters and survive on your own.”

I turned to gaze into my father’s dying eyes with great compassion as he spoke. My tears streamed down the side of my face, yet I did not care. “Father, please!” I begged, not believing what he was speaking. “You can’t leave me!”

“Snowfiss, I know that this will be hard for you, but I must go. I wish I did not have to, but I must. You however must continue on. You cannot leave yet, not yet…” He paused once more as he gave a sigh followed by another series of coughs. “I know you can live strong…find the hope. You always have. I know you can…I love you very much, Snowfiss. I love you.”

As the light faded from my father’s closing eyes I felt as if the light within me had been blown out forever. I could not bear the loss of my mother and the death of my father. What was I to do? Where was I to go? I was all alone…with no one here beside me. I had never been alone before. I felt betrayed, as if my father had chosen to leave me, yet I knew that I was wrong. It was stupid of me to think that, but I was angry. I was angry at the world as it supplied me with nothing. I continued to travel through the fierce winter with the feeling of hatred within my soul. I felt excluded, isolated, and desolate. I had no one there to comfort me any longer and there was no one there for me to love. My family had been taken from me, the only wolves I had ever known. Were there others? Was I the only wolf in the world? Did this snowy wasteland stretch for miles with myself being the only one occupying it? Was this it? As I lived and thrived alone, I had much time to contemplate my thoughts and found myself often doubting everything. What was there to live for? This could not be it!

Months after my father had passed I found that the food supply that I had been hunting had also been diminishing from the treacherous season. I came to rely on an unseen presence as I prayed for a guardian angel to help me. I found comfort in my invisible guardian as I felt its feathered wings shelter me from the world. For a while, I felt a new hope within me, until I realized it to be false, yet I continued to pray. I continued to hope.

There were some days that I felt I could not go on. As the food died out, my body grew slim and fragile, weak from the lack of nutrition. Trudging through blizzards with howling winds pounding against my face, my thoughts often came to death. There were many times in which I thought that I would not make it through, and that it was the end. One day as I felt my emotions bare down on me, I pointed my nose to the dull sky overhead and told the world of my distress and desperation. My howl echoed across the barren land, stretching for what seemed to be miles. As I sang my woeful song, I felt a bit of tension leave throughout it, yet my soul was still bleak. I was severely depressed and had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. The world shunned me from it, leaving me to live in this brisk land filled with shadows and silence.

Suddenly, I heard the patter of footsteps behind me and turned to find a cougar standing before me. There was a slight smile on the short snout of the mountain lion with black bands around them and he stood with a strong, slim, and proud stance, very much like my father. A splash of navy blue streaked down his chest, running down his stomach as it stood out from his short, white fur. His tail bore the same blue tint along with his paws and inner ears and black bands wrapped about his ankles, tipped his ears, and wrapped about his tail once. His navy blue eyes bore the same oppressive look that I am sure mine bore, yet they gave a sense of curiosity. Who was this? After exchanging long, scrutinizing glances, I suddenly remembered my prayers and yelled out, “You have come! My prayers have been answered! Are you here to help? Are you here…from above?”

I felt an unusual smile radiate my face as I waited for a reply as my bright eyes widened with excitement. “I am Airiokko,” the cougar spoke before pausing. He stared down to his paws as he pondered over his thoughts. “I have lived here alone all of my life as my mother was killed by humans when I was young and I have never known my father.” He cleared his throat afterwards and I could tell that he had not spoken for a while.

“You live here?” I asked, astonished. Just then I realized that this was not a miracle as my face returned to its common somber stare. I found myself glancing to the ground before I continued, “I have lived here my entire life also. I too, lost my mother at an early age, yet I do not know if she lives or not. Humans took her away from me, leaving me to live with my father.” I paused with the tremendous recollection that brought back the drastic events from my life. I opened my sparkling eyes, not knowing that I had closed them and moved them directly to the sky overhead. It was so dreary and without life. I longed for night, to see the constellations again and to make out the pictures I saw within them. “M-My father…couldn’t make it through this winter. He-he left me to live alone just a few days ago. I have no one now…” My voice quivered, as a tear broke free from its barrier and soaked into the fur about my eye. There was a burn in my throat as I turned from embarrassment, holding back my tears, and biting my lower lip. I could not let him see me like this. “I am sorry,” I whispered, turning back to Airiokko. Just then, I darted off, my long legs carrying me away from the lupe just as my mother and I had run the day that she was taken. With the empty horizon stretched out before me, I did not think of returning. My mind was clear, my heart determined. Run.

I lived on after the encounter for a few weeks, deeply pondering over the cougar. Who was he? Why hadn’t I seen him before? Where did he go? Many thoughts washed through my mind, taunting me with the fact that I had run from my hope. Inside, I knew that he was my one chance of regaining my happiness, but my soul was hurt. I felt that I could not bring myself to others for they would only be taken from me. I did not want to be hurt again, and if I lived alone, I never would be. Alone… The word stung me as I thought of it. Alone in this silent world shrouded in darkness. I did not want to be alone anymore.

As I traveled through a terrible blizzard one day, I found myself clenching my eyes shut and trudging through the snow that brushed at my knees. My long, white coat fluttered from the tremendous wind as I turned my head from it. I had not eaten for days and I felt my strength weaken to where I could not go forth any longer. Suddenly, my knees buckled as I collapsed in the snow, unable to do anything. I could not move, I could not cry out…I could not go on. The world drifted away as I slowly closed my eyes, the sound of the howling wind fading to silence.

There was nothing all around me…I stood as if in a dream in the vague darkness of destitution with the frigid feeling still about me. I felt uneasy as I frantically began to run, my feet not touching the ground. I was unsure if I was moving at all, but there was a sense of timidity that was alive within me. My eyes grew wide as I panicked, running from my inescapable fate. Where was I going? Why was I here? Where was my home? It was odd that I thought of the snowy wasteland as my home. It had been the only land that I had ever known, yet it tortured me so. It kept me distant from the rest of the world to suffer in my own depression. I had nowhere to go.

I slowly came to a rest, floating there in the shadows of the world and came to realize that I was the only one in this barren world. The chill embraced me as I curled my tail around me, trying to warm myself, yet even my body gave no heat. The world was empty, the world was cold, and the world was silent for I was the only one, and I was to be the only one forever.

Just then, as I thought that no hope remained in the world, I heard a voice. The voice came from the darkness all around me and comforted me with its loving tone. I soon recognized it to be that of my father. “You can live strong, Snowfiss. Find the hope… I know you can.”

As his dying words drifted from me, I cried out to him in desperation. “Father, I am here! Where are you? Father!” I began to run through the desolation once more with my head searching the shadows above me. “Where are you Father?” I repeated. As I came to a stop, the sorrow returned, settling within me as a rock would settle to the bottom of a lake. I was alone once more.

My eyes quickly flashed open as I found myself panting and heaving from fear. It was all but a dream, yet it had felt so real. It had felt as if I was the only wolf here in the darkness of the world. Then, as my nerves calmed and I felt my heart rate returning to normal, I realized that I was no longer out in the treacherous storm. I scrutinized my surroundings and found a radiant fire raging before me as I lay against the side of a rocky wall. I could see the blinding snow from the cave’s entrance of which I sat, and found that I was alone in here. How did I get here? Did somebody- Just then I realized that the cougar I had met earlier must have brought me to his home. Airiokko…why did he leave?

Suddenly, I found my childish fears return as I felt the sharp pain of losing one I loved, and found myself darting out of the cave and into the blinding storm. I ran from the one thing that could cure my woeful heart once more…

As I continued to live, starving from the lack of food, I found that I could not drive Airiokko from my mind. He was the only other creature that I knew and I was extremely curious about him. I secretly wished to meet with him again and hoped that I would not escape from him when I did. I did not want to be alone any longer; I wanted to be with him. I did not understand why the mountain lion would not leave my thoughts, but he was there. He was alive as I thought of him and I found that it would bring a slight smile to my face. What was this rise of happiness that I felt about him?

I decided that I could no longer live in this barren world without the comfort of someone beside me as I traveled to the cave in which I had awoken in. There was a hill that overlooked the cave that I stood upon, watching the entrance intently. With the starry sky glittering above me, I pulled back my head and watched as a figure came forth from the glowing entrance of the rocky structure. Through the snowy veil that separated the two of us, I found that it was Airiokko and stood with a joyful look about my face.

As I could not take the wait any longer, I threw out the fear that kept me from him and ran down the side of the snowy hill. Before approaching him, the memories of the human attack and of my father’s death came to mind striking sadness into my heart once more and reminding me of the pain I would endure if I were to lose him. I stopped a few feet before him and stared into his dark eyes with a childish look. My emotions emitted from my eyes, enabling him to read my thoughts easily.

It surprised me to find a friendly smile spread from his lips and brought tears to my eyes. I buried my face into his chest of navy blue, unsure of exactly why I was crying. Whimpering my emotions out into my new companion, I felt a bit of relief and delight build within me. He placed his head against mine as he whispered into my ear with his calming and soothing voice, “It is alright. You are safe here. You can always trust me.”

As I took in his caring words, I thought over my life, unsure if I would be hurt once more. “Am I really?” I asked him. “Can I…trust you?” I tried to give him my faith and I tried to believe that I could trust him, but it was difficult. I could never go through what I had gone through again.

“Come,” he replied. “Come in where it is warmer.” He turned and walked into his cave, out from the cold and I rested against the rocky wall. I recognized it to be the same spot in which I had awakened. Airiokko released a sigh as he took his spot a few feet from where I lay. The blaze was shedding its warmth upon me as I stared into it with the thoughts echoing through my mind. My tears had ceased, yet my eyes were still soaking in them. I felt a bit embarrassed in front of Airiokko, but I knew that I did not have to worry. My troubles were over.

After talking with him for many hours, I felt myself opening up to him. After sharing our life stories with each other, I learned a great deal about him and felt ashamed of myself for being so sensitive. Airiokko had fallen into a deeper depression than I had, but he had handled it better. Humans had killed his mother right in front of him and he had never known his father. He had grown and survived his entire life without anybody by his side, his taunting nightmares keeping him awake each night. I felt sorry for him as he shared his feelings and felt loved when he told me that I had brightened his world for him.

As I told my story to Airiokko, I felt a new understanding come to me. I may not know if my mother was alive or not, but I could live on the hope. My world was not entirely bitter as I had many good fortunes. I had survived without my mother and had helped my father along. Even after my father’s death I was able to live and go on without him and found another creature who lived here. I survived the long nights and harsh winters and was even rescued when I could not continue. There were good events that happened in my life that gave me hope to continue and I know now that I can with Airiokko by my side.

Since Airiokko has shared his loving feelings for me, I explained how he made me feel. We now help each other get through each day and I love him with all of the love in my heart. I am very delighted that he is here with me and thankful that he is the one that lives in this barren world with me, for if it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here.

The administrator of the writing club, Magic Pens, that I am in, created a story prompt to motivate us to write. Basically, we were at a meeting and read some of our stories on stage in front of everybody. Afterwards, our stories came alive and started attacking us. He wrote about where each person was afterwards and what state they were in, and I have matched them up in my story pretty well. We each had our own versions of what happened, and here is mine…

I nervously began to walk up the few stairs of the stage clenching my story within my hands. Walking to the small podium that was erected before the audience of Magic Penians, I felt a timid shake overcome me for a second. I had never actually read my story before an actual audience before, yet I was ready for the new challenge. I gave a faint, weak smile before reading the first few words of my rewrite. “Running through the early morning moistness of the Mathurin Forest that enveloped her quaint home in obscuration, a young girl of ten brushed through the rough branches that tore at her soft-featured face.” After a few minutes of reading my Horse from the Woods story, I began to feel more confident as I began to twitch less often and become more steady and fluent with my words. Before I knew it, I was leaving the stage with applause from the crowd and taking my seat in the first row.

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This is my attempt at Matt’s Contest 01, including the bonus no-vowel sentence.

Where was I?

Suddenly, I came to and repeatedly blinked my eyes, clearing my mind of the thick fog that hazed over my thoughts. I shook my head as my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light that the moon gave from overhead. There was a crisp nip in the air that made me shiver in my cold, metal armor, yet I stood tall and still as I had been trained to. The night sky was painted deep blue with stars littering the sky alongside the moon, emitting the vague sliver of silver light spilling across the grass upon which I stood.

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"Cleaning After Battle" by Noelle Brooks

“Cleaning After Battle” by Noelle Brooks

Alright, I have finally finished coloring my gryphon picture here at 1:55 in the morning and decided to post it. This illustrates my story, The Horse From the Woods, so please read and comment on it if you have not done so already.

For all of you wondering about the “Mr. Stein Incident”…I shall tell you about it.

I am currently taking Art Techniques II with Mr. Stein at Central Campus, 5th hour and we are currently finishing up our gesture drawing, shape people done with oil pastels. When we finish our oil pastel drawings, we are to look for a reference picture so we can draw a picture for our next assignment, and although I am not finished with my oil pastel drawing yet, I already knew what picture I wanted to use for my next assignment. It was on Wednesday, February 5, 2007 that I took my gryphon picture, that I had drawn the night before, up to Mr. Stein and asked him if I could use it for my next assignment.

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Here is a story that I wrote when I was eight years old that was actually inspired by the book, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen which I read in second grade. Please note that I have not run this through Spell Check and have purposely left in all of the grammar and spelling mistakes to show you how much I have improved in the last six years of my life. Each page of this story was complete with illustrations, but I am just going to leave those out.

It was a beautiful sight. The dolphins were jumping in and out of the ocean. Nine year old Zed, was watching them sway through the ocean by the large boat. He was going to Hawaii for vacation. He was just relaxing in his chair staring over the boat watching the dolphins. He was enjoying his trip so far. One day a terrible storm rose.

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