The Claw

by Michael Pixley

 First place, fiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, August 2021

            I’m alone and am so terrified. My bones are rattling as if I am in Antarctica and the night chills are overwhelming to my soul. But where I am, it is lukewarm although you couldn’t tell by the pebbles of sweat that sit on my forehead. The bathroom is completely blackened as I lay down in the tub with the curtains closed. It is eerily quiet other than the steady “thumps” that continuously tap the door, hoping to make their way inside. I know that she knows that I’m here. I just pray that she forgets about me. Oh I pray.

            As the tears strain to leave my eyes, I cringe at the burning sensation that sits behind my eyelids. I told everyone, “This is an Apocalypse. This is the end of times,” but “Nooo, Alijah, you watch too many late night cartoons,” they say. Now it’s just me, alone, with blood-stained pajamas on and to be honest, I’m truly devastated as these colorful power ranger pj’s were my favorite and are now ruined. If I make it through this, I’ll never look at another Toy Ranger as long as I live. I mean it’s God, I wish those “thumps” would just go away!

            This all began the spring of 2020. I remember sitting in my 3rd grade classroom, listening to Ms Clark teach division. Honestly, math isn’t my best subject, let alone division, however, when Ms Clark uses food analogies in her math equations, I find it generally easier to understand. As she cheerfully showed 12 slices of pizza drawn on a whiteboard and began dividing it by half…….I first noticed something. A cough. It was nothing out of the ordinary but it wasn’t the arbitrary cough that piqued my interest, it was what happened after.

            Tommy coughed again and again and again…..until blood trickled on his bottom lip. “Tommy, dear, are you okay?” Ms. Clark asked nervously. The whole class looked at Tommy and was wide-eyed as Tommy slid off his chair like rain slides down a window pane and began convulsing profusely. “Oh, my God,” screamed Shanice. The children followed suit with their own outbursts until Tommy suddenly stopped moving. Ms Clark, at his side, ordered my classmate Bryan to go grab the school nurse immediately, while she ran to her desk wistfully to call the principal, Mr. Jones. My mind was numb with anxiety, and awe as I sat still watching the whole spectacle. I’ve never witnessed anything like this before, although my youngest sister experience mini asthma attacks occasionally, they in no way mirror this situation. Several school officials rapidly rushed in the room, attending to Tommy who was now breathing slowly with closed eyes and trembling lips. He was drenched in sweat as if he just got finished playing handball. That was the last time I saw Tommy.

            Things got extremely hectic after that day, and I can honestly say, things have never been the same. A week later, Shanice suddenly began missing class, amongst Jessie and Laura. The school informed weary parents that similar sicknesses to Tommy’s were reported in several other children from the same classroom. They were taking precautions by advising students to wash their hands frequently and cover their mouths if they sneeze or cough. Those precautions became futile when different kids (and teachers) throughout the school developed these horrifying symptoms. The superintendent closed the school in hopes to contain whatever germ seemed to be spreading. After a week without school, a news broadcast flashed across the television, shaking the nation.

            “A new virus is spreading uncontrollably throughout 15 states and counting, as many are hospitalized with cold sweats, flu like symptoms and a cough that induces blood,” chimes reporter Tasha Gray. “If you inherit these symptoms, please go to your nearest hospital to receive proper treatment before they worsen! And please, cover your mouths as the CDC proposes that the strain is extremely contagious.” I remember my mom’s eyes terrorized with worry as she glared at the screen. She glanced my way, beckoning me to come close to her as she reached out for my arm. “Alijah, baby, I don’t think I’m going to let you or your sisters return to school for the rest of the year. Whatever this is seems dangerous and I won’t let my babies turn ill,” my mom insisted. Little did she know, schools would not reopen. Not only did learning facilities shut down but so did restaurants, swimming pools, amusement parks and even National Sports abruptly halted as the virus took its toll.

            By the month of July, the world was brought to its knees. The virus now prototyped as “The Claw” (due mainly to the fact that people who caught the virus reported feeling a “tight constriction” wrapping around their bodies as if it has its claws dug deep in them) was monstrous to say the least. People would get sick, go to the hospital, get better in 3-4 days and leave perfectly fine. Or so it seemed. People who were seemed : “recovering patients,” began doing abnormal things. Some would forget their names all of a sudden and walk aimlessly around not knowing who or where they were. Others would laugh uncontrollably in the middle of their sleep until they stopped breathing and blacked out from a lack of oxygen. But the most interesting were the ones who complained how incredibly hungry they were, eating their whole fridge, even if the items were raw or uncooked. Then they would eat their fingernails, dirt, plants and worst yet, even their own pets.

            My mom began working at home (she works on a computer with numbers painted on the screen, (she’s an accountant ((I think))) and constantly monitored Angel, Asha and I hoping that we would never show signs of “The Claw.” One week ago from today, my mom was cooking my favorite meal, spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, when we both heard a loud thud upstairs. “Baby, go check on your sisters, I told them to stop jumping off that bed,” my mom shouted distractedly as she opened the oven. “Ok, mom,” I chuckled. I ran upstairs by two’s and checked Angel’s room first. I could hear voices bouncing off the walls from her Ipad, that was sitting untouched on her purple dresser. “Angel,” I called out. “Where are you?” I heard a soft whimper and walked hastily to Asha’s bedroom door, which was slightly ajar. “Alijah, look,” Angel cried. What I saw made my stomach churn. Asha was laying on her floor, blood running down her eyes and mouth, as her legs were distorted at an odd angle underneath her. “Mom, come quick!” I yelled with panic oozing out of my voice. As my mom entered the room, she let out a shriek as she scooped Asha up and rushed her to the garage. “Both of you, put something on quick and meet me at the car. Let’s GO…GO!” she screamed. Angel and I broke out of our trance and put our clothes on hurriedly and ran to the car to accompany our mom and Asha.

            Arriving at the Washington Trauma Center (WTC) was a traumatic experience of it’s own accord. Doctors running around hectically with bloody scrubs and shifting eyes, nurses screaming names over clamoring patients and families huddled together, issuing silent reassurances to each other. The scariest part were the bright yellow space suits. Many hospital officials had them on as they attended to patients. It all looked so surreal. “Please help my baby. PLEASE,” my mother cried; breaking my thoughts and bringing me to reality. Many spacemen rushed to our aid, taking us immediately to an empty room, closing off the sounds of Armageddon. Two days in an insulated, air filtered corridor, Asha amazingly recovered rapidly. The doctors did explain that she was diagnosed with “The Claw” but suffered no major inflictions. With no cure to offer, she was ordered to drink plenty of fluids, eat lightly and rest as much as possible. The doctor advised my mom to bring Asha back if any underlying symptoms returned.

            A day later, things were grimm as my mom and Angel grew sick. They both barricaded themselves in their rooms in an effort to prevent me from catching “The Claw.” Yesterday, Asha began giggling in her sleep so much, it became a nuisance. I walked in her room to find her laughing so ridiculously hard, it looked like it hurt. I tried to wake her, but she flailed wildly, kicking and swinging, while laughing at the top of her lungs. She punched me twice on my forehead and just as I grew angry enough to slap her, she abruptly stopped. I called her name repeatedly to no avail and to my unerving dismay, I knew at that instant, I was going to be one sibling less.

            I ran to tell my mom about Asha until I heard a weird slurping sound pertruding from Angel’s quiet domain. I stumbled into the door and what I saw nearly knocked every ounce of breath out of my lungs. “Ali…jah, I…..can’t…..stop eating…..so hungry,” the woman who could no longer be my mother uttered to me as she stuffed handfuls of Angel’s innards into her mouth. What was left of Angel was indescribable. Because I wish I could forget what I saw, I won’t even begin to indulge in that painful memory. My mother rushed to me and grabbed my shirt with blood soaked hands. “Just let me eat one finger my love,” she exhaled. I pushed my mom away with all the might a 10-year old could muster and ran into the hall. I debated on going to my room and hiding in the closet but that’s the first place I’m sure she’d look. I locked eyes on the bathroom door down the hall and immediately sprinted towards it. Once inside, I locked the door and placed the dirty clothes hamper under the knob. I jumped in the tub and laid on my back, as I closed my eyes and prayed I’d wake up from this horrendous nightmare.

            “Thump….Thump….Thump….Come out sweetheart, mommy’s going to feed you. Aren’t you starving?” Her voice drips with a musical serenade that almost makes me open the door and believe she’s genuinely going to give me some food. Trust me, it’s been a whole day (I think) and my stomach is growling like a mountain lion. My mind is racing in a million directions as I contemplate my options.

            I cannot stay entombed in this bathroom forever. I’m sure my mom will eventually walk away. “Thump….Thump….” Please just go away! Who knew “The Claw” would grasp the world with a deathly grip, consuming anyone who enters it’s presence. It has left it’s imprint on society and I don’t know if things will ever be the same. The house phone goes off like an alarm for 3 long, loud rings and then suddenly it’s quiet. An engrossing silence enveloped the house that hasn’t been heard of in hours. She must have finally given up. I edge out of the tub and creep towards the door and gently place my ear to the center of it. Nothing. I guess I’ll take my chances. Before I lose courage, I move the hamper and turn the knob. Light brushes through the hall windows and it looks unnaturally peaceful on this unpredictable morning. I tiptoe pass the rooms and head down the steps. One step creaks and I hold my breath and stand as still as a Michael Angelo statue. Nothing. I continue my journey to the front door and I notice red hand prints smeared up and down the wall adjacent to the entrance. The door is wide open. I step outside without ever spotting my mom and begin running down the street until my legs burn and my chest hurts. I see an ambulance up ahead and paramedics standing outside of it in their flamboyant space gear. As I get closer, I see them placing a woman on the back of the vehicle, strapped to a stretcher. “Hey, that’s my mom,” I yell out. The paramedics look my way and begin to approach cautiously. I’m sure I’m an outrageous site. A little boy with soaked rusted PJ’s in the middle of the street with only socks accompanying my feet.

            As the spaceman begins to ask me a question, I hear a horrible sound echo. I can’t even believe my ears. It makes my heart stop in my chest, prickles of goosebumps dance on my arms and sweat trickles down my face. And then I hear it again and I know it’s all over. I’ve met my foe. It is no superficial being. It is an entity that does what it does best. As I cough once again and again and again…..I realize the tight vice grips squeezing and clutching at my body instantly introducing itself as nothing other than…………The Claw!

            The End

            I dedicate this to my 3 beautiful children Alijah, Ariyah and Aliyana. My oldest child Aliyana and I trade endless scary stories and I was so intrigued that I manifested this story through my growing inspirations. I am truly inspired by their creative minds and will continue to implement what I learn from them and place it on paper, in my heart and in my daily stride. Thanks for reading!!

Two is better than one?

Ricky Turcios

First place, fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center writing contest, August 2021

This is about a life of twins, not just any twins, conjoined twins. On the right, there was Ben and on the left there was Ken. In the womb, yes, they were twins with their own bodies but as they grew they tried to absorb one another. It was a constant battle between Ben and Ken even before birth.

But eventually nine months had passed but by then the twins were already fused to one another.  As they mother, Nataly pushed and pushed Ben was the first to come out or should we say the first half to come out. To everyone’s surprise, shortly after Ben arrived Ken came as well. No one, not the nurses, doctors, midwives or Derrick and Nataly the mother and father of the twins expected this to happen or be possible, since the doctor had not seen or said there was a chance of this being an outcome.

But to Derrick and Nataly it didn’t matter, they were going to love them as any parents expecting wins would. After a week in the hospital after the birth of the twins were ready and excited to be able to bring the boys home. Raising Ben and Ken was as normal as raising conjoined twins could be.

As the boys grew older, it was a constant battle of left vs right, right vs left, etc.  From which direction to walk, what to eat, what toys to play with, what color clothes they enjoyed wearing.  Even at a young age, Derrick and Nataly could see that Ben and Ken were their own persons linked only by sharing one body.

As Ben and Ken became older their intrests were different from one another. Ben enjoyed logic and reason with math and science, while Ken enjoyed emotions and being a free spirit with art and music. Their mother and father never played favorites and loved each the son the same.

But Derrick and Nataly slowly were becoming worried that the conflicts Ben and Ken were having. The boys were in high school by now and had different goals and ambitions.  Ben wanted to study math and science to make a career out of it, either an accountant or a scientist.  Ken wanted to further his studies in art and music to become either an artist or music producer.  The twins would argue about what subjects/activities to invest their time and energy into. Their parents did not take sides they just wanted them to be happy and successful. Derrick and Nataly soon wondered what the outcome would be and if there was any way the twins could agree to be one together.

Derick and Nataly soon found themselves talking to doctors and therapists to see if anything could be done to help them. Eventually Ben and Ken took matters into their own hands and found a surgery that could help them live their own lives and a doctor more than willing to do it.  It was simple, well easier said than done. The surgery would split the twins apart giving them their own bodies.  The survival rate was 50-50 meaning either twin could die from this. After showing their parents and week of talking and thinking and pleading, Nataly and Derrick decided to support it. It meant the world to their sons and [they] wanted them to be happy and live their own lives.

After countless appointments and discussions, Ben and Ken were ready to do the surgery.  Nataly and Derrick asked the boys if this is truly what they wanted and that this was their last chance to back out. For once in a long time, Ben and Ken agreed in unison that this is what they wanted. The twins were placed and prepped for the surgery, the doctor put the twins under and told them to count backwards from 10. Ben and Ken fell into a deep sleep. It had been 13 hours since the twins went into the operation room, and fear had taken over Derrick and Nataly.

Another two hours would pass before the doctor came out and told them it was done. When Ben woke up in his hospital room he saw his mother and father by his side with a mirror. Ben had the biggest grin on his face.

But as Ben looked around the room he felt an urgency, where was his brother Ken? Ben frantically looked left and right, right and left, but could not see his twin.  Ben quickly stood on his feet ready to bust out of the room to find his brother. He heard a flushing sound from the bathroom and out came his twin Ken in his own body. The brothers hugged and cried tears of joy that they both got what they wanted.

Nataly and Derrick teared up as they saw both their sons for the first time be their own. It took some adjusting but Ben and Ken came out strong. The twins graduated high school. Both applied colleges that interested them. Ben went off to Texas to study math and computer science, while Ken went off to New York to study fashion and music engineering.

Nataly and Derrick were proud of them both and happy to see them take off on their own and study what had interested them.  Even though thousands [of] miles apart, the twins could still feel one another and would always be spiritually attached.

Chance at Life

LF

Second place, fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center writing contest, August 2021

Chance is a 13 year old boy from Arlington, VA. Growing up, Chance always wanted to [be] someone great, somebody who makes a difference in the world. He wanted to be known as someone other than the Fairwell family’s odd ball, that wouldn’t amount t[o] anything. The other members of the Fairwell family all had something they were known for. They were always showing up in the county paper for their accomplishments.

Chance’s older brother, Tommy (16) was known for his athleticism. He’s one of the top best football players and track and field stars in the Northern VA region.  Along with 2 other guys from our rival school. Tommy’s won so many metals, trophies and awards that his mother ran out of space on their many bookshelves that line there living room walls.  He gets calls from scouts from all over offering him all kinds of stuff for him to join there team.

Zion (14), Chance’s second oldest brother, is a science wiz. At just 14, he is already known for creating a model of a human brain that showed which parts of the brain effects the different parts of the body, [which] parts effect emotion and if damaged (say in a car crash) how it effect the persons behavers.  Zion has studied under some of the world’s top [neuroscientists] who he still considers his mentors and close friends to this day.

Chances brother weren’t the only ones in the family with a [passion] and drive to do and be something great.  There parents David and Karla Fairwell were also very talented and driven people. Mr. Fairwill [is] known as a no nonsense lawyer.  With his track record of an almost 95% [conviction] rate speak from itself. As for Miss. Fairwill, shes known for not only her beauty but also for her delicious pies. Her number one being apple. That has numerous blue ribbon over the years.

Always finding joy in helping others, Chance would volunteer at the local homeless shelter.  Almost every day after school and sometimes even on weekends. They was one person in particular that he was drawn to and that person was Chuck.

Chuck was a 62 year old Vietnam vet who everyone swor was crazy and had lost his mind because of the war and years of drug and alcohol abuse. Chance found him to be very sane and actually very smart. They would sit, talk and play chess for hours. Chuck shared with Chance how he was once married to a beautiful woman named Nancy. Nancy unfortunately passed away almost ten years ago.

That is when Chuck started going downhill. The loss of his beautiful wife put Chuck in a dark depressed place. He would drink until he passed out and then he would wake up and drink some more. This cycle continued untill he lost his job and the house that he shared with his wife [which] is how he ended up on the streets.

Since meeting Chance something changed in Chuck. He began to clean himself up. With help from Chance Chuck got into therapy. Found some NA/AA meeting in the area. Chance gave Chuck in his future. He motivated him to change for the better and get clean and on his feet to want better out of life.

Chance would go on to help others in the shelter get there lives back. By the time he graduated from high school Chance had help over 30 people get out of the selter and liveing better lives.  He started a nonprofit to help people with finding the help that they needed. From mental health, substance abuse, or even housing. He would even help supply thing like food, toiletries, blankets shoes and socks and other clothings.

Chance had finally found his calling and went on to help many more. Always with a smile on his face, open mind and ear for anyone who needed to talk. He has touch the hearts of so many people over the year. The number one thing he would always let them know was that its never to late for a second chance at life…

The End

You’ve Been Warned

You’ve Been Warned

by Walter D. Kissee

 Second place winner, fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020

 Hus lay in his bunk in his cell staring up at the ceiling. ACDF in VA had been his home for 1 year. The only thing he had to look forward to was that he would be released in two month. Hus didn’t really talk too much usully stayed to himself Most of the time he lay in his bunk and look at how big his to son boys where getting.

Him and his child mother relationship began going down hill when DOIR began hangout with a pimp called Moe. Moe was well known in VA for having the badest sexist females in VA. He was also known to be violent  and don’t take no mess attitude. When Hus hurd about DOIR hanging around with the well known pimp. He ended ther relationship.

While locked up Hus heard rumors how Moe had DOIR stripping and selling her body and mouth for him along with the rest of the female hoes Hearing those stores mad Hus sick Ever since DOIR began dealing with the pimp she slowly eased Hus out of her life The vist stopped the letters, then finally she stopped answering the phone calls.

During these times Hus stayed postive and did his best not to take his anger out on anyone else In do time he would be a free man and be able to live a nomal life The first thang Hus was going to do is go get his two boys Hus cell door popped open He new it was lunch time He stepped out his cell and hopped in chow line.

“How you feeling today?” an older man named OG asked in the chow line

I cant complain as Hus looked around to cheeck his surroundings, as Hus look at the back tables he saw 20 men all brothers wearing all black sitting at the tables for the past four months Hus noticed the group of men stayed to there selves and didn’t interact with any other inmates

What’s up with those guys Hus asked being noise

Who the ACE’s OG said. Bunch of loose canons trying to start a movement that’s sure to get the killed

“A Movement?” Hus repeated, what kind

They claim they gone to be the next Black Panther Much Bigger Better OG said there going to clean up the streets

Hus smiled the more OG told him bout the ACE’s He became intersed He wanted to know more. As the grab ther food Hus asked OG How are they going to clean up the streets OG said what they need to be worrying bout is how there going to be cleaning up the blood they on a suicide mission

OG laugh

Whats so funny Hus asked.

Jail is crazy OG said Niggas in jail always got all the plans on how they going to do this and that he lauged But as soon as they get out they jump right back into the shit that got them locked up.

Its wild Hus agreed He looked back over at the ACE’s, he hurd what he said But these men look about there business

The ACE’s where in deep converstation what ever it was It was serious, OG said you see the one talking right now He’s the leader Way  The guy sitting to his right is his right hand man His name Real-Live He definitely lives up to it

Hus ask where did they get those names from

I don’t know but to me it looks like something is bout to go down ****

Way and Real-Live sat back and watched young knuckle head sell dope to a few customes Way and the ACE’s already approched the young man who called hisself TRU told him to stop selling that poison in the jail

But of course TRU continued to get his hustle on, since the Bloods gang were backing TRU he felt he was untouchable and ignord the ACE’s warning

Im bout to clap that nigga Real-Live said looking for any reason to put in work. He was in charge of security and muscle of the organization Real-Live was violent. And a vicious man who lived for action

“If we catch him make another sale its on until then we chill,” Way said He was the leader, the creator, and the brains behind the ACE’s. The hole purpose of the ACE’s was to clean up the community and get rid of all druger dealers and any body who was trying to destroy the community Way knew he had a lot of work it would be no easy task

He was up for the change Way and Real-Live were ready

You Been Warned

Dreamer

Dreamer

by Derrick Barnes

 First place winner – fiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020

            As Thomas approached the intersection he avoided the turning car by mere seconds. This was not the first time that this has happened. Thomas Adrian was known to be different. Even as a child he was a loner. Although he was born with striking good looks and an abundance of charisma he was standoffish. It was always like he couldn’t quite fit in.

            At three years old he had a terrible fit of colic, that was so bad that it required both parents to miss work. The irony of the episode was that his dad, Thomas Sr., was a managing director of a shipping company who was experiencing downsizing. On that day a disgruntle employee came into the company’s wharehouse and shot eight people. For some it wouldve been considered a coincidence but for some reason the hairs on big Thomas’s neck stood up.

            Thomas Sr vowed to watch his son very closely from that point forward. At age five Thomas Jr saved his sister from falling down a flight of stairs. Six months later Thomas Jr created a scene that alerted police to stopping an attempted robbery of the neighborhood gas station.

            At age twelve Thomas Jr action prevented a fire at his Jr High School. His teacher was preoccupied and forgot a bunsen burner was on near a flamable gas. Tommy turned off the gas a moved the substance.

            As he got more in tuned with his ability Tommy realized that he was gifted with the ability of foreshadowing.

            Unlike most peoples belief he saw glimpses of the future in certain situations but these brief flashes were enough to help him become more aware of his surroundings and the people in his space. This created a super sense of awareness.

            For many years Tommy thought that he lost his ability but on his eighteenth birthday he got a flash of many things all at once. The first vision showed him his mother crying and kneeling on the ground. In his mind Tommy saw this like a movie being fast forward. The scene cut to a water view and tall palm trees. A quick cut again it was a scene of him speaking in front an assembly of some sort.

            Tommy was baffled by the things he was seeing. As the night progressed Tommy’s friend wanted to show him a good time. They arranged a party at a mutual friends house. It was there that one of his friends had tried to give Tommy cocaine. But paying attention to his earlier flashes it all made sense to him now. He was seeing alternatives of his actions or consequences. The first was his mom reacting to the news of his death. The second was the view from his honeymoon suite. The last was him accepting the Nobel prize.

            In reality we have choices daily that define our lives but could just redefine that moment choose wisely and your dreams may become your reality.