A Letter to my Friends by Claire Ockner

Dear friends,

Here we are. We stand, all of us, on a ledge. One foot planted on safe ground, the other dangling over. Soon, we’ll all jump. As scary as it is, we all have to do it at some point — take the leap. Leap into what? We look cautiously over the edge. What we see is not some gorge of darkness, nor a ravine of despair. It is independence, something new, a future of our own.

Friends, we’re all jumping off the ledge together, but who knows if we’ll end up in the same place? Some of you, I already know, will end up far away. Oregon, Maine, even Scotland. Some of you I take with me. Just a few hours away from this place, two and a half, to be exact. And yet it feels like I’m jumping off a ledge. Not jumping to my death, but to something else — a new life. G-d, I can’t wait to see where all of you land.

So, we’re all going somewhere. Somewhere other than Aldersyde Drive. We’re all jumping off a ledge, unplanted our feet from the ground we know so well. Calling it a ledge makes it sound like something to dread, but it isn’t. A ledge is just what I’m choosing to compare it to, in my current state of mind.

I hope you text me. Maybe you’ll only text me when you’re missing home or when you’ve already watched every single show on Netflix and have nothing better to do, but I’ll always be glad to hear from you. Always. And I mean that.

We still have a few months before we jump, so we should probably stop worrying about how close to the ledge we are, and start enjoying the moment. We’ll be friends, like we have been for however long. We’ll enjoy this summer and then, when we walk off the ledge, we’ll realize that where we end up doesn’t change the friendship we share.

Going away doesn’t erase the memories we made. It doesn’t erase the car rides with windows down and the High School Musical soundtrack playing on repeat. It doesn’t erase the times when we laughed so hard, our stomachs hurt. It doesn’t erase the smiles in the hallway. It doesn’t erase anything. It only adds to the memories. We’ll laugh together in December, probably about how “your roommate did what?!?” or “your mom called you when?”.

I can’t wait to see what you all do. Each and every single one of you can do anything and everything you put your mind too. And I can’t wait to be there, cheering all of you on.

Love,

Claire

Why Fall is the Best Season by Claire Ockner

I didn’t always hold autumn in such high esteem. As a child, I firmly believed that it was the awkward phase between my summers full of pool days and my winters of sledding and hot chocolate. The one redeeming quality of fall was Halloween, when I would proudly drag my bag of candy bars behind me, but even that didn’t hold a candle to my summer days.

Now, at seventeen years old, I fully understand what all the hype is about. I didn’t realize my love of fall until high school, when I started getting really into sweaters. I have a chest in my room full of sweaters: striped ones, soft ones, and, my personal favorite, a mustard yellow one. Wearing a sweater is like being able to walk around with a blanket on and still look socially acceptable. If I had it my way, it would be mandatory for everyone to wear sweaters when the temperature dips below 65 degrees (much to the dismay of people who, for some reason, still wear shorts in the winter).

And then, of course, there’s the food. To me, apple cider is nectar and pumpkin pie is ambrosia. The taste of apple cider, warm or cold, brings me a sense of tranquility, even in the most stressful situations. When I eat apple pie, I can picture my mother carefully crafting the pie crust, occasionally giving me a little piece of pie dough to nibble on. And don’t get me started on Pumpkin Spice Lattes; yes, I know they’re “basic” (whatever that means), but there’s a reason they’re so popular.

I now know that I am happiest when I can hear red and brown leaves crunching under my feet, when I can feel the autumn wind against my skin and smell the earthy scent that always comes after an October rain. While fall isn’t the warmest season, it is the season that fills me with warmth in a way that the heat of the summer never could.

Ash by Sofia A-A

In my dreams there is smoke. Smoke billows through my hair, while it makes them cough up blood. When there is smoke, there is fire, and destruction, and ashes, and heat warming freezing air. When there is smoke there are screams and ashes fall onto my face like snowflakes. The air smells fresh like roses. Some of the people cut themselves as they run, they fall, and their blood burns sweetly, sizzles, sweetly. Around me wood crumbles. Red wood crumbles, it falls on my hair and I sigh. It’s so easy. And when it’s over, the smoke carries me away with it, and it’s easy, all done, and we all forget it ever happened, like it never happened.

Later, soldiers march through the main road of the town. At the back of the procession, a man with hard eyes bends down. He pulls a cloth doll from the dirt. The doll has been smashed by many feet, but her button eyes, one black and one blue, are still intact. The man opens his pocket to take the doll with him when he notices the bloody handprint of an infant on the doll’s backside. He drops the doll on the ground. His comrade kicks him in the leg. Keep going. The man spits on the ground and walks on.

Why I Love Horror Movies- Sofia A-A

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The first Conjuring movie came out in 2013, when I had just turned twelve. I was only vaguely aware of the trailer snippets that flashed across the TV screen during commercial breaks. I paid minimal attention to the media buzz about the “horrifying true story” until I literally tripped over the DVD while walking into the kitchen and stubbed my toe on a chair, prompting my mother’s cheerful announcement that the movie viewing would be a family event.

Anxiety swelled inside my chest. The only scary movie I had ever watched was the comedy Hocus Pocus, which scarred me so deeply at the age of six that I cowered at the sight of our vacuum cleaner, which resembled the vacuum that one of the witches comedically used instead of a broom. (I’m still afraid of vacuum cleaners, but now it’s because I hate cleaning my room). The Conjuring, I knew, was bound to be ten times scarier than a kids’ Halloween classic, and the fearful anticipation of family movie night only intensified as Saturday encroached upon me. When the night finally came, I surrounded myself with three monstrous pillows (I was “cold”) with which to hide my shaking, which endured throughout the entirety of the movie. It turned out to be slightly less terrifying than I expected, but regardless, relief cascaded through my veins while the credits rolled. I felt overwhelmingly proud of myself but ultimately decided that would be the last horror movie for me- until the Blob showed up on the kitchen floor a month later.

Despite all my mother’s promises about the hilariously ridiculous special effects and pitiful plot, the Blob succeeded in terrifying me and my brother. The 1958 classic, however, turned out to be just the incentive I needed to confront my fear of horror movies. I resolved to watch as many horror movies as necessary until I no longer flinched at a single jump scare. I wanted to listen to music without considering that doing so could prevent me from hearing a serial killer break into my house. I wanted to dangle my foot over the end of the bed without fearing something would rip off my toes. It was time to start living.

The flurry of movies I watched over the next few months did just what I wanted. I was quickly rendered immune to all types of jump scares, gruesome demons, and heart-wrenching backstories. Long after I had accomplished my goal, however, I still returned home every Friday with a library bag bursting with horror movies.

Horror movies are all quite similar in that they focus on inducing one emotion in the viewer: fear. Most, even the best ones, are all short, sweet, and fairly simple. Some of them are so stupid and predictable that they are hilariously funny, while a rare few prove themselves to be terrifying masterpieces of cinematography. Mostly, however, I enjoy analyzing them and trying to figure out what makes a horror movie truly scary. To me, horror movies are like candy.