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  • Teachable Moment

    In one week, it would be the last semester of my last year of school. My parents were adamant that I go to a local college or trade school, but I really wanted to go abroad. I didn't have anyone to talk to about my worries, and even though it was a pretty minor form of isolation, it made me feel hollow inside.

    During spring break, nobody was at school, and so I wanted to obtain a mystical object using an Internet ritual, something I'd never tried before.

    I chose the diploma which helped you work to your full potential. The ritual itself said it was easy, there was a low chance of failure, and it only required a place where students sit and patience.

    There are numbers at my school where we sit during physical education period. I sat on the number 50 and closed my eyes tight. At first, I thought I could power through the waiting period. But as the hours passed, I began falling asleep.

    I started pinching myself and rubbing my face to stay awake. When that didn't work, I started scratching at my arms. I scratched gashes into them, and I winced, starting to wonder if this was a stupid idea.

    Then I heard something growl behind me. I could either believe it was an actual threat or it was part of the ritual. I chose to hope it was the latter, but as the growling grew closer, I crouched in fear anyways.

    The growling stopped, and I heard something immensely big stomp towards me, making a noise similar to a truck's roar. It circled around me, and as it did, I heard children bouncing balls and chatting, terrifying beasts howling my name into the sky, and a ringing noise like an extended school bell. I allowed myself to grin; this ritual did work.

    But my grin faded as I heard somebody crying.

    Once all of the other sounds faded away, I opened my eyes and saw the person who controlled the ritual, She was sitting next to me, and if not for her red shoes, I wouldn't have recognized her. She looked about my age, with thick black hair, brown skin, and bright yellow irises. She was wearing long brown pants and a light blue shirt with a light-bulb on it saying "Reading is lit."

    When the girl noticed me staring, she looked straight at me, and I asked the first question I could think of.

    "Why is it suddenly daytime?"

    It looked to be about noon, but I couldn't see the sun in the sky, or any shadows whatever.

    She smiled. "It's always daytime here. Few people notice, because they don't usually come here during the night."

    "Really?"

    "I think they might have been afraid of falling asleep. And they were right! Look at your arms!"

    My arms were still bleeding, and it hurt to move them. I laughed uncomfortably. "I should have thought this through more. But on the other hand, I no longer feel sleepy."

    "Yes. You can't give the right answers if you're sleepy. That's a constant among all people, which is why I never forget to stop people from being sleepy. I forget to give them food at times, but their alimentary needs are more variable, right?"

    I pondered this for a second. "I guess so. Some people might feel the need to eat three meals a day, while others may want to eat two."

    She giggled, "Some people eat five meals. Do you know why they do that?"

    "I read somewhere that eating five small meals a day is actually better for losing weight."

    "That makes sense. Some people do it because they feel more comfortable eating like 'breakfast, recess, lunch, after-school snack, dinner'." She counted the meals on her fingers.

    "I really wouldn't have guessed that." I stood up reflexively, then sat back down. "Sorry. I'm not used to sitting in one place and talking."

    "It's okay." She stood up. "We can both walk."

    I started walking around the school. "I want to go to school abroad, but my parents want me to stay close to them."

    She followed me. "Maybe they don't have enough money to send you far away."

    I stopped. "I thought you were supposed to agree with me on this."

    She looked away and scratched the back of her head. "Are you sure?"

    I took out my phone and started navigating to the ritual's instructions. I jumped when she put her chin on my shoulder.

    "What are you doing?" I squeaked.

    "I'm reading! I don't know what people write about me."

    "I don't feel like that's very good etiquette," I muttered as the page loaded. "It violates my privacy."

    "Did you know," she whispered with a gleam in her eye, "that a lot of the Internet violates your privacy as well?"

    I didn't answer, choosing to scroll through the ritual. She poked the phone screen, which made me zoom in instead of scrolling down.

    "Hey!"

    "See what it says!" She cackled like a hyena. "It doesn't say I'll agree with you!"

    I read the zoomed-in text. "She will have prescient advice. Hm, I guess I was wrong."

    "It's very big of you to admit that. Maybe you should admit that you can travel abroad once you're finished with school."

    I eyed her suspiciously. "Why should I listen to you about traveling? It doesn't say you'll have prescient advice about everything, just school-related topics."

    She shrugged. "You don't have to listen to me."

    "You know what? I'll take your advice," I proclaimed, continuing towards my old classroom.

    "Why do you want to travel abroad anyways?" she asked.

    "I want to learn and grow as a person. And," I admitted, "my parents often pretend to encourage me to take risks, but every time I do that, they force me down a path they like better. I don't want to be trapped in that mindset."

    "Perhaps your parents have more life experience, and they want to channel your energy into productive tasks."

    "Yeah," I conceded. "That's probably why."

    We walked around the school for a while until I stopped in front of a classroom window. It was the first class I had ever taken, and I felt a bit nostalgic.

    "Do you want to go in?" the girl asked. "We can start with the ritual."

    "Really? The ritual says I have to ask a bunch of 'good' questions before you'll let me do that."

    "Nah." She waved her hand in the air. "I think that you deserve the diploma. Unless you want to talk more, I'm fine with just starting."

    I thought about this for around thirty seconds before I started worrying that I was boring her. "I'm sorry for taking so long to think."

    "No, it's okay. Take your time."

    Her words emboldened me. "The text I used to follow this ritual said there were bad topics to talk about, and I want to ask something which might be bad."

    "If I don't want to talk about it, I just won't. Fire away."

    "Do you know all of the things in the books already?"

    "Of course! The point is that you, the person performing the ritual, will learn those things through my unwavering patience and firm guidance."

    "That makes sense, I guess. What doesn't make sense, at least to me, is why you cry at the beginning of the ritual."

    I waited for her answer, but she didn't give any. She frowned at me pointedly.

    "I assume you don't want to answer that question."

    "Correct," she grinned. "I don't, so don't ask it again."

    "Why would I do that?"

    "You'd be surprised how stupid people become when they really want an answer to a question."

    I nodded, trying to think of something else to talk about. "Is time frozen right now?"

    "Nope. This is a pocket outside of normal space and time, where the world is always sunny and the only two beings here are me and the - you. Me and you."

    I must have looked inquisitive, because she asked, "Do you want to ask what I was going to say? You can, if you're interested."

    "I'd have thought most people would be interested."

    "Most people just rush through the ritual as fast as possible. They don't really want to talk to me; they just want to leave."

    I exhaled sharply. "That sounds really harsh."

    "Kind of." She smiled with her mouth, but not her eyes. "But it's for the best. I take it you want to know about the beast?"

    "Definitely."

    "There's a beast here which can't attack you unless you see it. It's scared of me, because I can kill it, but it's really good at hiding."

    "That's weird. The ritual didn't mention that." I read through the ritual, looking for the word "beast", and I let out a snort when I found it.

    "Nope, wrong again. It mentions 'hearing a large beast', and also 'trucks and other equipment'. I thought those were just because I was going to be transported through the school's history."

    "Yeah, I'm pretty sure the equipment is just, like, an artifact of going into the time pocket. But the truck noises are definitely the beast."

    "Is the beast important to the ritual?"

    "No, it just wants to kill the people initiating it. Whenever I approach them, it sees me and runs away."

    "Why hasn't someone helped you kill it?"

    "Some people have, but it comes back at the beginning of every school year."

    "Can I help you kill it?"

    "Would you?" She smiled wide. "That would be awesome!"

    I was to sit in the farthest building from the physical education numbers with my eyes closed. Meanwhile, the girl would hide somewhere on the path to them. Once I was between the beast and the numbers, I would run towards them, opening my eyes in order to lure it after me. As it chased me, the girl would jump out of hiding and kill it.

    "Even when I come out," she warned, "you have to keep running."

    As I sat in front of the building, I wondered whether I would ever feel this important again. I could only hope so.

    I could barely hear the beast's footsteps as it approached me. It was between me and the numbers, so I had to wait for it to get to the other side.

    As it neared, I heard its heavy breathing and its soft tread. Fat gobs of some liquid were dripping to the ground rhythmically. I felt one land on my head. I shivered, but didn't dare move.

    When every single footfall was on my other side, I jumped up and raced towards the numbers. Opening my eyes, I saw the globs of liquid were red. As the beast roared behind me, I ran faster, but from the thumping sound of its footsteps, it was gaining on me.

    I ran in double-time, then in quadruple-time, but it was getting harder to run, and the beast kept gaining on me. As I fell to the ground, completely winded, I heard the beast fall too.

    Panting and clutching my sides, I stood up and turned around. The beast looked like a giant hairy pill with eight straight legs, and it was shuddering on its side as the girl kicked it in the stomach. Its eyes were as large as my fist, but were tiny compared to its huge nostrils and mouth. It bellowed in pain, and then fell silent. It collapsed slightly, and its eyes lost focus.

    The girl kicked it one final time, then put her shoe back on. She gave me a thumbs-up and ran towards me.

    "Thanks! What do you want to do now?"

    "What is there to do?"

    "Well, anything can happen. Now that I know the beast can't attack anyone, I feel comfortable going away from the school. You know this town's layout. Is there anywhere you want to go?"

    We ate frozen yogurt together.

    "This was a really good decision," I declared, and she nodded in agreement.

    I waited for a while, rolling a question around in my mind until it tumbled from my mouth.

    "Can I stay here with you forever?"

    She looked at me and I knew the answer was No. Instead, she asked, "Why?"

    "I could help you."

    "You can go back home, wait for the next school year, and then return here to slay the beast."

    "Can't I help with anything else?"

    "In a word? No."

    "Could I just stay here anyways?" I asked, my voice getting softer until I was whispering.

    The girl put her head in her hands. "That's the same question you just asked," she growled. "Tell me why you want to stay here."

    "I feel more comfortable here than I've felt anywhere else," I admitted. "I feel like we're..." I had to breathe deeply to continue the sentence. "...like we're friends."

    "I think you're a nice person," she replied coolly. "And you can do better than me as a friend."

    She shrunk until she was a black five-year-old. "I will never truly age or grow," she said in a small, high voice. "I am a mentally static being who helps people improve themselves."

    "I just don't know if I'll find anyone like you at any college!" I exclaimed.

    "On the contrary." She turned into a shriveled white girl with one eye. "You will find people just like me in every college - better, in fact, because they can age alongside you."

    "I feel like we're such good friends!" I shrieked.

    She grew two more eyes and locked them all with mine. "We have known each other for about an hour."

    "I feel like I've known you forever!"

    "Well, I don't even know your name."

    I opened my mouth, but she was right. I hadn't told her my name. "My name is Zubaida. My parents are from Afghanistan. But I get it."

    "I'm sorry," she sighed, returning to the form I'd met her in.

    "Did you enjoy talking to me?"

    "Yes, definitely!" she beamed. "I think real people would enjoy talking to you too."

    "Thanks for the vote of confidence."

    We ate our yogurt in silence. When I was done licking the last remnants of it, I stood up.

    "Can I stay here to travel to different schools abroad?"

    "How so?"

    "You visit different schools, right? As you conduct the ritual, I can stand in the background and look at them. Maybe I could go outside the school too."

    "I could bring you back to me when I switch schools."

    "Then it's a deal?"

    She shrugged. "Sure, as long as you don't plan on staying here forever."

    "Thanks."

    At first, I was fascinated as the buildings of my school warped and shifted into other buildings. I wandered the empty halls and surrounding towns and countryside. But even as the landmarks changed, as the signs were written in different languages, they didn't remedy the hollow feeling inside me.

    "Maybe being here with people would feel more satisfying," I pondered aloud while completely unimpressed by the Eiffel Tower.

    Then I dismissed the thought. "I never talked to people in my own town. Why would it be different here?"

    I trudged back to the school and waited for this person's ritual to end. The girl was white with brown hair now, and she was speaking in French to a older man dressed in robes. Even without knowing French, I could tell they were joking around. Unlike me, he had successfully finished the ritual.

    She handed him the diploma and, just like everyone else, he vanished without a trace. Then she turned to me, and her smile became even wider. "How have you been, Zubaida?"

    "I feel like I've had enough traveling for my entire life," I muttered.

    "You might change your opinion eventually."

    "Do you just exist to contradict me?"

    She guffawed before becoming serious. "The beast has returned."

    "Has it been an entire school year?" I hadn't thought that time would pass normally. I started hyperventilating. "Can you send me back to spring break?"

    "Of course I can! That's what I was going to do the entire time!"

    "Oh!" I snorted. "I was worried for a second."

    After the buildings warped into new ones, we outlined the plan. The beast was going to circle the person initiating the ritual. I would stare at it from between two of the buildings, and once it followed me, I would run to the spire at one end of the school until the girl killed it again.

    At first, it was going perfectly. The beast abandoned the boy who was initiating the ritual and chased me instead. I ran quickly, and it sounded like I was gaining ground. But then the boy's shout alerted me to what was really happening.

    The boy initiating the ritual had opened his eyes, and now the beast was running towards him instead. He was frozen, and I knew he couldn't get away in time. I barrelled to the beast and slammed into it, yelling, "Come here and send me back home now - " The beast turned around and chomped into my left arm.

    "Argh!" I screamed in horrible pain. My vision blurred and became constricted to a single point of light, and then a brighter darkness. I woke up in my school, where I had been sitting to conduct the ritual.

    "It was probably just a dream," I guffawed before I looked at my intact, albeit scratched-up, left arm. Where the beast had bitten me, I had a black line, and on my wrist, I had a bracelet that I was sure hadn't been there before.

    There were two charms on it, both wave-shaped. One said, "I fought The Beast and lived to tell the tale!" The other said, "I almost tamed The Beast, but I wiped out at the end!" They were perfect charms to have earned at a water park, if I had ever gone to one.

    Smiling, I went back home. The day after that, I told my parents I wanted to play by their rules. Even though a college in Germany had accepted me, I went to a local college, learning to be a physicist, and got a job which allowed me to work with people who shared my interests. I convinced my parents they could trust me by working with them, and one day, I woke up and felt distinctly complete.

    I've went back to that pocket dimension on the last day of every summer break since. Honestly, it felt more like a chore every passing year. But after I slew the beast last summer, the girl, who looked exactly the same as when I first met her, asked, "Do you really want to do this anymore?"

    I'm not returning this summer, or any summer afterwards. But I'll always remember that girl's help, and I'll always treasure the bracelet, with its jangling charms. When I feel down, I'll look at it and remember how far I've come from back then.

      Loading editor
    • “In one week, it would be the last semester of my last year of school.”

      This is a clunky sentence. Try saying something along the lines of: “In one week, my final semester of high school will start.” or something like that. Having the word “last” so close in the same sentence is kind of distracting, and you can get the same point across with less words.

      “During spring break, nobody was at school,” is this a boarding school? If so please make that known.

      “I chose the diploma which helped you work to your full potential.” This doesn’t make sense. You were just talking about a ritual, now it’s a diploma. Give a little more back story, or tell the reader that’s what the ritual is for.

      “and it only required a place where students sit and patience.” Again this doesn’t make sense. Think it’s because of the word “patience” think that is supposed to be something else.

      “I scratched gashes into them, and I winced, starting to wonder if this was a stupid idea.” You can clean this sentence up to make it read better by getting rid of the second “I” and moving “and” over. Try it like this: “I scratched gashes into them, winced, and starting to wonder if this was a stupid idea.”

      “I could either believe it was an actual threat or it was part of the ritual.” Why would something be growling in an empty school besides if it wasn’t part of the ritual?

      “immensely big” Word choice. You can get the same meaning across with fewer words that would flow better. Immense, gargantuan, huge, giant. Those are a few that would fit better.

      “The growling stopped, and I heard something immensely big stomp towards me, making a noise similar to a truck's roar.” Sentence structure. “The growling stopped. I heard something huge stomp towards me.” I don’t know why a stomp would sound like a truck’s roar, unless that’s the sound it’s making. However, the growling had just stopped, so I’m confused on what that sound is coming from.

      “It circled around me, and as it did, I heard children bouncing balls and chatting, terrifying beasts howling my name into the sky, and a ringing noise like an extended school bell. I allowed myself to grin; this ritual did work.”

      The above sentence needs a lot of work. Put a period after “around me.” Get rid of the “and” that follows it, as well as the comma that follows “did.” Break up the different sounds, because it sounds like you’re calling the children terrifying beasts. Also, try not to tell the reader what they’re supposed to feel. If you can see the “terrifying” beasts, explain what they look like. If now, how do you know they’re terrifying? If you just hear their voice, give a description of what their voice sounds like. A guttural howl, a wheezing whisper, a rattling roar. Break up that and the ringing sound as well. And get rid of that semicolon, use a comma.

      “Once all of the other sounds faded away, I opened my eyes and saw the person who controlled the ritual, She was sitting next to me, and if not for her red shoes, I wouldn't have recognized her.”

      First, aren’t you controlling it? If not, than how are you doing the ritual? Second, period after “ritual.” Is this girl someone you know? Granted, I haven’t read further than a few lines at this point, but you never give her a name, or acknowledge that she would be someone you know. Unless you’re talking about yourself, and in that case figure out a better way to word that. If that’s the twist, you gave it away already, and it would be a rather boring twist. Also, if that is your twist, she would be someone you know everything about, so she wouldn’t look about your age as the next sentence mentions.

      “She was wearing long brown pants and a light blue shirt with a light-bulb on it saying ‘Reading is lit.’” Unless what this girl is wearing is somehow important to the story, cut it out. It’s just a waste of space and bogs down the story.

      “When the girl noticed me staring, she looked straight at me, and I asked the first question I could think of.”

      Period after “me” and cut “and.”

      “It looked to be about noon, but I couldn't see the sun in the sky, or any shadows whatever.” You’re inside a gym in a school, doesn’t seem like the place a lot of windows would be. Also, noon wouldn’t cast many shadows into the windows, it would bath the floor in light though. Most gyms I’ve been in, if they even have windows, they are towards the ceiling, so it would be hard to see the sun and shadows regardless.

      “My arms were still bleeding, and it hurt to move them.” Why are your arms bleeding? That seems interesting and should be told.

      “prescient” I wouldn’t use that word. Saying she will give advice, knowing what the future holds in store give it more gravitas.

      “It was the first class I had ever taken, and I felt a bit nostalgic.” Pre-k? Kindergarten?

      "Nope, wrong again. It mentions 'hearing a large beast', and also 'trucks and other equipment'. I thought those were just because I was going to be transported through the school's history." Rework this. It’s clunky. But dialogue will be talked about later.

      “Fat gobs of some liquid were dripping to the ground rhythmically.” Your eyes are closed, you can’t see what’s dripping to the floor. You don’t know if it’s fat or dense liquid. Describe what it sounds like. Although, the next sentence clears that up, still I’d describe the sound, then the feeling. How wet did it make your head? Was it thick and slimy?

      “I ran in double-time, then in quadruple-time,” what does this mean? Whatever it means, use that instead.

      The main problem with this story as a whole is the never ending conversations. It's a chore to get through them, and they don't even add much to the story. If this was longer, it would be okay, but it's short and the story is about making a friend, so that's not interesting.

      As for the other big problem, this story isn't creepy in the slightest. For a ritual story, there isn't much focus on the ritual, or what could go wrong. There doesn't feel as if there is any danger of doing it, and the never ending talking bogs it down a lot.

      Put something in there that would make this story have stakes. Make us worry that something is going to happen to you, because it's boring if we don't have anything to worry about, it's just listening to people talk about boring things.

      Make the girl creepy. She could do more than have yellow eyes, make her seem untrustworthy. Give her a reason for us, as a reader, to not trust her. Give back story about how many people have died by the monster, or something.

      If you're able to get that handled, this may become a story, but right now it's rough. Sorry if that's harsh, but that's my opinion of what you have here. Also, just want to clarify that when I was saying you above, it was because this story is told in first person, and I didn't have a name to refer to until almost the end of this piece.

      Oh, one last thing, there was no twist to this. That's something that should be employed in these stories.

        Loading editor
    • Well, I suppose Jonathan covered pretty much everything on here. If you post it elsewhere, after dealing with the mechanical issues it'd work great. The story is a pretty nice one when it comes to sort of critiquing creepypastas (it pretty much mocks ritual pastas) and as a morality story. 

      If you want it here; try to darken it somehow. I'm pretty sure you'll figure something out. Maybe like, make the twist be that he can't leave after learning stuff. That way to can flash out the ritual and make it not the focal point. 

        Loading editor
    • A FANDOM user
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