Story of the Week


posted Nov 9, 2017, 6:52 AM by Eli Roberts   [ updated Nov 9, 2017, 6:54 AM ]


By Erika Hamilton

Aria slid down the purple flower’s petals onto the soft grass at the bottom of the hill. The pers-kant was spreading all over the camp. Lupi, her pet capitsi, followed her to the ground. Jena skimmed across the ground at an incredible speed, yet she was out of breath.

Attacked! We’re being attacked, the camp is under attack, defenses!” Jena yelled at her. Aria sprang to the ground, sprinting to the guard tower. Lupi floated after her, a look of anxiety on his face. Aria jumped up the worn stone stairs, two at a time. Lupi landed on the large, wooden stick in the middle of opening with his head floating slightly above his body. He cocked his head innocently. Aria snatched his snout and coaxed it open gently. She tickled his neck-fur, and he sneezed a large plume of fire onto the stick. It erupted in fire, alerting the other stone towers of the attack.

Aria was dizzied by the sight from overlooking the tower at the oncoming onslaught.

Machines. Machines everywhere. Machines moving at impeccable speeds, unmatchable by even sprinting sprites like Jena. At the end of the peculiar parade was a row of golden cars. The largest car in the middle was streaked with gold and purple, the colors of the Regal Council.

“I’ll bet you your orb that there’s some primping general in that large one there.” Jena whispered in Aria’s ear.

“Gah!” Aria fell out of her trance as Lupi appeared on her shoulder.

Jena stumbled back. Aeria assumed that her sensitive ears were overcome with the screeching of the attack brownies that the Council had enslaved.

“I-I’ll go rally the troops, or something.” Jena said. She sped off in a white-and-blonde blur.

Aria clomped down the stone stairs in her boots in worry. Lupi honked again as Aria ran off into the commotion. The sprinting sprites were running about the other mythical warriors, wearing earmuffs and brandishing abalone spears. Several other capitsi were giving honks of alarm as the machines came to a halt. Everyone braced themselves.

The machines opened fire, and waves of iron androids surged out from inside of the machines. The camp was suddenly alive and moving, androids with their unsettlingly extreme human features, and the mythical warriors, wearing fur, leather, and a variety of other clothing materials. Some waved axes around in the air, other charged while holding spears and swords, and yet others swung around chain whips and maces.

Aria navigated through the commotion to front of the horde, brandishing her wooden staff. Lupi swooped in and out of the air beside her, jabbing here and there with his long, almost sharp snout.

Aria swung her staff around at the front of the line. The hovering silver orb on top of it glowed and turned into a molten ball, which then wriggled and moved and formed a spearhead. It cooled and settled itself onto the top of the staff, hardening into place, all within a matter of seconds.

She started swinging her staff around, taking out all androids within a five foot radius. But the robots kept coming. She continued fighting until she heard a loud bang. She was jarred, however, the androids were not. She was knocked to the ground by one with tanned skin and cropped brown hair. It pulled a sword on her, and was going to stab her until she rolled out of the way. She finished this android with a swift slide of the spearhead under its paneling. She maneuvered it to pull of the panel, exposing the wiring and circuitry underneath. She ripped several wires, then turned around when she heard several more large bangs.

Apparently some of the sprinting sprites had gotten under the slow machines’ ‘skin’. They had annihilated several of them now, and few rows of the things remained.

But the androids kept on coming. They were overtaking the renegades, and their lines were thinning.

Aria felt a sudden sharp pain as a spear grazed her side. She spun around and took out five androids in one blow. She kept fighting until several lines of the robots were destroyed.

There were even louder bangs now, and Aria saw two golden cars blown to smithereens.

But she was distracted for too long. An android’s weapon ripped a large gash in her left arm, and her jacket sleeve was torn. She let out a cry of anguish and knocked out a few more of the robots. Then she realized why there were so many.

All the other warriors had been maimed, wounded, pinned down to the ground, or disabled in some way. She was the only one standing. The machines weren’t firing.

The androids surrounded her. She swung her staff but hit none. Then, one particularly strong one came up behind her and hit her in the back of her head. She nearly lost consciousness. She felt her staff ripped out of her hands and her arms being forced behind her back. She stood stiff as an android came up to her and addressed her.

She didn’t hear anything, however, because of the extremely loud explosion sound that left her ears ringing. She looked up at the sky.

A figure with long turquoise and purple hair and dragonfly-like wings was hovering in the air, clutching a silvery hand grenade. She lobbed it at the ground, and the explosion ensuing was phenomenal. Aria’s ears were re-broken and a small trickle of silver liquid leaked out of her ear and down her lobe.

Lupi screeched and opened his jaw to that it looked almost unhinged. Aria hit the ground instantly as the androids holding her were either melted into slag heaps or blasted into oblivion by Lupi’s fireball. She grabbed her staff and started hitting down the remaining as the distraction caused the other warriors to break free. The fighting resumed, but not for long, as the androids were finally overtaken and the golden cars destroyed.

The fairy-like creature in the air landed lightly on the ground, her dragonfly-esque wings shimmering in the afternoon light. She was clutching a pair of silver marbles in her right hand. She wore a translucent blue dress with ripped purple leggings underneath and turquoise boots. Her purple eyes glinted in the sun.

“Hey, Ivory! Fancy seeing you here!” Aria limped over to her, leaning on her staff. Lupi screeched and landed on her shoulder. “You really saved our skin back there.”

“Yeah, I sure did. That was pretty rough back there. Even you were captured.” She said snootily. Aria lightly punched her on the shoulder. Ivory pouted.

“So, I’ve got good news,” Ivory continued, “The Regal Council is hosting a ball of sorts.They say that the Prince will be there, and also some major Councillors. So, if you are thinking what I’m thinking, then you know that we should be organizing a travel pack to there.”

Aeria smiled as she heard a squeaky voice chime in.

“Ooh, a ball? We get to go to a ball? Oh, I just simply love balls! Aren’t they wonderful?” Jena piped. She pranced around the grass, twirling and curtsying to unseen partners.

“Well, I guess that’s what we’ll do!” Aria exclaimed, “I need to alert the camp.”

Jena twirled around in a pastel pink dress that reached her knees.

“Ooh,” she squealed, “I can’t wait!”

Aria smiled amusedly before she turned around to face another sprinting sprite.

“What was it you wanted?” She asked the sprite.

“There’s someone in the woods wanting to meet you.” The nymph replied.

Aria followed her into the woods, where a figure was waiting, poised and graceful. Two sprinting sprites stood next to her, alert and watchful.

The creature was basically humanoid, except for the fact that, as Aria assumed, she had stony gray skin flecked with dark spots and crisscrossed with lighter lines. Her hair was was a blonde-gray color with a black streak down her bangs. She had two gray braids sprouting from each side of her head, down to past her shoulders. She wore a strange shirt with a flap on it, fastened to her shoulder by a gray glass-and-gilt brooch. On her other shoulder sat a light gray stone with waves similar to her skin’s, apparently fastened there. She had light gray gloves and leg socks trimmed with white lace that came up past her elbows and halfway up her thighs.

She stood up when she saw the two approaching her, and extended her arm.

“Hello! Thank you for coming here to meet me, I’m Lace Agate.” She smiled. Aria gave her escort a reproachful look, then extended her arm to Agate and shook her hand.

“Um, so, thank you again for meeting me, I wanted to ask you if this was,”-she momentarily scrunched up her face as if in thought-,”Toh-kee-yo? Toh- yeah, Tokyo, Japan?” she asked. Aria bit her lip in suspicion.

“Um, no, this is the kingdom of Regalia. We stretch over this entire island. We have no city or town called Toh-eey-ko.” She responded. Lace Agate scrunched up her face.

“Okay, then, thank you for telling me. My Agate soldier group was on course for a Tokyo, Japan. I suppose we went so fast we ripped a wormhole. It’s not impossible, you know.” She added, smiling at the puzzled look on Aria’s face.

“Then that’s all you want?” Aeria asked, Lace Agate nodded sweetly.

“I’ll leave now, then.” Agate said politely. She stood up onto her long ,nimble-looking legs, gloved in her long, white socks. She strode away in a graceful fashion, that suggested that she danced instead of walking. Aria looked at the sprite escort, puzzled.

“Shall we go back, then?” She asked. The sprite nodded. They returned to the camp.

“Well, you took your sweet, sweet time, and ours too.” Ivory said when she saw Aria. Aria smiled bitterly. She then proceeded to go elsewhere to change into her ballgown.

Aria whirled around to the sprite awaiting her order.

“What is it you wanted?” she snapped.

“The troop is ready.” the sprite reported, a bit disgruntledly.

“Tell them to ready the carriages,” Aria replied, “Ivory, the lieutenants, and I have our own arrangements for arrival.” Ivory nodded haughtily, and the sprite left.

Ivory threw her marbles at the ground. There was a moment, then the small silver balls grew fluidly into a glistening, silver-blue, flying, open-top roof. A lieutenant opened the door for the small group, and they all loaded themselves in, laden with flowing dresses and billowing suits, with masks that covered their faces. Aria ran her hands over the area where a line of knives were concealed under her waistline. Her staff was compacted into a smooth wooden ring, with the orb affixed as the centerpiece.

The general closed the door for them and then belted himself into a side compartment. The carriage started hovering, then took off into the air. Lupi squawked, then flapped his way up into Aria’s lap.

She leaned back and closed her eyes behind her feathered mask, sighing. This was a moment of peace, finally. She fingered the small, purple flower bud on her bodice.

After twenty or so minutes, she was awoken by a collective gasp in the carriage. She bolted up and looked over the side, taking in the breathtaking scenery.

Below them sat the spired, tall towers of the white Council Hall. Water flowed around it in a crystal-clear moat. Glittering stained-glass windows made up elaborate pictures on the walls of the Hall. The lush green grass around it was dotted with many colors of the rainbow. A stylishly cobbled stone pathway held the carts, cars, and vehicles of many rich Councilmen.

The view only lasted a minute before everyone’s eyes were drawn to an even bigger attraction. The Regalia Palace was breathtaking. The spires seemed to scrape the sky. There were so many Gothic arches and small, Babylonian-inspired gardens. In a courtyard in the middle of the campus was a huge fountain, probably fifteen feet tall. Many topiaries dotted the courtyard, adorned with vines and laden with flowers. A golden pathway to the front was lined and crowded with innumerable amounts of carriages and cars. Servants and bellhops were scurrying everywhere like ants.

The carriage started declining slowly. In no time, they had landed not far from the golden pavement. The slowly trundled around, then the general unchained himself and opened the door for them. A servant lead them all out of the carriage, then was mildly shocked when the carriage had disappeared. Ivory winked at Aria and held up two silver marbles between her fore-,middle, and ring fingers. Aria smiled as the marbles swiftly disappeared out of her hands and two small rings suddenly appeared on her forefinger.

They entered the ballroom, a cavernous room with a swooping roof and gigantic chandelier. People crowded the room. There was a twenty-foot-long table, laden with breads and heaps of different, exotic meats.

“Stick with me” Ivory whispered to Aria.

“I’d be dumb not to.” She responded. Aria’s horns were not out of place, as many of the other guests had elongated claws, horns, teeth, and other unnatural features.

Aria joined into all the festivities, dancing with strangers, make idle chatter, and even polite flirtation, but never leaving Ivory’s side.

A trumpet flare announced the Prince’s arrival on an overlooking landing. He had a handsome smile, but was obviously regarding everyone’s weaknesses with his cold, icy-blue eyes. To be true, even Aria was mesmerized if she ever caught his gaze for a moment at a time. But then he would snap his gaze to someone else, eyes glittering.

“Hail, Kingdom of Regalia!” he shouted regally.

“Hail, Prince Jakob!” Everyone responded. Prince Jakob smirked.

“I would like to thank you all for attending this soiree! As most of you know, the Regal Militia has given us a breakthrough in information! We have found a rebel camp! No, not just any rebel camp, the base rebel camp!” He waited with his hands raised, and applause erupted through the hall, dotted with whoops and shrieks. He lowered his hands.

“I thought that would be rather enticing news to you. But I won’t bore you with talk. Enjoy the event! Dance! I will join you in a few minutes! Hail!”

“Hail!” everyone shouted back, and the ballroom was filled with applause, and the orchestra raised back to volume, and the crowd dispersed. Everyone milled about, dancing and eating. Aeria was pulled into a dance by a lieutenant.

As she twirled around, she noticed the prince entering the crowd. She danced her way over to the prince.He was twirling a hideously skinny woman in a bright blue, silken dress. He left her, however, as another trumpet blasted from the landing. Someone, probably a Councilman, was on the balcony. He held  a piece of parchment to his face.

“Everyone ready themselves for the official partner dance!” he wheezed. Everyone lined up with a partner. The orchestra started playing, and people started waltzing. Everyone twirled around to find another partner, and after a few turns, Aria ended up with Prince Jakob.

“You’re a pretty good dancer for such a young woman.” Jakob told her under the orchestra’s noise. Aria smirked.

“Thank you. You are rather good yourself. But of course, you must have been trained, as a royal prince, heir-to-the-throne, you know.” she told him.

“Your ring is rather beautiful. I think I have one of them.” Jakob told her.

“Really? Mine is unique-well, at least from what I know. My friends and I have some pretty magic rings.” she hinted. Jakob smiled, and Aria twirled away.

“Watch it, smoothie,” Ivory told her, “Don’t hint too much. He could find out who we are.” Aria frowned at her.

“Masks and muteness won’t get you everywhere, you know,” Aria told Ivory, “We will have to make a move.” Ivory looked skeptical.

“If you’re gonna attack at all, you need to do it soon. I mean, the Prince isn’t gonna wait around, let you take your time, sip some exotic drink, take a garden stroll, then attack. Like, really Aria.” Ivory said whilst finishing off a bread roll.

“Emera, Ivory, I know what I’m doing. Don’t pester me.” Aria rolled her eyes. Ivory bit into another roll.

“Hey, it’s not me to blame if we don’t get out of here.” she said quietly through chewing. She cast her eyes down. Aria bit her lip like she so often did when she was worried.  Suddenly a flash of pink through the crowd, and a high-pitched scream, drowned out by the loud orchestra and the movement lost among the perfectly synchronized dancers. Aria widened her eyes. There was only one person she could think of. Ivory had seen it to.

“Do you think…?” Ivory asked.

“Jena. Jena, it had to be her, come on!” Aria escalating from a whisper to a yell, drowned out by the orchestra. She grabbed Ivory’s gloved hand and led her through the crowd, pushing and shoving, being jostled in return.

“I saw her dancing with the Prince.” Ivory told her while they rushed through the ballroom. Aria grit her teeth. They made it to the exit of the cavernous room, and rested for a moment, panting. Aria looked up as she saw another flash of pastel pink, and a remaining smirk burned into her memory.

“It’s him! He-he’s taken Jena!” Aria charged ahead, but was pulled back by Ivory.

“Calm down, Aria! It could be a trap! It is probably a trap, okay?” Ivory told her. Aria whipped around, seething.

“I don’t care! We have to get her! I’m doing it if it’s the last thing I do!” she snarled at Ivory.

“Well, we’re gonna have to get through them, first.” Ivory cocked her head towards something behind Aria. She turned around to be faced with a row of large figures in silver armor. Not wanting to reveal herself, she pulled a serrated knife out from under her skirt. Ivory imitated her. The guards hefted their spears, but the girls were quicker. Aria had driven her knife into one’s armpit, then pulling it out and throwing it at another’s thigh. She quickly charged ahead with Ivory at her side.

They charged through the hallways, throwing off their fancy shoes, skidding around corners and hiking up their skirts. They got to a doorway that voices issued from. Aria came to an abrupt halt. She put on her shoes again.

“Quick, make yourself kept and clean!” Aria whispered. Ivory ran her hands through her blue hair and mounted her high heels. Aria paused, then gestured to Ivory to follow her lead. Aria quickly strode through the door in an elegant manner. She looked around, taking in the room. Several heavily armed guards were on the side. A few Councilmen sat here and there. The most noticeable thing was a large, plush chair with carved wooden arms in the middle, with a person perched on it. Looking closer, she recognized the brown hair, blue eyes, and golden crown of Prince Jakob. She pretended to be dazed, and pranced up to Jakob, curtsying.

“Hello, ladies. Been wandering about?” he smirked. Aria bit her lip, then released.

“I’m sorry if we were interrupting on any business, my lord. Your castle seems so large compared to where I normally live. I’m actually rather claustrophobic, and the ballroom so crowded-” Aria started. She was waved off by Jakob.

“No, my lady, I would perfectly understand, especially if I were you.” he smirked. Aria looked at Ivory, who shrugged her shoulders. She looked back at Jakob, puzzled.

“Your highness, if you could elaborate on that?” she asked. The prince laughed.

“Well, princess, I thought you knew?” he laughed, stepping down towards her. Aria backed away nervously.

“What, you think I wouldn’t notice you? The ring, the horns, the hair, the fashion sense? I’d recognize you from anywhere, dearest sibling.” He held his arms out in an almost welcoming gesture. Ivory stepped forward.

“Your highness, again, please elaborate. I have known this lady since, what, forever? Anyway, I am pretty sure she has no siblings.” Ivory told him.

“I hate to contradict such a polite lady, but you may have known her since you were children, but I knew her since she literally came out of the Queen’s womb. I mean, after all, she is my younger sister. By a year or two.” he laughed.

Aria had to stop herself from falling over.

“Where’s Jena?” she demanded. Jakob smirked. He gestured, and two guards emerged from behind the throne. A small, blonde figure wearing a pastel dress, was clutched gently in the arms of the large guards. Her petite figure looked crumpled in her captor's’ arms.

“Jena!” Aria called from afar. The rumpled blonde opened an eye, looking exhausted and bedraggled, and looked at her. She mumble-wheezed something that sounded like, ‘Aria?’

Aria wanted to run over and comfort her, but she was held back by Ivory.

“What are you doing, Ivory?” she cried. Ivory shook her head. Jakob approached Aria and cupped her chin in his hands. He reached his other hand up, and ripped the mask off of her face. He clenched her arm in an iron grip, reaching over to pull off a stunned Ivory’s mask.

“I know who you are. There’s no need for these feathered fabrics here.” He stepped away. Aria clenched her fist and punched Jakob in the gut. He staggered back.

Aria flaunted her ring and pulled off her dress skirt, revealing her fighting leggings and bare feet. Her ring glowed, and the wood bloated and shifted into her normal long staff, and the orb returned to it’s normal floating position.

“There’s no hiding it now.” Aria said. Jakob leered at her. He pulled a long, thin sabre out of his belt. It had a faint glow to it, and seemed to hum with movement. Aria readied her staff, shifting the orb into a spearhead. Behind her, Ivory had disappeared.

“Seems your friend has bailed on you,” he jibed, thrusting his sword at Aria’s heart. She parried his strike, countering it with a swift stroke to the side. Jakob ducked.

“She left you like she abandoned that other girl at her escape.” He jabbed at her leg,  

leaving a rip in her leggings and a stain of silver around the hole. Aria threw her spear at him in a moment of frustration. She hit her target, but only by a little. She struck him in the foot. He pulled out the spearhead, literally hopping mad. She noticed that as the spearhead penetrated his shoe, there was a silver stain in the wound hole, similar to hers.

“I don’t believe that I’m your sister,” she said while she advanced on him, fists raised, “Even if I was, wouldn’t it be a little more welcoming to be here?” She struck, but was parried by Jakob’s sword. There was a smoking gash across her knuckles where the thin sword had cut.

“Dearest sister,” He advanced on her. She noticed her spear lying not far away. His sword was nearer to her than her spear was, though. Aria did not dare make a move as she imagined the smoldering pain across her knuckles, but magnified through her body. Jakob moved closer to her. She backed away slowly.

“However young and ill-raised you may be, surely you are informed on the ruling system here. A prince is not truly an heir until his rivals are gone. A princess is not a queen when she has a remaining task to take care of. You are the threat to me, blocking me from having the Regal Throne. My father-no, our father, died several years ago. On his deathbed, his last message to the world was that there was a girl, as well. He perished soon after those words. I was shaking with anger.This man had refused me of my legacy! All because of some stupid girl out in the stupid woods doing stupid things. I bet she didn’t even care about the King’s death. I bet she was just frolicking in the woods, picking daisies and arranging flower displays. And now, he left me enough clues to figure it out. I mean, you’re the spitting image of our mother! Well, except for the ridiculous short hair. But that aside, because I will end you and my final roadblock to the throne! Where’s your little friend now?”

Jakob raised his sword, level with Aria’s heart. She could feel it humming with whatever power it had. But was it the sword humming? A faint buzzing noise filled her ears. Jakob had just pulled back the sword to lunge at her when he missed. He clapped a hand over his face.

Aria lunged to the side to grab her spear and rolled out of the way. Jakob had been momentarily distracted by a large welt blossoming over the side of his cheek. He looked up, his cold eyes brimming with rage. He grit his teeth, seething with rage. Ivory appeared behind him, silently. She had moderate bruises, and was grinning. She gestured to stay silent.

But Jakob had noticed the look on her face. He slowly advanced towards her. Just as he was going to strike, he gestured to the guards on the side.

Aria watched in slow motion as Jena effortlessly broke out of the guards’ grip and charged towards Aria, knife in hand. She had reached Aria when she felt a streak of pain down her shoulder. Jena backed away with a silver-stained knife.

Aria turned to look at Jakob, who simply laughed and said, “You’re blocking her royalty as well.

That’s when it dawned on her. It was a trap. Jena was a spy. She was going to marry Jakob and become the future queen. Ivory hadn’t seen this coming, either. She was silent with shock behind the prince.

Injured by Jena’s strike, Aria had no time to process what was going on when she felt the extreme raging sensation inside her gut, burning away at everything it touched. Ivory’s scream filled the air as Jakob’s sword protruded from Aria’s stomach. She was dizzy as the commotion around her blinded her. But that no longer mattered. She was dying. Dead already, maybe. Ivory’s shrieks were silenced by the world falling black.


Escape to Freedom on a Stolen Plane

posted May 4, 2017, 9:43 AM by Eli Roberts   [ updated May 4, 2017, 2:04 PM ]

Escape To Freedom On A Stolen Plane

by Ketty Nguyen

My mom rushed in the house saying in a hushed voice, “Kids, go pack up as if we are going to the beach. Do not take a lot of things.” That was the precise moment reality hit me that this is truly happening and it is real. I remember all the events on that day as if it had happened yesterday. It was the third day of April, 1975. I was then 15 years of age.

A few weeks prior to the above instruction from my mom, my Uncle Khiem, her 7th brother, who was then a pilot for the Vietnamese Air Force, had been flying dozens of flight missions to the central and south of Vietnam. In the last few months before the fall of Saigon, he was assigned to fly missions to bring supplies to refugee camps. He paid my mom a few visits discussing with her the possibilities of taking the family out of the country since the situation didn’t look too good. He had witnessed too many main cities in the central and the south falling one after another into the communists’ hands. The fact that our own city will be the next target is inevitable. I overheard the conversation one time even though they both talked in a hushed voice. My uncle looked solemn, saying, “I don’t know when I’ll be able to obtain the plane and set the plan into motion. But you need to be prepared and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The situation is dire out there and if we are stuck here we might as well be dead!”

My mother nodded and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be here. You just let me know when.”

My mom became the head of household by default since my dad left a few years before to the U.K. Before he left, they had both opened an all English school called the International School of Saigon where it served the children of foreign diplomats and high government officials. My mom hired teachers from different countries and she ordered textbooks from the US. My other three siblings and I attended the school, so I had many friends from other countries. In addition, my learning the English language and being bilingual would later help me to help others in ways that were unknown to me at the time.

In addition to running the schools which was a half day affair, my mom was a very socially conscious person. One of the many things she did was volunteer with the church group to help distribute foods to the refugee camps.

One day when I was about 10 years of age. I was sitting comfortably in the living room chair reading my favorite book. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom carrying cardboard boxes one by one, and putting them on the living room floor. Curiosity got the best of me. I dropped my book so fast that I forgot to put the bookmark back in it. I ran over to where the cardboard boxes were situated. I couldn’t helped myself wondering what was in all those boxes. I took a peek inside one of them and saw something wrapped in a white blanket. I slowly peeled back the blanket as if it was a special surprise gift just for me. As I peeled back the blanket I began to realize… Oh My God!! A tiny little baby! I had never seen a newborn baby in my life. I took a closer look at this tiny human being with its cute tiny face, hands, fingers and feet. I touched every part of the baby’s body and became intrigued with it. The baby was asleep, not knowing what was happening outside of its secure box. As I went from one box to the next checking each of the babies, my mom touched me on my shoulder saying softly, “Help me take these boxes to the van. We are going to take them down to the Holt International Orphanage so they can take care of them.”

I looked up at my mom and asked, “Where did all of these babies come from?”

My mom sighed and said, “You know how the war has been going and destroying cities and villages. People fled their homes to our city and they have no place to go. I found these babies abandoned on the side of the streets. So I obtained some cardboard boxes and some blankets to wrap them in. And here they are!”

During most of our weekends, my mom would take us to the beach about an hour or so drive southeast of the city. The servants and my mom would prepared yummy foods to take with us. The best part of my days was looking forward to spending the weekends at the beach. I became attached to the crystal clear warm water, the white sandy beaches, the palm trees, and the yummy fresh coconut water plucked fresh from the tree. At night, we’d stay up late out on the porch floor of the beach house looking up at the skies full of stars! There were no sounds of bombs.

Earlier, I had visited the village where my grandma lived, and at night I’d hear the sounds of bombs all the time. My grandma would pulled me under the bed to hide. There was no electricity in her village nor any running water. We had candles or oil lamps to light my grandma’s small hut. She left her house when my uncle died, and went to the city to live with my dad’s sister. She then would occasionally come to my house and visit for a few days.

Leaving My Home

My life was going as normal as can be when my mom told us we need to pack. I remembered what she had mentioned to us about leaving and not to inform anyone of our plans of leaving the country. I felt apprehensive and overwhelmed as to what I was going to pack. Pack like we are going to the beach like we always do? I ran from one room to the next trying to absorb all the things from my home into my memory so as not to forget them. I took a small handmade bag my grandma bought for me one New Year’s Day. I stuffed in a few clothes and started to take most of the pictures of my family and my parent’s wedding. As I was sitting there contemplating what to take next, my sister ran in the room and said, “You better go get Grandma because we are leaving in a few minutes.”

We all filed into the van, and as I was helping my grandma up to the van, she turned to me and asked softly, “Where are we going?”

I smiled and said to her, “We are going to see my dad which is your son, Grandma.” I think she was satisfied with my answer so she quietly sat down. In my heart, I don’t know what I’m saying to grandma is going to come true or not. I just wanted her to get in the van and go with us without giving us any fuss about it since we were in a hurry. As soon as the door closed, the van started moving. I looked out the window and waved to my servants standing there like they always do when we left for the beach on the weekends. I felt sadness knowing that this was the last time I’d ever see them. They had no idea that we were gone for good. I looked back at the scenery of my neighborhood slowly fading away like the clouds. In about an hour, we came to my uncle’s residence. When I got inside the gate of his house, there were a lot of people there with suitcases, too. I looked at my things and I have to say I truly packed light. Then a call came in, and every one rushed to their cars.

We drove to the outskirts of the city to an open air field that looked empty and abandoned. As the car moved into the field, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge airplane circling above us. When the plane landed we all opened our car doors and ran to the plane! At that moment it seemed like everyone was for himself! I had to help Grandma out of the van, and take my own bag. Leading her towards the plane was a difficult journey. Since the airplane’s engine was still running, there was a strong wind coming from it, and stuff was flying everywhere. I felt like it took me forever to get me and my grandma up that plane. I was the last one to step on the plane. I looked to the back door of the plane which was still open and saw a military jeep parked about 100 feet away. One of the crew members got off and went towards the jeep. As soon as that crew member got off, the plane took off while the back door was still open! Someone hurried to have it closed as the plane started ascended to the skies!

Every one sat down on the floor since this is a cargo plane, not a passenger plane. The floor was made of steel bars, so it was quite uncomfortable sitting on top of it. But no one really cared. As things settled down a bit during the flight, I went to the window to see what was out there. I noticed we were flying so low that I could see the tree tops!! It was cold in that airplane but I didn’t complain. I saw my grandma and a group of elders form a circle and pray. At the time, I had no idea where we were headed or what awaited us.

In Another Country- A Journey of A Thousand Miles

After a few hours, at about 7:30 pm, we landed in Singapore. While my uncle and other elders talked to the airport officials, we waited inside the plane. While we waited, the airport people brought us some food, which was so nice and sweet of them. As we were waiting, I realized that we were in another country! Out of nowhere it hit me hard that I may not be going back to my country ever again! Suddenly I burst out crying. I finally calmed down and sat on the tip of the plane door. Right around midnight, several police vans approached our plane. We were then taken to a facility in Singapore which I later found out was a prison compound that was no longer in use. As soon as I got out of the van, I was escorted on both sides by two women to a room.

There we were ordered to change into orange jumpsuits and were again escorted upstairs to another huge room where the door was made of black steel bars, as were the windows. The windows were way up high so I couldn’t reach them anyway. On the floor were mattresses and blankets. On the farther side of the room was an open area for showers. I was too exhausted to think about whether the mattress was comfortable or not. I flopped right on down to it and fell fast asleep. I slept like a baby.

I woke up the next morning to the sound of the keys outside our door. The guards came in with a cart of food. Trays of rice, veggies and fish were distributed to each of us. I later learned that the foods they had served us was vegetarian. Since I noticed at every meal, we’ll always have tofu! Staying there for three weeks was uneventful. We were allowed to go outside for about an hour. The women were then allowed to go to the kitchen and cook the food. They even had a dental and medical mobile to check us. My siblings and I talked to the nice guards to pass our time. We were being guarded 24/7. We were not allowed any TV or newspaper so we had no idea what was happening in our country.

After three weeks of staying there, we were sent back to the very same room from before. We again changed into our clothes, and were taken again in several police vans. I had no idea where they were taking us. As I was sitting in the van with bars across the windows, I looked outside the city streets. I noticed how very clean the streets were! Not one piece of trash!! It was a beautiful city and I told myself that one day I want to go back here and visit this city. After about an hour’s drive, the vans went inside a huge gate. We kept going until I saw several houses on site with fences all around the huge compound.

This was the first time we were together as a group after we landed our plane in Singapore because the men and women were separated in that prison-like place. Here we were allowed to be together. We had no idea what this place was. The officials told us that we can go anywhere we want except outside the fence. As soon as we got out of the police vans, we explored the many small houses. There were beds, blankets and pillows in each. We went to another house which was the kitchen with two huge refrigerators. We opened one refrigerator and lo and behold…it was full of food!! We were elated and thinking about how kind these people were to us. Outside the fence was the ocean. I used to stand along the fence looking out at the water and missing my beach days back home.

After two days of staying there, we heard that the mayor of Singapore would be coming to visit us. We were told to form two lines so that when he comes he could walk in the middle of the lines. As the hours approached we went out and formed two lines as instructed. The mayor came and shook our hands and brought us gifts.

The next day, we were again taken in the police vans and to the airport where a passenger plane was waiting. The police vans stopped right beside the plane. We all boarded the plane. Other passengers were allowed to board after us. Again, I didn’t know where we were going. But at this point, I was confident that it would be safe and hopefully the end of the journey.

Our next destination was Saipan. We were bussed to a very nice hotel. We were then ushered up to the 5th floor. That was my first time ever in my life spending time in a hotel. A nice one at that! We were allowed to stay there for about a week. Every day we ate in the hotel restaurants and it was the first time ever that I tasted white milk. To me it tasted delicious! In my country, milk was only given to old people and babies. We were not allowed to have any milk! I asked my mom, “Mom, who’s paying for all of this?”

My mom said, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe the UN?” She has no idea! At the end of the week, we were then bus to the airport. It was midnight when we got to the airport. In the morning, we were again bussed to another place. This time it was a wide open spaced camp. It was a complete contrast to the hotel we had previously stayed in or the prison complex. The first thing I noticed; the thousands of tents and people milling around! All of them were my own people! I had no idea what was happening to my country even at this point. I had been away from my country for over a month now, and finally here I am with my family in this vast tent camp in Guam. We then shuttled to a tent and found empty cots. We were told to just take an empty cot since there’s no assigned tents. I have never felt so exposed before because there was no privacy. Now we are forced to sleep in these tents with a lot of people around us. The toilets were make shift toilets, and the showers had no doors! We had to walk quite a ways to get to these places. My aunts and the ladies decided that we should take our showers in the evening where there might be less exposure to the outside world. The place was noisy 24/7. However, gradually I got used to it. Just a few days in, my mom announced that she’s going to register us. She came back with our meal tickets. Whenever I go to eat, the lines were like miles long! The food to me was bland, but I ate it anyway. The people who served the meals were all military people wearing uniform.

At times, my mom would be out all day and didn’t come back until the evening. I have no idea where she went. One day, she came back and told me that she’s been helping the immigration officials by interpreting for them. She then asked me, “I’m tired today. Why don’t you go and help interpret in my place?” At first I was about to protest that I’m too young being only 15! I turned to my eldest brother and he quickly shook his head… No! He told my mom that his English wasn’t as good yet, since he had been attending an all French school until we left. So I decided to obey my mom. She immediately took me to a huge tent. There were tables set up in a u – shaped with typewriters on each of the tables. My mom introduced me to one of the officers there. He looked at me and told me to sit beside him. I did as I was told. There was another officer on the other side of me. I was wedged right in the middle. People started coming in, and thus was my first ever job at working as an interpreter for the immigration office. I had no idea that the people being interviewed by the immigration office workers were all top government officials and high ranked people in the military.

One day, I was working as usual, and one of the officers walked in to be interviewed. He was quite annoyed seeing a kid sitting at the table between two immigration workers. To him (and most Asian cultures, kids were not allowed to sit with adults) much less help to interpret! He started getting rude, and before he knew it, he was being escorted out! That left me a bit scared because this was my first time ever working, even as a volunteer. When I finished work each night, I would be rewarded with foods and candies from the PX. One time I had fried chicken from there. It was totally a new kind of food for me. Fried chicken? I thought! Wow! In my country, chicken was only reserved for special occasions like the New Year or weddings. But just for an ordinary meal? That was totally strange to me. However, I was elated to have food that was not from the camp! When I got back to my tent with my goodies, of course my siblings were curious as to what I had gotten that night. I shared most of my rewards with my siblings. I was glad I didn’t have to be in line to get food anymore! Working there, I realized that Immigration was trying to place people in the US and that this camp was the last leg of our journey.

There were three camps that they tried to place families in. One was at Pendleton in California, one in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and one other camp (I forgot the name) located in Florida. My whole group of 56 people were separated at the camp in Guam. My own family had been placed in Arkansas. Later my mom told me she wanted to go to California, but it was full, and so was Florida. It didn’t matter to me, because I didn’t know where Florida, Arkansas, or California even were! Finally we were called to a bus and boarded a plane, this time to the US. The flight was the longest one I could ever remember!

A New Life

At long last we landed in the U.S.A. This time we were taken by military vehicles to yet another camp. This one was an enclosed army camp. There were thousands of barracks. We were then moved to a big barracks where they again processed our papers and assigned us shelter. My first impression was that it was huge! The barracks were full of bunk beds. Thus, our family ended up staying in that camp for three months or more before we were processed again to go to other countries or states.

During that time, my dad finally flew from England to the camp to meet us there. That was the first time in 7 years that I saw him again! We were all happy to see him. He told my mom how he heard of an orphanage flight that crashed just before we left the country. He was in despair thinking that we were on that plane!! Before we had left our home in Vietnam, the Holt International invited my mom to go with them on that plane. Thank God she said no! However, I felt very sad upon hearing the news that the plane with the orphans crashed. I thought of all those babies that my mom had once brought home in cardboard boxes. Now they are gone? How could it be? Life is so unfair at times.

Later on, I also learned that we were almost deported back to Vietnam when we were staying in Singapore. The list of names of us people on the plane were sent back to the prime minister of Vietnam. When he saw my mom’s name he declined to have us deported. In addition, after meeting some friends here in the US, they told me that when we left, the media called us traitors and that if we were ever sent back, we would be executed on the spot!

Thinking back on all the events that happened, I’m grateful that I made it here in one piece. The experience had taught me how precious life and freedom is. I learned to value each moment of my life and to be strong in the face of adversity. Thinking of my family’s escape, I can sum up the unpredictability of life with this:

Yesterday was just a dream

Today is the reality

Tomorrow an unknown …

1-2 of 2