These entries from March's challenge were selected as Honorable Mentions. Those who completed this challenge are now encouraged to share their stories in the comments section of the "March Writing Challenge."

Alicia Arellano

The Ending We Got

Love is that which should be a beautiful thing. Light, happy, true. But love is not all that it seems; it is a thing where the deepest darkness lies. But few will be unfortunate enough to see it, to feel it. I have seen love turn the heart bitter, seen it bring more pain than a thousand bullets. Watched as it built her up to break her down in the worst of ways. And he left her there to die, with a one word alibi. Love.

But that’s not all there is to the story. No, her story is about light, the way the stars shined with her eyes and her smile could have burned out the sun. Her story is something good, pure, who she was before, but also after, when the light returned, if only for a short time. If her story was a book, it would be one with a sorrowful ending, but it would be real. It wouldn’t be the spiral of picking daisies with dandelion happiness which never comes crashing down. It would be waves of joy washed in with tears of rain, and that would be enough, she would be enough for the first time.

She would dance in the rain and laugh with wrinkles by her eyes and smile for no reason. And when the thief stole her heart, she was happier still, in a greater euphoria than any before, but things that go up will always come down, some harder than others. She loved him, and her heart ached as her love grew, but the love thief left one night in May for a new heart, a new lover with a bigger smile and softer hands. So he left her there, saying he was in love but not with her, and the clock, like her heart, stopped, trapped in that moment.

For a time she couldn’t love, wouldn’t love, her heart somewhere in that May night, wandering. And I say wandering for she only wept at night, when the absence in her chest was too much, just too much.

Eventually, her heart wandered back from that May night, and for a time the stars returned once more. And she learned to be who she was after the pain, determined not to let it beat her. She sang again, she loved with us, she laughed with us. She reached for the stars and pulled them closer, daring them to shine with her.

But it was after, when all the pain had passed and the tears had been cried, it was then that she died. She died with a smile on her lips, the damage done, but in her mind she won, she had beaten the pain and let the sun shine again. It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but it was the ending we got. And I can say she died happy and not in her sorrow, she died with the thought of having a better tomorrow.

She was gone, but I saw her, through every light she touched, every star she named, I saw her.

She’s the reason I can still look outside some nights, and even when I see nothing, it’s the good kind, when all is calm and quiet again — the reason that I can gaze out to the broken promises and hurtful words yet still feel at peace, like there’s good again.




Marissa Arellano


Loretta dug her hands into the pockets of her dark brown trousers and shuffled her boots in the sand. Her brown curls fluttered against her skin as salt in the air pricked at her face. She scanned the waves and breathed in the nostalgic scent of the sea. One after another, waves came crashing upon the shore and swept up shells in currents that sent them flying beneath the drift.

She glanced at her pirate ship that sat mounded to the shore in the distance. A light fog traced upon it and distorted its color from a crescent red to a mossy shade. A selective few of her sailors worked to retrieve items they would need for the exploration of the island. From a distance she could only hear their muffled voices and the clank of wooden boxes maneuvered on the top deck.

“We’ll question him at midnight,” Loretta said to the sailor at her right. “That way, if he doesn’t wish to speak and tries to run, he’ll be too tired to know where he’s going.”

She glanced behind her to the blond boy that sat upright, his face bruised from the formality of the island. Red marks etched into the pale skin of his wrist from the rope that attached him to a thin tree. With his free hand, he drew circles in the sand with a small stick.

Loretta’s team had landed on the island with specific rules from the king. No one was supposed to have inhabited the empty shore, but when they arrived, they were met by a lone soul with limbs as skinny as sticks. They didn’t want to cause him any harm, but they needed to know who he was before they continued with their journey along the sand.

When Loretta approached him, his shoulders jerked and he dropped his stick over the drawn scribble. He looked up at the pirate with green frightened eyes as a faint pattern of leaves cast a shadow upon his bruises and devoured them in darkness.

She pierced her eyes into his in which seemed to bound him to keep still. The small knife tied to her belt rested completely visible. He eyed it as she kneeled before him.

“Alright,” she sighed. “You’re the only one who can get us out of this mess. You know this island better than anyone else.”

He cleared his throat and squinted. “I’ve lived here my whole life. Alone, no one but me,” he said. His voice shook, as if it were from the weight of fear. “Trust me when I say I’m no one.”

“I know that. This won’t come as a shock to you, but we need you to help us figure this out.”

The boy sighed and stared at the picture he had drawn in the sand. His fingers twitched to pick up the stick but stopped as the pirate reached for her knife. She unhooked it from her belt, and with a single swing she cut the rope that fenced him to the tree. His arm poised still in the air for a second until he shyly brought it to his lap. She removed the excess rope attached to his wrist and held it in her hand.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

The boy rubbed his sore skin and glanced at Loretta. “Floren,” he muttered.

“Floren,” she nodded. “I’m Captain Loretta. From now on, you will listen to our orders and take part in every question we will ask you. Our one mission is to find the crown, then we’ll let you go. Do you understand, Floren?”

Floren shook his head and breathed out, “What will happen if I say no?”

“Well,” Loretta leaned in closer, “By now, you already know too much. All I know is that you would have to speak to the king about that.”

Floren glared at her sneer.

“King’s orders,” she added apologetically. “Nobody should have been inhabiting this island. The king isn’t in favor of witnesses.”

“Then, yes,” he said. “I understand.”

“Good.” Loretta let go of the pretentious glare he had given her. She watched him flinch as she stabbed the knife into the sand and stood up.

Cautious, Loretta thought. From first appearance, she admired the fearless aspect that twitched within his eyes. Before she could stop herself she added, “You’re our unbreakable piece, Floren.”

Loretta held out her hand to him. He took it with hesitation as his bones trembled. She looked up at him and said, “Welcome to the team.”




Akshi Ranka

Being Alive

I squint at the sun, blowing the dandelion in my hand. The petals wither away, some landing on my face, some on the book placed in my lap. I close my eyes against the brightness.

“How do you know you have fire within you?”

As predicted, he chuckles. “Considering how new today feels, I knew you were going to shoot me with such quizzes.” I open my eyes and smile at him.

“Weather changes make me feel some type of way.” I shrug. “Now answer.”

Taking a deep breath, he lies down on the grass. “Well, it’s simple. I feel it. Burning and pushing. That’s the reason why investing my everything in my passion comes naturally to me. I can’t keep still. The fire needs an out or I burn within. Almost everyone has that fire inside them.”

“Almost,” I mumble.

He turns his face to look at me, watches me for a few seconds, then perches himself up on his elbow. “Spill.”

“I don’t have that fire,” I admit — more to myself.

Most people have told me that I lack the fire that passionate people have. The fire that is required to live a life that is whole and engaging — that doesn’t ever let your spirit come crashing down.

“I am plain and filled with dark spaces. I don’t have the fire inside me,” I say out loud.

“Is that what’s been bothering you lately?”

I frown. I’ve also been told I am like a blank paper. Difficult to read. But, apparently, it’s a piece of cake for him.

He sits up straight, facing me. “Siera, here is the thing. You don’t have only the fire.”

I wonder what sugary explanation he would produce to diverge my self-doubts this time.

“See, there are people with fire within. Like me.” He is looking at me like a guardian would look at his responsibility — like whatever he is telling me is meant to directly invade my soul and reside there so I never forget it. “And then, there are the kind who don’t have the fire at all.”

Like me, I add mentally.

“These people have only the calm within.”

I open my mouth to add something when he holds up a hand.

“And you don’t belong to that category as well.

“Lastly, there are people who have both.” He pauses, looks away, and back at me. “No. Wait. These people are made of all the elements. All in equal proportion. Some fire. And to tame that fire, some sea waves. And to ignite it, some rough edges, and to hold it all together, some softness and strength.”

He seems so determined to get his point across to me. It makes me feel like perhaps all he ever does is mean what he says and not just say what I want to hear.

“You belong to the last category,” he concludes with a proud smile. ”Some of all.”

“I thought it’s bad to lack that fire that everyone talks about,” I mumble.

I play with the grass near my feet. “This world is so fast-paced, Cam. Everyone is so engrossed into bringing out their best, even if it is at the expense of their real self. It’s all about reaching the place that everyone around you can see. It’s like everyone around is in some sort of nonstop competition, and I see fire everywhere and–”

“And because you don’t comply to what everyone does, you feel you’re a recluse,” he finishes for me.

I respond in silence.

“So, isn’t it good then? You being some of all? You have just the right amount of fire to reach your potential and just the right calm and poise to perceive and feel the world around you the way it is. You can’t run just because everyone is. You can, however, run till you can and then lie down on the bare ground, controlling your breathing and feeling the beauty of the clear sky.

“You have no idea how I wish I could be like you. You are a treasure. You are difficult to read for most people, but you’re even harder to write. That is, because people like you cannot be written in words. People like you need to be felt. Just like how you feel the entire universe that you forget to participate in the competition around you.”

He looks me dead in the eyes and says, “If there’s ever someone truly alive, it’s you.”

Words or gestures. Nothing seems appropriate for what he said. So I just lay on the grass and he does the same next to me. We watch the clear sky together, and if this what it is to feel alive, to be able to feel everything around you… then I guess he is just as alive as me right now.



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