My Summer Fling

By Jenna Moldaver

I’d never had a summer fling before one waltzed into my life on June 27, 2016. It was unexpected. It was breathtaking. It was magical. For the first time in a very long time, I was energized, and optimistic, and taken aback. I’d become so accustomed to unimpressive gains, to infinitesimal joys sprinkled throughout months of stagnation in my life. I was used to pouring my heart into hard work to barely receive even the slightest semblance of reward. But for once, something came to me first. And I was enthralled.

I was sitting on the 8:13 AM from Princeton Junction to Philadelphia, on commute to my summer internship, when I refreshed my Twitter feed to see a retweet by NPR. I’d followed NPR because it made me feel cultured and informed. Because I wanted to be able to say, “Oh I heard on NPR that…” Essentially, I thought the activity deemed me both cool and old, a demeanor I firmly imposed upon myself this summer now that I was a working woman. An unpaid working woman, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, NPR retweeted one of its podcasts called Invisibilia. It was in its second season when I found it. I looked it up and read the description: “Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” I downloaded the first few episodes from the Podcast app, and fell face-first into love. But don’t picture this fall into love as a graceless, unathletic bellyflop into a daunting pool of the unknown. Don’t picture my face red and inflamed from impact as I emerge from beneath the water. Instead, picture a girl sitting beside the pool, on a lounge chair. She’s reading, but only half reading, waiting subconsciously for a more stimulating diversion to draw her away. She looks up from her book to see a lone diving board across the 15 by 20 manmade body of chlorine. The board’s vacant, and for no reason other than that it’s there, she walks over and steps up. She was rated a Guppy-level swimmer by her summer camp counselors when she was nine, but as the balls of her feet take flight from the hot aluminum plank, her body contorts like an Olympian’s. She’s seamless and elegant and when the tips of her fingers finally descend into the pool, she’s a bit flummoxed but a lot exhilarated. Everything is natural and free. Her head peeks through from the water’s surface, her eyes catch a glimpse of her lounge chair and that God awful book, and she knows she’s never going back.

Melodramatic a little? An absurdly histrionic description of what’s nothing more than a pastime? Maybe. BUT THAT’S THE JOY. THIS IS WHAT PODCASTS HAVE GIVEN ME. I can contrive a beautiful, quixotic explanation for anything that happens to me! I like podcasts? That means I finally embraced the life of fervor and passion I deserve! I finally left the poolside for this wonder that emerged from nowhere! I found love in the midst of the mundane!

One of the three Invisibilia writers, Lulu Miller, says the podcast is “secretly self-help.” Among the neuroscience and sociological discovery, there’s something in each episode that listeners can take with them into the real world and into their own lives. For the past month, I have been doing this. I see someone cry about something I think is stupid, and I hear three Invisibilia voices in my head telling me that the two of us just have different frames of reference. I think about how I’ve been a bit quieter lately, and they tell me that personality is a myth, and maybe that’s just what I’m like now. I see tragedies on the news and as my heart sinks, they tell me about the strength and importance of emotional entanglement and empathy.

Whether or not my headphones are in, I listen to the three voices chattering in my head. Not in an eerie, mental-health-red-flag kind of way, but in a way that brings me comfort. In a way that provides companions when I am alone. In a way that makes me laugh at things I would have never found funny before.

So my summer fling is a podcast. My summer fling is three journalists talking about why people act the way they do, think the way they think, and live the way they live. My summer fling came at just the right time and it swept me off my feet.

Postmodernism in Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five embraces an ideology formally termed in the 1960s as postmodernism.  The philosophy repudiates continuity to embrace fragmentation, debunks free will to espouse predestination, and deconstructs the individual only to place him in a web of chaos where he lacks a sense of self.  Under the tenets of postmodernism, linearity is obsolete, causal relationships hardly exist, and the human experience is morphed into a maelstrom of events over which the individual possesses no authority. More specifically, postmodern literature is composed of destabilized novels rife with metafiction, paradoxes, and fragmentation. In adhering to the prescripts of the postmodern genre, Vonnegut amplifies his anti-war messages.

Perhaps the most striking element of postmodernism in the novel is its negation of chronological progression.  The narration follows protagonist Billy Pilgrim, an American soldier in World War Two, as he experiences isolated events in his life.  Vonnegut writes, “Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between” (Vonnegut 37). This discontinuity represents the disarray that has plagued Billy’s life after war.  Because Billy’s story lacks linear events and does not amount to a rational ending, it appears nonsensical and incomprehensible. Vonnegut is able to present several arguments about war by utilizing non-linearity.  For example, he claims involvement in war engenders a cycle of disorientation, helplessness, and chaos, as Billy constantly shifts from one state to another without the luxury of choice.  Additionally, Vonnegut explains how war experiences create a difference in perspective between civilians and veterans. Early in the novel, he writes, “Sooner or later I go to bed, and my wife asks me what time it is. She always has to know the time” (Vonnegut 6).  In this excerpt, Vonnegut implies that Billy has no interest in the time the way his wife does. The two think about the world in different terms: she in terms of time, and he in terms of isolated events. This illustrates how war can distort human perception, and lead to vast differences between people. Ultimately, Vonnegut’s convoluted timeline allows him to demonstrate the consequences of war.

Postmodernism also undermines free will and individualism. Throughout the novel, Billy emits a listless, indifferent attitude. Despite career success as an optometrist, Billy seems to lack intrinsic drive and zeal.  His accomplishments are professional rather than personal, his relationships are opportunities for success rather for than love, and his life is just something to endure rather than something to enjoy.  A reason for this apathy might be that “he is in a constant state of fright . . . because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next” (Vonnegut 17).  The vast uncertainty in Billy’s life robs him of the privilege of passion.  He fails to become invested in himself because of the tumultuous state of both his mind and life.  Here, Vonnegut calls attention to the defeat and indifference many veterans feel upon returning home from war. Nothing piques their interest after experiencing such atrocities, and they are overcome by the trauma they endured. The Tralfamadorians also discuss Billy’s lack of free will and individuality. One says to Billy, “Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? […] Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why” (Vonnegut 63). This suggests that Billy does not have control over what becomes of his life; he is but one of many people at the mercy of external occurrences. This dearth of autonomy is reminiscent of that a soldier experiences while deployed. The troops are subject to the decrees of their commanders, and above them, the government. They, like Billy, are bugs trapped in amber.  With this metaphor, Vonnegut calls into question the authority of those issuing military commands, as well as the post-war hindrances imposed upon those who serve.

Sometimes subtly and sometimes not, Vonnegut employs metafiction to insert himself and his own experiences into the novel.  Metafiction, a device in which a novel calls attention to its own artificiality and status as a novel, is a key element of postmodern literature in that it destabilizes the plot and calls the narrator’s identity into question. In doing this, Vonnegut puts a face to the atrocities he is describing, thus augmenting their effect on the reader. Vonnegut’s occurrences in the novel depict the suffering he endured. For instance, Billy speaks on the phone with Vonnegut, whose breath smells of “mustard gas and roses” (Vonnegut 60). This strange pairing, of something horrific and something endearing, illuminates the complexity of life after war.  No matter what fortunate developments took place in Vonnegut’s life after war, a part of him was forever marked by the traumatizing and formative things he experienced. Roses, no matter how beautiful, romantic, or promising, were always mixed with traces of mustard gas.  A lurid image is painted when Vonnegut appears again as Billy witnesses a man in the latrine. He describes an American man who, “wailed that he has excreted everything but his brains. That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book” (Vonnegut 103). This presents a raw picture of life at war: a life not decorated with medals of valor and cheers from civilians, but a life of loneliness and pain. By conforming to the postmodern genre, Vonnegut embedded metafiction in his novel to communicate his messages about war.

Although Vonnegut certainly deviates from the conventions of many genres, such as science fiction and autobiography, he stays very true to postmodernism.  The genre, through its emphasis on non-linearity, predestination, and metafiction, enables Vonnegut to express his ideas about war and the atrocities that accompany it.


Critical Review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Film

By Jenna Moldaver

Regardless of the medium by which it is expressed, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest conveys the gripping exploits, inspiring triumphs, and mournful defeats of patients in a mental institution. Within seconds of the film, viewers may regretfully observe that the viewpoint is omniscient; the story is no longer told from the perspective of Bromden, the oldest patient on the ward. With Bromden’s narration in the novel, we journey through spine-chilling machinery, witness middle-of-the-night torment, and view the world through a nebulous, deceiving fog. We aren’t always told an honest tale. Chief Bromden prefaces scenes by warning us that maybe, just maybe, he hallucinated a little. Maybe we can’t totally trust what he is about to say because he didn’t taken his little red pill. Maybe he is embellishing his accounts of Nurse Ratched’s reign of terror, or exaggerating the eruption of chaos in Group Meetings. But the uncertainty of Bromden’s perspective is half the story itself. Bromden’s unsound, shaky accounts immerse readers in the minds of the novel’s characters. With them, we feel unsettling paranoia, unexpressed resentment, and poignant longing.

Yet, in the film, we lose this insight. We are no longer one of the characters; we become spectators. Our underdog, the speciously mute but remarkably insightful Bromden, becomes one of many faces among a throng of men. Perhaps what infuriated the author of this story, Ken Kesey, was the loss of this essential vantage point. Perhaps Kesey thought director Milos Forman excluded Bromden’s perspective because he lacked an appreciation for the character. Perhaps he thought Bromden lost his significance in the film.

Yes, we first meet Bromden in the movie the way we meet all the other characters: he flashes before us while on a line to receive medication. He appears to be one of many, neither a popular leader nor a pariah, neither a focal point nor a scant detail. But as the film progresses, Forman draws attention to Bromden through more subtle exchanges and scenes. McMurphy, the outspoken Christ-figure of both the book and the film, calls upon Bromden to sway the vote in the World Series debacle. Here, Forman underscores Bromden’s importance; in the vote, he can either make it or break it for his peers. As a result of his vote in support of McMurphy, Bromden is delicately branded a hero.

So we take notice of Bromden, ascribing him the title of McMurphy’s taciturn sidekick. The two share a stick of gum as Bromden valiantly speaks his first word in decades, and play basketball buoyantly at the heart of a painfully dismal setting. Sure, Bromden is left behind in many scenes where he could have been included, such as the men’s rebellious fishing trip escapade. Yet, at the end of the film, Forman makes a pivotal decision that highlights Bromden nearly as much as Kesey did.

In the book, most of the patients opt to leave the ward after McMurphy injures Nurse Ratched. McMurphy’s rebellion has a wide-scale influence, and he diminishes the power of the Nurse. However, in the film, the patients mostly remain in the hospital, and Bromden escapes on

his own. This illustrates a more personal, intimate connection between Bromden and McMurphy. McMurphy’s movement may not have inspired the entire ward to leave, but it inspired Bromden. The Chief is the one who makes it out in the end, the only one to tangibly recognize and evade the horrors of the ward. In the film, Bromden’s escape is the culmination of the efforts of the men. Bromden is the single embodiment of triumph over the depraved tyranny of the ward.

The film adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest demonstrates that filmmakers need not follow authors’ precise methodologies to convey the messages presented in books. Kesey accentuates Bromden’s significance by providing readers with his narrations, while Forman accomplishes the same feat through the plot’s development and resolution. So when you hear from critics that “the movie isn’t from Bromden’s perspective,” remember that you need not be wary. Mediums of expression, whether literature, film, or music, are most beautiful when they are based on creativity, not imitation.


Where I’m From

Jenna Moldaver

I’m from stories crafted centuries ago,

Phrases fashioned by my idols

And characters in whom I have seen myself

I’m from nineteenth century Russia,

The first grade class of Junie B. Jones,

Platform 9 and 3/4,

And a twisted Europe in 1984

I’m from a world of books

When I was five, I weaved intricate webs with Charlotte,

Cheered for the runt of the litter,

And said a sad goodbye to a loyal friend

I’m from Charlotte’s Web, which taught me that things can be perfect

Without lasting forever

I rode the “stupid smelly bus” with my favorite Junie B.,

Equipped with a fierce demeanor and an unparalleled curiosity

Under the gleam of my night light, we went to Hawaii, we graduated kindergarten, we dealt with bratty girls named Lucille and pesky younger brothers

Each time I set my pen to a white, crisp piece of paper,

I hope I can take others to the places she took me

I’m from Junie B. Jones, who taught me the value of words

As I entered the Dark Ages of middle school,

I was lucky to have something I loved

I fought alongside Katniss Everdeen

Under the oppressive regime of Panem

And experienced a journey of depraved tyranny to bittersweet triumph

I’m from The Hunger Games, which gave me a dose of girl power when I most needed it

I lived in a sequestered cottage on the outskirts of Boston

And embroidered a scarlet “A” with Hester Prynne

I felt her pangs of remorse for a single blunder

And watched her daughter grow up under the scowls of hypocrites

I’m from The Scarlet Letter, which opened my eyes to an unfair world that once was

I took a dismal train ride with Anna Karenina

And saw her surrender to her shame,

Wishing I could unravel her fatal mistakes

Yet blaming her for the place she found herself

I’m from Anna Karenina, who taught me that heroes and villains can overlap

I attended the ornate Netherfield Ball with the Bennet sisters,

In corsets, long gloves, and full silk gowns

I cringed at Mr. Darcy’s pride, and at Elizabeth’s prejudice

And marveled at Jane Austen’s artistry in unifying the two in the end

I’m from Pride and Prejudice, which introduced me to Jane Austen:

My kindred spirit, just a few centuries off

All these people I have met,

And all these places I have been to:

They are where I come from,

And they are where I will always return

I love where I’m from

Because I can always go back

Genius and Madness in Literature

Jenna Moldaver 

Genius artists, by nature of their label, are held to an unparalleled standard of creativity. Eccentricity is not merely valued in their works; it’s expected. Therefore, when these connoisseurs of the imaginative world are overcome by ordinariness, they implore the universe to deliver some form of inspiration. Faced with the task of interpreting nature rather than replicating it, they invoke muses to break dry spells of creativity and revive artistic ingenuity. Upon completion of the genius’ awaited artwork, audiences scrutinize techniques, dissect meanings, and evaluate intentions. Yet beneath this enigmatic product, whether alluring or unseemly, lies the untold story of the muse. Honore de Balzac’s “The Unknown Masterpiece” is a story of a painter and a story of obsession, but it’s also a story of a grief-stricken muse with her complexities of her own. As a result of her exploitation as a victim, a lover, a model, and a muse, Gillette is robbed of her agency and self-worth.

The short story depicts the deterioration of Gillette’s self-respect from her first appearance to her eventual sense of defeat. Balzac portrays her as significant only in regard to her contribution to Frenhofer’s artwork, and essentially as a gambit in the process of creating a masterpiece. Her status as a ploy-like muse develops as a result of both coercions from her lover, Poussin, and from Frenhofer, the genius artist himself. In a sense, her decision to pose nakedly for Frenhofer is her own, yet patriarchal pressures cause her to see it as more of an obligation than a choice. By embedding this obligation, Balzac epitomizes traditional gender roles and illuminates the construct women like Gillette were innately to accept. The prospect of pleasing her lover outweighs her apprehensions, and she frequently fluctuates between states of childlike bliss to threatening depression. Balzac describes her jejune levity, “Obediently, the happy girl leaped onto the painters lap” (29). Gillette is conveyed as mindless, obliging, shortsighted, and naïve. Because of the incorporation of this playful diction, exemplified in words such as “leaped” and “happy,” parallels can be drawn from Gillette’s demeanor to that of a child. She’s merely seeking love and affection, and thoughtlessly so, as she says to Poussin, “I’m purposely willing to ruin myself for your sake” (Balzac 31). Her greatest ambition is to satisfy her patronizing lover, and to do so would be to actualize her most wondrous dreams. Gillette is an accessible target for Poussin and Frenhofer: both beautiful enough to be a muse and subservient enough to be a cooperative one.

From an objective outlook, Gillette and Poussin are, in relation to one another, lovers. Yet as dialogue progresses and Poussin elucidates his ignominious sense of morality, Gillette emerges as merely a docile companion exploited for Poussin’s benefit. To Gillette, Poussin is someone to be exalted and cherished, an invaluable prize to be kept. She says, while immersed in discussion about her modeling endeavor, “Let’s go: being an eternal memory of your palette will still be a kind of life” (Balzac 36). Whether she says this out of love or a lack of self-respect is ambiguous, yet it is apparent that in an unhealthy manner she acts as a lover to Poussin and is willing to sacrifice her body for his happiness. Universally, sacrifices are a part of love, but self-degradation is not. The imbalance here reveals Gillette’s conventional perception of what a woman should be to her lover, and Poussin’s blind acceptance of her infinitesimal sense of self. Gillette and Poussin convolute the notion of love so that it bears little resemblance to the modern concept of mutual affection. Throughout the entirety of the story, Gillette’s primary pursuit is to preserve and foster the love she feels she has found in Poussin, yet in this venture her ties to her morals grow irrevocably thin. In the context of the nineteenth century, Gillette indeed embodies the character of a lover, and Balzac exaggerates her submissiveness in order to exhibit her conformity to social precepts.

An ethnocentric standpoint would deem Gillette a definitive victim, one accustomed to the obsequiousness typical of her era. When yielding to men’s demands was inherently necessary, women pragmatically did so to feel fulfilled. Yet Gillette is distinctly a victim because of the emotional trauma that ensues as a result of this social commandment. Balzac exhibits her dehumanization as a muse when he writes, before Gillette enters Frenhofer’s studio, “Gillette stood before him in the innocent posture of a terrified Caucasian girl carried off by brigands to some slave dealer” (36). Evidently, Gillette is marked by desperation and isolation. By likening her to a slave, Balzac depicts her lack of choice in the matter, as well as her sorrows because of it. The analogy to the slave also serves to illustrate that at the conclusion of the story, Gillette is robbed of her agency. Even before the devastating, unremarkable painting is divulged, she already feels like a tool being maneuvered by obsessive men. She is being “carried off” into a world of confined freedom and dissipated dignity.

Although Gillette’s sense of agency begins to wane long before Frenhofer’s “masterpiece” is revealed, the disclosure of the allegedly hideous painting heightens her sense of isolation. After selling such an immense portion of herself for the sake of an artistic masterpiece, the realization that her trauma was in vain is both disheartening and embarrassing. Her personal afflictions of love, self, and morality congregate to form the most devastating emotion, and her previously suppressed sorrows are exhumed. She is overcome with self-disgust and comprehends the abject futility of the sacrifice that led her to resent both Poussin and herself. Demoralized after the experience of stripping herself of her dignity, she screams, “Kill me! I’d be vile to love you still— you fill me with contempt. I admire you, yet you horrify me” (Balzac 43). Her mortification has left her unwilling to live, and resuming her love would deem her utterly pitiable; however, she is entrapped in an ineluctable paradox. Despite her repulsion for what he allowed her to do and his selfish treachery, Gillette is obliged to admire Poussin still, rigidly limited in freedom by social standards. Her freedoms, now that she has made the calamitous exchange of self-worth for a man’s love, are virtually nonexistent. As she prophetically warned Poussin earlier in the story, “If I showed myself to someone else, you wouldn’t love me anymore. And I myself would feel unworthy of you” (Balzac 30). Gillette’s world is scant beyond her lover, her existence meaningless without his approval and “love.” The failure of the painting is reminiscent of Gillette’s own failures, both to herself and Poussin, whose respect she is certain has receded.

Gillette, at this concluding point in the story, is a representation of the unintentional destruction geniuses can wreak on the people around them. Frenhofer was driven to insanity by his compulsive and incessant desires to perfect his work. Had he not been so inextricably immersed, Gillette would not have been needed as his muse, and her superficial yet comfortable life would have continued. Her hopelessness and disparity are direct results of three men willing to exploit those around them for their unrivaled obsession.

The men surrounding Gillette perceive her as an amenable asset in creating the immaculate painting. She is simply one of Frenhofer’s innumerable tactics to obtain the ideal, and her relevance to the painters lies only in her contribution to the art. Her strife and emotional discordance are not incorporated in their bottom line, her trepidation is never ameliorated, and her individual story is not the focus. Balzac’s “The Unknown Masterpiece” is a tale of ingenuity, madness, and unadulterated fascination. Gillette’s most influential role, transcending her status as a lover, model, muse, or victim, is her accentuation of madness and genius. Her life crumbled as a result of the recklessness of genius, the blindness of the immersed, and the impossibility of perfection. Gillette’s character is a symbol of the dark consequences of utter obsession; Frenhofer’s obstinate pursuit was toxic to more souls than just his own. Through her forged relationship, her moral discord, and her inauspicious fate, Gillette reveals that ingenuity can be insidious.

Works Cited

de Balzac, Honore. The Unknown Masterpiece. New York: NY Review of Books, 2001.


Current Event in Biotechnology

By employing probiotics, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a potential method of detecting cancer that has spread to the liver. Such cancers that metastasize in the liver are colon and pancreatic cancer. With existing treatments, there is a strong correlation between early detection and survival rate of patients whose cancer has spread to the liver. The scientists applied the concept of bacteria being able to grow in a tumor’s microenvironment, as it is rich in nutrients and the body’s immune system is compromised. They decided to use bacteria as a means for detection of tumors in the liver.

The innocuous E. coli strain used was genetically engineered to express the lac z gene. The lac z gene acted on a molecule injected into mice with colon cancer that had spread to the liver. The molecule was comprised of luciferin and galactose. Luciferin cleaved from galactose, and then was excreted into the urine, where it could be detected by laboratory tests. The bacterial strain that was used is known as Nissle 1917, and was delivered orally. These orally-delivered bacteria accumulated in liver tumors specifically because the hepatic portal vein delivered them from the digestive tract to the liver. In mice with colon cancer that had spread to the liver, the bacteria colonized 90% of the tumors with no harmful side effects.

This event has a tremendous impact in that it offers a new diagnostic for liver tumors exclusively. Consequently, if pursued, it could expedite time for detection and increase survival rates. Also, this method offers a more sensitive detection of liver tumors than current methods do, such as CT scans and MRIs. For people in remission from certain cancers, such as colon or pancreatic, this method could help detect recurrences more efficiently and accurately.

Some positive aspects of this study include that the article mentioned there were no adverse events from the genetically engineered bacteria being taken orally. Also, the probiotic used in the research is currently being taken for gastrointestinal health, so humans have taken it before and its safety has been somewhat validated. This method can detect smaller growths in the liver than our most relied-upon machines today, which is a substantial leap forward. Additionally, since probiotics can live in these tumor environments, this study could pave the way for other, non-diagnostic processes, such as drug delivery to the liver.

Crossing the Line

By Tiffany Paul

I always used to wonder how life would be if I were an only child. No compromising, no fighting, and of course, no sharing. Having a twin was nice sometimes, but still. Where would I be if Aidan had never been born? Better yet, who would I be if Aidan was never born? One Monday morning, fate threw a curveball and decided to give me the chance to experience life without a twin. On that unforgettable morning, when I woke up and saw an empty bed beside me, my heart plummeted to the bottom of my stomach.

People disappeared all the time, yet I could not wrap my mind around Aidan being gone. In the city, government representatives are disguised to observe citizens and to select them for their intelligence. Every now and then, somebody steps up to ask why his child or sibling has disappeared; however, those who question are always missing the next morning. Feeling hopeless, I absentmindedly pulled a dark blue sweater over my blond hair and went downstairs.

At breakfast, I expected my mother to be frantic and to question Aidan’s whereabouts. On the contrary, she maintained the smile plastered on her face and handed me a Page Turner. Aidan’s Page Turner was nowhere in sight. Was my mother actually going to forget her other son? Subconsciously, I placed my book on the Page Turner and ordered the device to flip the pages.

“Oh my-,” I gasped.

As I was reading, I glanced up and looked at the family portrait above the foyer. Just yesterday, there were four faces within the golden frame; now, only three were present. Suddenly, I lost my appetite and sprinted out of the house. Someone at school had to question Aidan’s absence.

On my way to school, as I passed rows of identical skyscrapers, rain pounded against the dull gray cement. I walked past the park, one of the few areas in the city that was not gray. Flowers drooped as droplets hit their petals. Even the trees seemed sad, with tears trickling down their leaves. Every pedestrian on the street was immersed in books, ignorant of Aidan’s absence.

“Richard Aarons…Alex Allard,” my teacher announced during attendance.

I replied, “Here.”

I was utterly bewildered. Mrs. Taylor skipped over Aidan’s name. Next to me, Aidan’s friend Louis stared straight ahead, but I detected lines of worry etched on his forehead.

“Louis… hey Louis!” I tried to get his attention.

He fiercely answered, “Shut up Alex. We can’t talk about this. Just drop it.”

I felt heat on my florid cheeks. Just drop it? How could I drop my twin’s existence? Ever since I was a kid, I learned to accept when people went missing. That was simply how my city worked. We read books to learn from others. We lived at libraries and accepted the facts. We were forbidden from being curious. But I could not live that way anymore. There had to be more to life than reciting knowledge!

After a long day, I ran home. The turbulent sky growled and I was soaked to the bone when I reached my room. Without thinking, I packed a navy backpack to maximum capacity. Fueled by frustration and curiosity, I left my house and entered the despondent streets. It was time to find Aidan.

“Walk straight Alex. Keep walking straight,” I murmured to myself.

One of the older boys once told me that if I wanted to leave the city, all I had to do was walk a few miles until I reached The Line. My teachers warned me about The Line. Beyond this boundary, the government headquarters was hidden; however, everyone who crossed The Line never came back. The trek was tiresome, but as soon as I saw the bright red streak on the dead grass, adrenaline coursed through my veins. Here was The Line, separating my comfortable city life from the mysterious wilderness. As my body hovered over it, I thought about my parents and friends. Would anyone worry about me? Or would they just forget about my existence? I did not spend much time thinking; before I knew it, I was gone.