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Charlotte Reising

Grade: 11

Bay Village High School

Instructor: Kristen Srsen Kenney

Unlucky

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Unlucky

How about grabbing a penny tails-side up?

Or roaming under a ladder?

Perhaps a black cat opening an umbrella inside a thirteen-bedroom house while admiring itself in a cracked mirror? That must be the answer.

No. Not even close.

Nothing is, or doesn't appear to be, as unlucky as Erissa.

And, she knew no other life than this.

Nevertheless, the sun kissed Cloverfield, its rays never too scorching, but just warm enough to hug the environment as

Erissa attempted to leisurely pedal through town. Four-leaf clovers speckled with little dewdrops stretched for miles, encircling the village. Trees plump with all kinds of fruit, pears and persimmons, apples and apricots, pomegranates and plums, dotted the sidewalks, emitting a pleasant aroma, sweet and refreshing. As she passed, people strolled down sidewalks, laughing and licking cones of ice cream, enjoying the creamy delight melt on their tongues.

Erissa glanced over, longingly. She could never experience that true joy, because, unlike these oblivious pedestrians,

headaches or brain freezes never failed to accompany the supposedly delightful treat. Even more so, an apple that was sweet or tangy for someone was rotten and sour for Erissa.

From far away, she appeared so ordinary. She appeared so similar to most teenagers. Upon looking at her, one would notice

her deep purplish hair. A few wisps adorned her face, and the rest was woven into three braids that fell slightly beyond her waist. It seemed innocently stylish. Because it was so long, though, she always tied it back in some manner to avoid any possible predicaments. Like her last significant incident, where all she wanted was a fried egg for breakfast. It was a painfully normal thing. It only took one flame to lick a lock of her hair, and within seconds, the whole kitchen blazed with fire and clouded with smoke. Her parents hastily installed five new fire alarms the day afterwards.

Shuddering at the memory, her fiery amber eyes, highlighted by her lilac complexion, darted left and right, up and down,

anxiously. She was always on alert for something. Anything. Ultimately, she needed and longed for a good day. Each morning, it became harder and harder for Erissa to wake up and roll out of bed, even though she needed to escape the nightmares that plagued her slumber. One would think she'd find comfort in how they weren't real, but most didn't understand that her nightmares exactly reflect her reality. Maybe she wouldn't get stung by bees, or lose an earring, or set her house on fire. Maybe she wouldn't have to nervously smile when she was acknowledged with a pitiful expression. Maybe she wouldn't have to feel her parents' disappointment whenever they so much as looked at her. Maybe she could just have a perfectly wondrous day like everyone else in Cloverfield.

Still pedaling on, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny marble, scoffing at it. Her "lucky object". As soon as

someone was born in the charming little village, they were bestowed a unique object by the Village Elder, Amaryllis. Generally trusted as their Village Elder, Amaryllis had held the title for 236 years, since 2800. From a young age, parents made sure their kids carried their lucky object with them wherever they went, for it promised to attract only good things, along with securing the whimsicality of Cloverfield. People prospered without having to work hard or put much passion into anything. Nothing bad ever happened to anyone, and the common emotion of most citizens was pure bliss. Enjoying the obscure lifestyle, everyone, except Erissa, reaped the benefits from the fortuitous atmosphere.

She seemed to be the only person that found the charm and attitude all so strange. Fictional characters who faced danger,

fighting evil dragons to save stolen princesses, or characters that endured numerous failures to eventually achieve their dreams intrigued her. Yet, books that involved any sort of unpleasant notions were snatched away from her, and she was told not to concern herself with such things, for others claimed they would only make her feel miserable. What people didn't realize is that she already felt that way, just not from the "evil" books.

Continuing through the town, she studied the marble, swirling with shades of magenta entwined with swooshes of white.

Water trickled down the fountain in the center plaza, a blanket of background noise composed of splishes and splashes that could be heard from yards away. Rolling the marble around in her fingers, it gleamed in the sun. Then, suddenly, her vision blared white, a blinding white. She frantically gripped her handlebars and swerved. A shriek escaping her mouth, her bike abruptly stopped, hitting a decently sized stone. She launched from her seat, becoming an arrow, whizzing, then flailing through the air until she catapulted straight into the fountain with a roaring splash.

Sopping, she stood up, grimacing from the fresh scrapes on her legs. As she looked at the rest of her body, her clothes

weighed heavily with water, causing her to fall back down again. Another splash. Now she caught the attention of everyone in the plaza, some staring at the poor, unlucky girl, others awkwardly looking the other way, gangs of kids from her school snickering at the scene. A golden woman strode through the crowd, and she locked eyes with Erissa, her face emotionless. She turned her head and continued the other way. Amaryllis.

Grasping the edge of the fountain and gritting her teeth, Erissa staggered out, the marble in her hand. A green figure, her

mother, emerged from the crowd of onlookers, rushing towards her daughter. She shook her head, looking at the near pathetic sight of Erissa soaked and scraped up.

"Let's get you out of here," her mother said, in a hurried voice, then, addressing the unmoving crowd of people, sarcastically

yelled, "thanks for the help!" And with more scolding and waves of her arms to shoo them away, the civilians resumed their day.

After a short walk home, Erissa's younger brother stood on the porch of their house.

Noticing the crumpled bike and his sister's sad state, he raised an eyebrow.

"What was it this time?" he jeered, "Didn't have enough fun with the fire, huh?"

Erissa's mother shot him a look with slitted eyes. Ignoring both of them, Erissa huffed up the stairs, nearly slipping on the

sleek wood. She pushed the door to her bedroom open, and flopped onto her bed, alarming the plush pillows. Grabbing one, she screamed into it, feeling satisfied for a second.

Digging the marble out of her pocket, she swore she could hear it cackling. She never wanted to see the stupid lucky object

again. Five-thousand nine hundred and forty six days of life and nothing but bad luck. She didn't care that it was her society's tradition to hold onto and honor the "blessed" object. She threw it, hoping to hear it shatter against her emerald walls. It only bounced off with a boink!, not a single scratch to be seen.

She stormed downstairs into the kitchen and opened one of the glossy white cabinets, yanking the trash can out. Whipping

the lid off, she dropped the marble inside and hauled the bag out, throwing it over her shoulder. She headed for the front door, making it across the living room with its pristine white carpet, but her angry mumbling was suddenly interrupted by the horrendous sound of the trash bag tearing, its contents spilling onto the carpet. She froze, turned around, and groaned seeing the disgusting mess. Her eyes shifting downwards, they followed the marble as it rolled right to her feet. Seemingly out of anything else reasonable to do, she collapsed onto her knees and interrogated the inanimate object.

"Why do you hate me?" she asked, glaring at the tiny orb.

The marble simply stared back at her.

"What did I ever do to you?" she hollered.

The marble didn't respond.

She looked to her right, into the big mirror that leaned against the living room wall. A girl kneeling on the floor surrounded by

garbage gawked back at her. Erissa got up, cleaned the trash off the carpet, dragged a rug over the stain, and, grabbing the marble, left the house.

She marched in the direction of Amaryllis's house, passing other homes, most brightly painted, some tall, others wide. With

nothing to be fearful of, many people in Cloverfield kept their windows opened and doors unlocked. The benign attitude was another quirk supplied by the surreal town; one could never think to imagine individuals with malicious intentions, like burglars or criminals. They just didn't exist in the little bubble of their world. Feeling uneasy most nights, Erisa would lock her own front door in preparation for anything. She was so acclimated to staying vigilant in stark contrast to the calm and carefree mood of most civilians. Shaking her head at the vulnerable houses, she arrived at Amaryllis's within a few minutes.

The Village Elder's house towered over her, held up by lofty pillars, its exterior embellished with intricate designs. Erissa

walked up the stairs, nearly tripping, and then raised her finger to the doorbell. She paused. Was this crazy? What would she even say to Amaryllis? She looked behind her, quivering. But she demanded answers. Feeling her frustration fester, she banged on the door.

The languid clicking of heels on hard tile could be heard, becoming increasingly louder and louder, until the door opened.

Amaryllis. Although hundreds of years old, her skin glowed brighter than a lightbulb and appeared softer than a flower petal. A deep crimson painted her lips, and a cerulean dress hugged her hips. Before Erissa could squeak out a single word, Amaryllis spoke phlegmatically with her chin tilted slightly upward. Her words rang with poise.

"Please come in," she said, "I speculated it wouldn't be long before you appeared at my doorstep."

Erissa's mouth opened, but she couldn't form any words. Amaryllis turned around and led her inside. Her ringlets of

angelically white hair, twirling to touch the ground, formed a gorgeous cape that flowed behind her.

Compared to the outside of the Village Elder's house, the inside looked like it belonged to a completely different owner aside

from the grand number of high ceilinged rooms. There was little furniture, and the few comfortable-looking pieces bore a dull blue. As Amaryllis led Erissa further into the house, she noted how dim the rooms were, only spotting one or two open windows. For the grandeur of carrying the role of Village Elder, her house was quite somber.

Finally, Amaryllis brought Erissa to a cozy room with a couple couches and chairs. Erissa sat down in an enormous chair

hesitantly, bringing her arms in close to her. Amaryllis glided over to a large window and pushed the curtains aside, light flooding into the room. She seemed to wince at the light, the most emotion Erissa had seen expressed yet, for the Village Elder notoriously maintained a placid disposition.

Across from Erissa, Amaryllis perched on the couch. Her thin figure barely caused the cushion to sink.

Closing her eyes, Amaryllis spoke, "You wish to know why you're unlike everyone else,"

Erissa nodded, taking out her marble. Her anger dissipated. She didn't wish to yell at Amaryllis.

She asked, quietly and gently, while looking at the marble,

"Why doesn't this protect me?"

Amaryllis's crimson lips turned downwards, and she combed her ivory curls with her slender fingers. Erissa hadn't expected

the Village Elder to appear so vulnerable.

"You know there is something special about this place, yes?" Amaryllis asked.

Erissa nodded.

"The clovers that surround our village. They protect this place from the real world. Without them, our home would cease to

be the delightful place that it is. It'd be exposed to the dangers and darkness of the true world."

Erissa leaned forward, listening intently as Amaryllis continued.

"The clovers hold such light and happiness within them, but there's a price to pay for their protection. Every hundred years,

I have no choice but to give a baby born in Cloverfield a lucky object that I know won't resonate with them." Now Amaryllis's face was contorted into a painful expression, and Erissa noticed a tremble in her voice.

She finished, "The darkness and misfortune that person experiences their entire life balances the light of the clovers. It is a

sacrifice made for the peoples of Cloverfield and the village itself."

Erissa struggled to process Amaryllis's words. Her head spinning with so many emotions, she looked down at the floor. She

would be cursed her entire life, a prisoner of misery, all to uphold Cloverfield. Clenching her fists, something else occurred to her.

"So there were others like me?" she questioned, looking into Amaryllis's eyes, which glistened with tears.

"Countless, unfortunately," Amaryllis gulped and looked away, "Since the beginning of time… when this place was filled with nothing but a few houses constructed of wood. And the fields of clovers, of course."

Then, Amaryllis looked back at Erissa, and her voice hardened.

She warned, "If you were to somehow abandon Cloverfield— wander past the fields of clovers— all would perish, and the

village wouldn't be special anymore. Everyone's beautiful lives would be stolen from them, and they'd never experience such euphoria in the typical world. It would pain me to see their lives transform to become so… regular. I'm aware your life is posed by challenges, but this must remain an eternal haven for the majority of our peoples."

Silence followed, and Erissa stood up. Amaryllis flinched, appearing alarmed of Erissa's sudden movement. She quickly

regained her composure and rose from her seat as well.

Not knowing what else to say, Amaryllis accompanied her to the front door. Unsure of what to do, Erissa awkwardly thanked

the Village Elder, her last words of warning replaying in her head. They tossed and turned, repeating themselves, clinging to her mind above everything else. Once Amaryllis disappeared back inside her dismal house, Erissa cautiously stepped down the stairs.

The sun was beginning to set, and soon the sky would transform into a dark sheet flecked with stars. As she stared at the

clouds stretched in the sky, so wide, so free, almost unconsciously, Erissa started to sprint. She found herself bolting past the mansion, through thickets of trees, tearing through branches protruding in her path. Reaching the field of clovers, they appeared to cover the land for at least another couple miles. She stopped, panting heavily, her legs aching. Something prodded her, whispered in her ear to break free. Bitterly remembering Amaryllis's use of the word "majority", Erissa couldn't bear to sit in silence the rest of her life, outcast as the "minority". Once she regained her breath, she kept running and running as the moon replaced the sun. Clovers crushed under her feet, begging for her to stop and turn around, and she stumbled, then hit ground, feeling something tugging her downwards. Tumbling down a steep hill, vigorously rolling faster and faster, uneven ground bruised her skin and her braids whipped around her head. Soon on level ground, she attempted to stand up, her head whirling. Staggering forward, she looked around wildly.

She rested for a moment, letting the dizziness pass. A cold breeze blew, and a quiet eeriness fell over her as she listened to

the chirping of a single cricket. She finally had reached the edge of the field of clovers. What lay ahead was just grass. Normal grass. Reaching her hand out, her fingers met a smooth material, like glass, and she wasn't surprised. Using both her hands, she pounded them simultaneously against the barrier and started to feel it crack.

She bore on the glass, beating it endlessly. Trying so desperately to penetrate the cage, tears, hot and flowing like magma,

ran down her face, her hands burning from the agony of the rupturing barrier. This was the true sacrifice. It was not for the broad people of Cloverfield and their fluffy lives. It was for unleashing the buried potential each and every person possessed. It was for the past and future peoples that suffered or would suffer like Erissa. More than anything, in the present, she had to do this for herself.

A deafening sound of shattering, like a million glasses being dropped all at once, abruptly broke her merciless hammering. A

pink light exploded from the ground, accompanied by a dramatic whoosh of wind.

Erissa had never felt more peaceful.

Taking a step forward onto the grass, she looked back and watched as fragments of clovers withered away into nothing.