A New Diary

A New Diary

The mall plaza was crowded. Every gang and solitary drifter from who knows how far away had gathered to trade. Madie stood on the edge of the blacktop and stared at the once prestigious two-story shopping center.

Rundown and dilapidated gangs still used the plaza for commerce but you entered at your own risk. It was well-known, a weapon and fighting skills were necessary or you didn’t come out alive.

Makeshift kiosks and tables line the rows of the adjacent parking lot; the less adventurous shopped in the open. Madie had always been one of the less adventurous. Her objective for the day was to search the tables of junk and with any luck find a diary or notebook worthy of her thoughts.

As she stepped into the crowd, the putrid stench of gutter-rats attacks her nose. The little thieves were everywhere. Cunning and sneaky they stole in well-organized packs. The sight of their sad dirty faces and filthy fingers made even the strongest of people cringe. Madie had been the recipient of their pilfering more than once over the years. She hated the little thieves.

As she browsed thru the junk, a disturbance catches her eye. At the end of the row is an overturned table and a girl on the ground holding a crying baby. Madie slips her hands into her pockets to protect her meager possessions and backs away. “It’s the gutter-rats,” she says to herself. Misdirection was one of their favorite tools. Their dirty fingers slip into the pockets of several unsuspecting bargain hunters.

Several rows of tables lined with junk later, Madie sees a diary among the useless garbage. Her first thought was “Oh, my God!” then she wipes her eyes and stares for a moment. Shoving people aside, she grab the book from the table with more zest than was necessary to assure a fair trade. “How much?”

The boy behind the table adjusts his baseball cap and prepares to play hardball, “Whatcha, gotta trade?”

Madie retrieved two batteries from her pocket. “I’ve got these!” She tried to act as if the batteries were made of gold.

The boy looked at the batteries and rolled his eyes “Two batteries? You’re offerin two batteries? “He snatched the diary from her hands. “No deal!”

Madie took a deep breath and pulled out a small bouncy ball, “How about this? She bounced the ball on the ground and caught it a few times. “You could bounce this thing all day and never get bored.”

The thought of not getting the diary sent a sharp pain through her stomach. “Please…! What’s a boy gonna do with a diary?”

The boy thought for a moment. It was true he had no use for the book. He couldn’t read or write. “Fine..take it!”…………..


Journal Entry 1

Journal Entry 1

I Finally found a new journal to write in. I found it at the plaza. I paid a hefty price. Nevertheless, I desperately needed something to let me vent and chronicles my thoughts. You would think that a person living inside a school building would have access to paper. Except for the stash, the journal club keeps under lock and key, the only paper in this school is the student records. This paper serves no useful purpose to me.

Not a lot to tell about Bear Country except that things have been quiet for weeks. I am a little bored. Everyone is off doing his or her own thing. I was hoping that maybe I could get someone to play a game of cards, spades perhaps. It is a fun game but no one was interested. I even asked the Library Trio, Marty, Gretchen and Cecelia. Day in and day out the three of them sit in the media center and read. Surely, they could use a diversion.

They weren’t interested. Marty said they were doing research. This sounded somewhat interesting so I asked if I could help. They all three looked at me and in unison said “No”. Before I knew what was happening they pushed me out of the media center. In addition, they added insult by locking the door. Those three are a wealth of information. A little odd and secretive and they are rarely seen alone but they can be very helpful at times. I am only a little hurt that they didn’t want to play with me. Oh well, their loss.

The agriculture club is trying their best to supply us with a variety of fruits and vegetables but an unfortunate accident with a bug infestation has damaged much of their crops. In an effort to keep us from starving to death, the agriculture club has asked for volunteers. They need people to help with the crops that are left. I will be spending much of my time next week helping in the fields. Oh, joy! It’s not that I mind helping out. I just hate manual labor. Better to help now than to starve later.

The Runt

The Runt

Wearing his over-sized combat boots, The Runt stomped up and down the 2A hall singing, “Madie, Madie, Madie.”

Madie pulled her mom’s quilt over her head and tried to ignore the noise.

“Madie….I’m hungry!” the boy yelled as he pounded his fists on her door.

“Go eat a potato!” Madie yelled from the comfort of her bed, “I’m not your mother!”

“But I don’t like potatoes!” Runt responded. “I want eggs!” His voice sounded pathetic and needy. Tony catered to the boy’s every need and treated the gutter-rat as if he were helpless toddler. The boy’s neediness drove Madie crazy.

Irritated with the boy, Madie climbed out of bed, flung open her door and leaned into the boys face, “I don’t care! Gutter-rats don’t get to be choosy; especially ones that enjoy disturbing my sleep. Now go away and leave me alone!” Madie gave the boy a stern look before adding, “Disturb me again and you die!”

Attack from the Central Bobcats

Attack from the Central Bobcats

“Get up! Get up! They took our fuel”. The Runt yelled as he ran up the 2A stairs in his over-sized combat boots. The boy was a constant nuisance and had a bad habit of waking everyone up before dawn for the attention. Madie slid deeper beneath her blankets and tried to ignore the noise.

“MADIE…PLEASE!” the boy yelled as he banged on her door.

Expecting another false alarm, Madie threw open her door and grab the little pest by the shoulders. She squeezed hard in an attempt to cause the boy pain. “Ok, we get the point!”

JT and Evan occupy the room next to Madie’s. Irritated with the frequent nightly false alarms, they stepped up behind the boy holding a rope and masking tape ready to hog-tie the boy and toss him into a rat infested dumpster.

“Can we not lock him in a closet somewhere?” Lisa begs from her doorway.

A dozen others agreed with whistles and grunts of irritability. Three nights within the last week, the boy had woken everyone up before dawn.

“Tony’s hurt!” The 8-year-old sobbed.

Madie looked deep into the boy’s eyes for any indications the dramatics on display were a fake. “What happened to Tony?”

Runt wiped his tears and runny nose on his shirtsleeve several times, “The Bobcats beat him up!”

The Davis brothers could read Madie like a book. Before she could say, “grab your weapons” Matt and Jonas were at her side.

The Bobcats were gone by the time the Madie, Matt and Jonas arrived in the basement. Tony’s neat and tidy work-space resembled the aftermath of a tornado. The Bobcats broke what they could, threw tools around the room and knocked over benches. The winter fuel stored in the utility shed, stolen.

Tony was slumped against the far wall, beaten but in good humor. “It’s the Calvary!” he said coughing up a mouthful of blood.

Madie squatted down next to her broken friend to assess his injuries “You should have ran, one person can’t fight an army of thugs.”…….

Journal Entry 2

Journal Entry 2

There is trouble in Bear Country.
The Runt came running down the admin hall before sun up this morning yelling at the top of his lungs.
“Get up, Get up. They took our fuel. “
I jumped off the couch and tackled him in the hallway.
“Ok, we get the point.” I yelled back as I grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to calm him down.

By this time, everyone residing in the admin hall was awake and standing in the hallway. Sleepy eyes were everywhere and no one was in a very joyful mood.
Runt tried to squirm out of my hold as he cried.
“Tony …Tony’s hurt. They beat him up.”

Tony lives in the basement. He has been my friend (sort of) since before the world turned upside down. We didn’t run in the same circles but we had several classes together. He always asked my opinions on homework assignments. I used to wish he would ask me out on a date. Unfortunately, he was dating a cheerleader. He isn’t very sociable these days but he is very good at fixing and maintaining whatever we break.

I ordered the Runt to stay put in the admin hallway and grabbed some muscle. When I say muscle, I am referring to Matt and Jonas. The three of us ran toward the basement. The basement was a mess and Tony was slumped against the far wall holding his stomach, bleeding from his head, and his left eye was swollen shut. Tony attempted to open his good eye as soon as he heard us coming. He adjusted the way he was leaning against the wall and let out a cry of pain.
“I tried to reason with them.” Tony said as he spit out a mouth full of blood.
“They took all of our fuel.”

Tony said it was Central. I honestly was not surprised. They have been giving us trouble for ages. The Central Bobcats are from the east end of Lafayette Blvd we live on the West. We were rivals in football, basketball and volleyball. Our bands competed against each other in competitions before the world thru itself into chaos. The big difference between Central and us is that we are not a bunch of thieves and bullies.

The leader of the Central Bobcats is a former high school wrestling champion. He is mean, leads by fear, and regularly has his goons beat up people for fun. The kids call him the Hulk after the comic book character. He doesn’t barter for what he needs. He has his goons take what he wants.

Matt and I leaned over to help Tony onto his cot. I told Tony he shouldn’t have tried to stop Central Goons from taking what they wanted. Just then, Runt ran up behind me holding a first aid kit. The Runt is such a tiny little person. I yelled at him for leaving the admin hallway. He gets into more trouble.
Runt glared back at me. “Tony didn’t try to stop them. They beat him up afterwards.”

I looked at Tony and he just nodded in agreement.
At that moment, Matt and Jonas both blew a gasket and started ranting a raving about getting even. Love these boys but they get hot under the collar fast and don’t always think things thru…

We have some big people in Bear Country but we are not a match for the goons at Central.

A Meeting – discussing the stolen fuel

A Meeting – discussing the stolen fuel

Shortly after the world fell into chaos, Matt, Jonas, Lisa and Madie took refuge in the abandoned Bear Country High School. Within a few years, their little gang of misfits grew from four members to more than three dozen. As a member of the original four, Madie was elected leader. There was no fighting or posturing for the role of leader, no one else wanted the responsibility.

Madie tried to make good sound decisions. The only person who ever opposed those decisions was Matt. Madie was certain Matt caused conflict for the fun of it. Madie called a meeting to ask for volunteers to travel to Wolf Valley to replace the fuel stolen by the Bobcats.

“Thanks for coming.” Madie said as she welcomed everyone to the meeting. “I don’t want to take up too much of  your time. I only have a couple things on the agenda. The Bobcats have taken our winter fuel. We need to replace what we have lost. I need three or four volunteers to travel to Wolf Valley.

In a display of “I am king of the warriors.” Matt jumps on top of a table. “Why travel all the way to Wolf Valley. We know where our fuel is. The Central Bobcats have it. He raised his fist into the air, “Let’s take back what’s ours!”

The calm silent room broke into cheers of “Fight, Fight, FIGHT!”

“Wait…Stop…Quiet!” Madie yelled. “Who hasn’t seen what the Bobcats did to Tony? He’s one of our best fighters. The Bobcats almost turned him into hamburger. Most of us in this room couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag! You’re all idiots with a death wish”.

Madie took a deep breath. Her face was on fire. “I know everyone wants to pummel Central and take back what’s ours. I want that too but we are not strong enough. Risking the lives of everyone in this school is stupid. We don’t need to fight Central. We can travel to Wolf Valley and replace the fuel.

Marty spoke up, “Wolf Valley is 8 miles from here. Longer if we travel around the Red Hyena territory instead of going thru it.

“Look, I know it’s a pain and inconvenient,” Madie said as she jumped onto the table next to Matt “If it were any other gang or local tribe I would say, Let’s fight and take back what’s ours!”

“Why don’t we fight?” Matt said in reply.

“Because if we fight, one or more of us will die. I don’t want to die. Do you want to die, Matthew?” Madie said stepping up face to face with her good friend.

“Why don’t we vote on it?” Cecelia said from across the room.

“Yes, why don’t we vote on it, Mad-del-line?” Matt said in reply.

Madie thru her hands up into the air. “Fine, we’ll vote. Everyone that wants to fight Central in a fight to the death to get back our fuel raise your hands.”

Matt, Jonas and few others raised their hands. JT counted out loud and wrote the number 6 on the black board.

Madie smiled and cleared her throat. “All those in favor of making a trip to Wolf Valley, please raise your hands.” Madie looked at the sea of hands. “Looks like I’m gonna need those volunteers, Matthew!”

Irritated with the vote, Matt, Jonas and their supporters storm out of the room.

Journal Entry 3

Journal Entry 3

I take back the “I’m bored” thing. Bear Country held a meeting to discuss what to do about our missing fuel. The consensus was nothing. Asking for the fuel back wasn’t an option, taking the fuel back wasn’t an option, although two people who shall remain nameless thought we should storm Central and take it back. Can you say Matt and Jonas? We voted this down because of the possibility of casualties, on our side.

We decided to put in place a security team during the night hours. Everyone over the age of 12 would be required to keep watch at two-hour intervals. Our resources are few and we don’t need to be losing anything else. We have strength in numbers and we can protect ourselves when necessary.

At the meeting, we also discussed the up and coming festival. Like last year, we plan to have a feast, music and games. The Journal Club will be putting up fliers to announce the event to the community. We invited everyone but Central. With luck, they won’t grace us with their presence at this year’s event.

Journal Entry 4

Journal Entry 4

I dreamt about being home again last night. I swear I could almost feel and smell the clean sheets. It felt like a weekend. One of those mornings, when you had a great night sleep, a familiar smell wakes you. My mom was in the kitchen making her famous biscuits. I miss those biscuits. I miss the strawberry jam. I don’t know what woke me from my dream but it was a letdown when I realized it wasn’t real.

Searching for shoes

Searching for shoes

Madie trudged through the bustling market plaza, her eyes scanning the rows of tables in search of a new pair of shoes. Her current ones were on their last legs, the soles worn thin and the seams threatening to give way with each step.

But finding a replacement pair proved to be more difficult than she had anticipated. None of the shoes she tried on seemed to fit quite right, and the ones that did were in even worse condition than her own.

With a frustrated sigh, Madie resigned herself to the fact that she would have to make do with her worn-out shoes for a little while longer. As she made her way through the crowd, she couldn’t help but overhear snippets of conversation about the Central Bobcats—the notorious gang of troublemakers who ruled the Central High School campus with an iron fist.

Her heart sank as she listened to tales of their latest exploits, their reign of terror spreading far beyond the confines of the school grounds. Madie had never been one to back down from a challenge, but the thought of crossing paths with the infamous Hulk sent a shiver down her spine.

“He’s so evil,” one voice whispered, sending a chill down Madie’s spine. “They say it’s because of his father, always beating on him whenever he lost a tournament.”

Madie frowned, her mind racing with questions. Was it true that the Hulk’s cruelty stemmed from a lifetime of abuse? Or was it simply a rumor spread by frightened townsfolk desperate to make sense of his reign of terror?

One thing was for certain—there was no denying the darkness that lurked within the Hulk’s heart. His actions spoke louder than any words, his enjoyment of others’ pain a chilling testament to his ruthless nature.

As Madie continued her search for shoes, a sense of unease settled over her. The Central Bobcats may have ruled the school with fear and intimidation, but Madie refused to let their reign go unchallenged. She may not have been afraid of much, but the Hulk was a force to be reckoned with—one that she wasn’t sure she was ready to face.

Journal Entry 5

Journal Entry 5

I went to the market plaza today to see if I could find a pair of new shoes (old shoes). The ones I have are coming apart at the seams. My feet wouldn’t fit into any of the shoes. I guess I will wear these a little longer. While I was shopping, I overheard some people discussing the Central Bobcats. They are causing trouble all over town. I am not usually afraid of anything but the Hulk seriously worries me. He is so evil. People say he is that way because his father was always beating on him, especially if he lost a tournament. I don’t know if this is true or if it is just a rumor kids spread around to explain his meanness. I do know that he never seems to have remorse about his actions. He actually enjoys hurting people.

Tony looks bad

Tony looks bad

Marty removed the stethoscope from his ears. “Encourage fluids and keep him comfortable. There’s nothing else we can do.”

The news was grim, and Madie felt a surge of determination rise within her. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing her best friend, not now, not ever.

“I don’t care what it costs,” Madie declared firmly, her voice unwavering. “I don’t care who you have to bribe or what you have to steal. Tony can’t die. We won’t let him.”

With a nod of acknowledgment, Marty said,”The girls and I will do some research at the main library,”

Madie’s heart was heavy with worry. She knew that time was running out for Tony. With a heavy sigh, she retrieved her diary from the crate next to Tony’s cot, her thoughts swirling with fear and uncertainty.

“I’m going to get some sleep,” Madie announced, her voice tinged with exhaustion. “If anything changes, wake me.”

As she made her way down the dimly lit hallway toward her room, Madie’s mind drifted toward the promise of slumber. Fatigue weighed heavily on her limbs, and she walked with her eyes half-closed, lost in a haze of exhaustion.

But her journey was abruptly interrupted when she stumbled into the water fountain, her knee colliding painfully with the unforgiving metal. “God dammit!” Madie exclaimed, her frustration bubbling to the surface as she rubbed her wounded knee.

Feeling disoriented and irritable, Madie’s attention was drawn to the community bulletin board nearby. Her eyes landed on the fliers Evan and JT had posted, the words “Fall Festival” in bold red letters across the top.

If circumstances were different, Madie might have felt a surge of excitement at the prospect of the upcoming festival. It was a cherished tradition in Bear Country, a time when the community came together to celebrate and set aside their differences.

Lost in her thoughts, Madie failed to notice JT’s approach until he spoke, his voice startling her.

“Are you going?” JT inquired innocently, reaching out to touch Madie’s shoulder.

Startled by the unexpected contact, Madie reacted instinctively, spinning around and throwing a punch before realizing who it was.

“Hey! It’s me!” JT exclaimed, ducking to avoid another blow.

Feeling a wave of embarrassment wash over her, Madie apologized profusely, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, JT. I didn’t mean to.”

JT waved off her apology, his tone lighthearted despite the unexpected assault. “It’s okay. No harm done.”

As they both turned their attention back to the flier, Madie couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the upcoming festival. “I love Fall Festival, don’t you?” she asked, her voice filled with genuine enthusiasm.

“Yeah,” JT agreed, glancing at his watch and realizing he was late. “I gotta go. See you later, Madie. And no more sneak attacks, okay?”

Madie nodded, watching as JT hurried off to meet Evan. As she turned her attention back to the flier, a glimmer of hope flickered in her heart. Perhaps, amidst the chaos and uncertainty, there was still room for a moment of joy and celebration.

Journal Entry 6

Journal Entry 6

We moved Tony from the basement up to the admin hallway. He is not doing well. His eye seems to be better but his stomach is extremely bloated and painful to the touch. He isn’t holding any food down but we are insisting that he drink water. People die from dehydration. Marty, Gretchen and Cecilia have headed out to the main library to do some research on Tony’s condition. With any luck, they will come back with some answers on what we should do to help him. In the mean time, the kids are taking turns sitting with Tony and trying to keep him comfortable.

Queen of the Gutter-rats

Queen of the Gutter-rats

Dressed in over-sized clothes she found discarded on the streets, Sam was “Queen of the gutter-rats”. The girl could locate, find and steal anything.

“Ssshhh!! “ Sam raised a finger to her mouth. “Stay behind me, don’t make any noise.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea? The serpents will kill us if they find us.” Runt asked as his eyes darted from one side of the rubble to the other. He had only been inside the mall plaza once before and things didn’t end well for his two traveling companions.

“Do you want medicine for Tony or not?” Sam inquired as she squeezed between the rubble.

“Yes… Are you sure there’s not a safer place to steal from?”

Sam rolled her eyes at The Runt, “Nope, quit being a baby.”

“I’m not a baby!” Runt said in protest.

“Sssshhh! Be quiet. If I die, I swear I’m comin back to kill you.”

Runt followed Sam as closely and quietly as he could. He tried to remember the direction they were traveling thru the corridors just in case he needed to make a quick escape.

The Pharmacist dealt in hard to find drugs and other deadly concoctions meant to kill. Most of the drugs he dispensed were to junkies looking for an escape from their sad lives. Sam knew the Pharmacist also had a supply of expired antibiotics. She also knew where he kept them but first she needed a diversion.


Runt coughed over and over again as they exited the building. “..you started a fire in there. We could’ve both died!!”

Sam rolled her eyes as she tossed Runt a bag of pills. “You’re welcome…I hate to steal and run but I gotta be somewhere else.”

Runt tucked the bag of pills into his shirt. “Sam wait! Thanks!”

“No problem…hey, meet me at the park at sundown. I know where there’s candy for the takin.”

Runt waved goodbye and ran toward his bike hidden behind a plaza dumpster. He didn’t notice Xavier’s goons looking for prey until it was too late.

Xavier enjoyed the thrill of cage fighting but his collection of combatants and practice kill was quickly diminishing. Replacements were needed. Runt was a bit small but size didn’t matter for the warm-up rounds

Journal Entry 7

Journal Entry 7

Tony is getting worse and Runt is missing. I couldn’t find him anywhere this morning. He didn’t show for breakfast. His bike is also missing. He is too little to be out in the city alone. It would be disastrous if the Central Bobcats caught him. Lisa took over sitting with Tony after Runt. She said he was obviously upset and mentioned something about finding medicine to help. If I thought medicine was available, I would have been the first person to go and find some.
Unfortunately, finding medicine for even the common cold is just not possible. Survivors emptied out the pharmacies long ago. You can occasionally come across something to barter but there is no guarantee that what you are bartering for is actually in the bottle. The only time medicine appears on the market is when some desperate soul is trying to save a dying loved one. People have sold their souls for medicine and it turn out to be nothing at all. Some awful concoction someone has put together. Matt and Jonas volunteered to go and look for Runt. I would have gone but I have things that need my attention here.

Meeting to Elect a Sheriff

Meeting to Elect a Sheriff

After the world governments through the world into chaos, surviving the madness was nearly an impossible struggle. Death was everywhere. Attempting to survive alone was practically a death sentence. The smart ones quickly joined a tribe or a gang and made alliances.

Madie never considered the children living in Bear Country a gang, although by definition a gang is exactly what they were. Madie considered everyone living in the school her extended family. A loud, annoying and sometimes dysfunctional extended family.

It was easy to distinguish one local group from another. Your clothing, your hair and your tattoos let everyone know your  affiliation. The Red Hyenas wore black and sported red Mohawks. The Central Bobcats wore gray and kept their heads shaved. The Blue Monarchs wore black mini-skirts and walked around with giant blue wings in their hair. Nearly everyone that lived in the school displayed a bear tattoo of their own choosing. The tattoo gave everyone a feeling of pride and unity. Madie sported a bear tattoo on her left shoulder.

In the beginning, the pavilion was a blank space with a couple of tables and a few chairs. As the years passed, the area evolved into a sacred chapel, a place of inspiration. The children covered the walls and pylons with pictures, banners and posters of bears. It wasn’t unusual to find someone sitting alone in the center of the pavilion praying or meditating by candle light. As Madie waited for her friends to arrive, she walked around the perimeter admiring the decorations. One newly placed poster in particular caught her attention. She stopped to stare at its uniqueness and beauty.

Madie greeted everyone with “Good afternoon”. It didn’t take long for the vacant pavilion to fill with people. The empty chairs filled first. By the time, everyone had arrived there wasn’t a vacant seat left. Late stragglers sat on the floor.

Madie jumped on her milk crate and gave a loud whistle to quiet everyone down. The room dropped to a dead silence.

“Thanks for coming,” she said with a smile. “Is everyone ready to elect a Sheriff for Bear Country? “



The first birth Madie ever witnessed was a horrific tragedy. The event left her scarred. The streets of town resembled a war zone. Populated by rats the size of a house cat, the park where she played as a child had become a landfill of dead bodies. Like a wild animal, she scavenged for food; to help ease the pain in her stomach she sometimes stole food from the hands of others.

At night, Madie found a place to hide but never in the same place twice. Sleep didn’t come easy; she hated the dark. Horrible monsters lived in the dark.

Almost daily, the local tribes and gangs committed senseless brutality. Dragged into the street the soon-to-be-dead always kicked and screamed. Their cries for help and mercy ignored. Afraid for her own life, Madie hid, closed her eyes, covered her ears and prayed she wouldn’t be next.

On this particular day, Madie was exhausted, tired and hungry. The Red Hyenas were hunting and Madie was their prey. Already caught but released during a game of cat and mouse, she ran into an alley and hid in a crawl space. From somewhere in the damp darkness, she hears a young girl say “Help me, please!”

Madie’s first reaction was to flee but she couldn’t the Red Hyenas were in the alley. “Shhh…Be quiet!” she begged in a whisper. The girl answered the pleas for quiet with moans of agony.

“Sssshh, please they’ll hear you!” Madie peeked into the alleyway. The hyenas were fighting amongst themselves as they searched for her amongst the garbage. The lead boy wasn’t happy Madie escaped.

Fearing the hyenas would hear the moaning and cries for help, Madie crawled deeper into the darkness and demanded the girl be quiet. “Please! Shut up!” What she saw terrifying; blood was everywhere and the smell nauseating.
Please…oh please, help me!” The girl cried as she reached for the blood-covered infant lying in the mud.

Madie stared in horror and scooted back against the far wall. She prayed in a whisper, “please don’t let the baby cry, please don’t let the baby cry!” If the baby cried, the Red Hyenas would find her.

Several hours later, Madie ventured back out into the alley. The girl and her baby both died in the dark.
Casey had been in and out of labor for several days. She was exhausted, afraid and now drenched in fluid. The baby was coming. Casey knocked on Madie’s door around 2am. Attempting not to panic or look worried, she woke Gretchen, and Cecelia. The three of them changed Casey’s clothes and put her into a clean bed. After reassuring Casey, everything would be fine; Madie woke Evan and JT and sent the boys on an errand to find a mid-wife. The boys returned in less than half an hour with a girl named Lizzy.

By mid-morning, Casey was in hard labor. Her screams of agony resonated through the halls of the school. Madie put on a happy face and reassured everyone, Casey and her baby would be fine. She kept the fears swirling around in her head to herself. She had seen tragedy. She knew what could go wrong.

There were moments Madie feared Casey wouldn’t have the strength to push her baby into the world. With every contraction Lizzy, Gretchen and Cecelia would yell, “Push Casey… Push!”

At 3:07pm, the baby arrived. After a few slaps on her butt and a rough rub with a towel, the tiny infant let out a loud wonderful cry.

Journal Entry 8

Journal Entry 8

It has been a long day. Matt and Jonas have still not returned with Runt. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Runt is doing fine and that the Central Bobcats didn’t catch him. Tony was his best friend, is his best friend. Speaking of Tony, he is still recovering. We are still taking turns looking after him. He is not taking in many fluids but his color is improving slightly. We held elections today for Sheriff. Sheriff Pete will take over as the man in charge of security. He has started looking for people to fill the deputy sheriff positions. I need to put a Thank you in the Bear News for everyone that helped in the middle of the night. I suppose I could give you some good news. Casey finally delivered her baby. Her labor lasted for days. She was in labor, then she wasn’t, she was in labor then she wasn’t. I felt bad for her because she was in constant pain. Everything turned out fine in the end. Mom and baby are doing well. As soon as Casey is up to it, we are going to have a naming ceremony. The ceremony usually occurs about two weeks after the baby’s birth that will put it around the end of the month.

A long walk

A long walk

Madie stood at the edge of her old neighborhood, her heart heavy with memories of a time long gone. The streets were littered with debris, the once vibrant houses now mere shells of their former selves. But amidst the decay, one house looked decent, a relic of Madie’s past.

Hidden behind a pile of trash, Madie watched from afar as the new owners of her childhood home went about their daily routines. She couldn’t help but wonder if they had changed things inside, if her father’s tools still lay in the shed or if her mother’s sewing machine still occupied its corner in the kitchen. And beneath it all, a haunting question lingered in Madie’s mind: were her parents’ bodies still hidden beneath the blue tarp in the backyard?

The longing to return to her old room, to find solace in the familiar surroundings, tugged at Madie’s heartstrings. But she knew it was a longing she could never fulfill, a dream shattered by the harsh reality of the world.

After her parents’ deaths, the neighborhood had become a breeding ground for street gangs, their presence casting a dark shadow over the once peaceful streets. Nighttime was a time of terror for Madie, as she huddled beneath her blankets, praying that the monsters lurking outside wouldn’t discover her existence.

Most of the homes in the neighborhood stood empty, abandoned by their owners who had fled in the wake of the chaos. In a desperate bid to survive, Madie resorted to breaking into these vacant houses, scavenging for scraps to ease her hunger pains. But even the simple act of finding food was fraught with danger, as people fought and killed over the most meager of resources.

As the weeks passed, the street gangs grew bolder, their grip on the neighborhood tightening with each passing day. Traveling alone became a perilous endeavor, as Madie found herself navigating the treacherous streets without the protection of friends or fellow gang members. In order to survive, she left her neighborhood to find a quieter existence.

Journal Entry 9

Journal Entry 9

I forgot to take my journal with me yesterday. I went for a walk, a long walk. Went by my old home and someone was living there. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It has a very homey feel. I wanted to run up to the people living there and say “get out this is my home.” I didn’t, I just stood there. I stood there for a long time until my stomach said it was time to eat. I said goodbye to my home and went looking for food.

Update, Tony is getting better. He is still sore and bruised but he isn’t dead. This is a good thing because without him Bear country
just wouldn’t be the same. As for Runt, he is still missing. I am beginning to think we will never see him again. It has been days and
he is so little.



Casey sat on the edge of the bed, her body weary and her mind a whirlwind of emotions. Cradled in her arms was her newborn daughter, a tiny bundle of innocence amidst the chaos of the world. She couldn’t help but marvel at the sight of the sleeping baby, her heart overflowing with love and concern for the future that lay ahead.

“Please stay healthy and strong,” Casey whispered softly, her voice barely more than a breath as she gazed down at her daughter’s peaceful face. She couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to the precious life she held in her arms.

A small smile tugged at the corners of Casey’s lips as she noticed the resemblance between the baby and her father. It brought a flicker of warmth to her heart, a reminder of the love that still existed amidst the turmoil of her life. Yet, beneath the surface, a hint of uncertainty lingered. Would her father be disappointed that the baby was a girl? The thought gnawed at Casey’s mind, threatening to overshadow the joy of her daughter’s arrival.

Leaving behind the chaos of Central had been a daunting decision for Casey, but she knew it was the right one. In Bear Country, she had found a sanctuary, a place where she could start anew and leave her troubled past behind. But the fear of being rejected if her connection to Central was exposed weighed heavily on her mind. She couldn’t risk losing everything she had worked so hard to build.

Exhaustion tugged at Casey’s bones, her body weary from the ordeal of childbirth. Hunger gnawed at her stomach, a reminder of her own needs that had been pushed aside in the rush of the moment. But despite the pain and exhaustion, sleep beckoned with irresistible allure. Casey knew she needed to rest, if only for a few precious moments.

With a gentle sigh, Casey eased herself back onto the bed, careful not to disturb the sleeping baby in her arms. She pulled the covers snugly around them both, seeking comfort in the warmth of the blankets. As sleep claimed her weary body, Casey held her daughter close, her heart filled with hope for a better tomorrow.

Journal Entry 10

Journal Entry 10

It rained all night long. I love the rain. I seem to sleep well
when it rains. It is going to be a busy day. I promised Casey I would
watch the baby a little while so that she can take care of herself. She is
the cutest baby. I hope Casey gets to enjoy her for a long time. I am
not so sure I would want to take on the responsibility of having a baby.
There are so many things to worry about. Babies don’t seem to do as
well as they used to. Medicines don’t exist. There are limited things
you can do when they get ill. No one talks about the things that can go
wrong. I wonder if Casey worries about the baby getting ill. I would

I saw Tony up walking around a little while ago. He was
walking toward the showers. It’s a good thing because he was starting
to smell bad. If he had been severely ill for much longer, it was going
to be a challenge to get people to sit with him.

The Bear News

The Bear News

The Bear News main office was located a couple blocks from the High School in an abandoned store front. Evan and JT took turns manning the office during the day.

Evan thumbed thru papers in the back office looking for a reference for a pending news article when the doorbell chimed indicating a customer had walked into the store. “Can I help you?” he called out as he continued to search for the allusive piece of paper. “I’ll be there in a second. Fill out the form on the desk if you can write.”

Recruiting the strongest men away from the other local gangs would ensure Hulk’s rise to power. Obsessed with building an army that would do his bidding, he sent two of his goons to the local paper to place an ad.

“Hello, is somebody there?” Evan said as he walked into the front room expecting to see a sad and lonely single person hoping to place a free personal ad in tomorrow’s paper. The two Central Bobcat goons were a surprise.

Relax, play it cool, he said to himself, “Uumm, how can I help you?”

One of the goons handed Evan a piece of paper, “Xavier wants this placed in your newspaper. He also wants posters displayed around town with the same message.”

Evan read the note. The Central Bobcats were recruiting for their gang.
As editor and chief of the paper Evan determined the final content placed in the Bear news. He had no desire to publish a recruitment ad for Xavier, the Hulk to build an army of bullies.

“This isn’t something we typically run in our paper and even if we did, it would be very costly to you. I don’t have the resources to print posters at the moment. We used all our card stock for the Fall Festival posters.” Evan handed the paper back to the guard. “Sorry!”

The goon reaches across the counter and grabs Evan by his shirt. “We aren’t payin! And if you don’t put this in your newspaper, we will burn the place down with you inside!”

Evan didn’t like being strong armed into doing something he felt strongly against. He also didn’t want to die. “It’s going to take a while to acquire the ink and poster paper needed for this project.” Hoping to avoid a beating he added. ”Give me a few days. I’ll need to come up with funds and contact my supplier.”

The goon releases Evan with such strong force he stumbles backward and falls to the floor behind the counter, “You’ve got three days!” He tosses the note down to Evan. “Three days and we will be back.”

Evan breathed a sigh of relief as he hears the door chime indicating the Central goons vacated his business. A couple minutes later JT returns from his assignment, unaware the Central Bobcats had paid a visit.

“You would not believe who was just here!” Evan said as he walked around the counter. “The Central Bobcats want us to place a recruitment ad in the paper….and they want posters placed around town.” Evan hands the note to JT.

JT reads the note, “Hell NO! We are not recruiting for the Central Bobcats.”

“They said they would burn the Bear News down with me in it if we didn’t comply with their request. I told them we didn’t have the card stock for the posters and that we would have to come up with funds and contact our supplier. I bought us three days. Any ideas? ”

“We could always notify the Constable. Maybe his posse could give us some protection.” It was the only idea JT could think of and it didn’t sound realistic in the long run but he threw it out there.

Evan shook head, “We’re screwed. If we don’t place the ad in our paper Xavier and his goons will burn us out. If we do place the ad everyone in the community is going to think Bear Country is friends with Xavier and his thugs. We need to talk to Madie.”

Journal Entry 11

Journal Entry 11

The Journal Club has finished with the flyers for the up and
coming festival. Evan and J.T. have done a wonderful job again. It
amazes me how creative they can be. They will be distributing the
flyers around town today. The festival is the one time of the year when
everyone gets together and has a good time. We forget about our
sorrows and pain and enjoy ourselves. I am a little worried about the
Central Bobcats. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t cause
any trouble. Sheriff Pete is working on obtaining people for security of
the festivities. It is going to be a challenge for him. He is asking for
help from around the community.

I heard Lisa practicing her guitar this morning and singing. She
has such a beautiful voice. She usually tries to sing happy songs but
sometimes you can hear a little sadness in her voice. She keeps the sad
songs to herself. No one bothers her when she goes to the roof to sing
and play. I am not sure if she knows that we can still hear her up there.
It’s her place of solitude, so we leave her alone.

Sing a song with Lisa

Sing a song with Lisa

The late afternoon sun cast a warm glow over the rooftop of Bear Country High School as Lisa carefully unfolded the chair tucked against the wall. A gentle breeze ruffled her hair as she settled into her familiar spot, the melody of a song swirling in her mind like a delicate wisp of smoke.

Lisa wasn’t one to dwell on sadness, despite the melancholy undertones that often permeated her music. Instead, she found solace in the rhythm, the beats that pulsed through her veins and stirred something deep within her soul. Each lyric she penned was a reflection of the world around her, a testament to the highs and lows of life in Bear Country.

The rooftop had become Lisa’s sanctuary, a haven where she could lose herself in the music without the distractions of the world below. Here, amidst the tranquil expanse of the open sky, she felt free to let her thoughts and creativity flow unencumbered.

As she strummed her guitar and sang, her voice carried across the rooftop, mingling with the gentle hum of the city below. The students of Bear Country High School often gathered to listen, their smiles and applause a balm for Lisa’s weary soul. In those moments, she felt a glimmer of hope, a reminder that even in the midst of darkness, there was still light to be found.

Though she longed to mend the brokenness that plagued her community, Lisa took comfort in the small moments of connection and positivity she shared through her music. For in those moments, she knew that her songs had the power to uplift and inspire, to remind others that they were not alone in their struggles.

And so, as the sun dipped below the horizon and the stars began to twinkle overhead, Lisa continued to strum her guitar, her melodies weaving a tapestry of hope and resilience in the fading light. For even in the darkest of nights, her music would shine brightly, a beacon of light in a world filled with shadows.

Journal Entry 12

Journal Entry 12

I feel so bad. No one told Tony that Runt was missing. I was
updating the bulletin board in the admin hallway when Tony asked me
where Runt was. I just stood there and stared at him. I finally told him
that I was sorry. Runt had been missing for days. I tried to explain to
Tony why we think Runt left. That he left to find medicine and that
Jonas and Matt went looking for him.

Tony was so angry that he yelled at me for being irresponsible. He said I should have been more reliable and that it’s my fault if Runt is dead. I don’t blame him for yelling at me. We should have told Tony that Runt was missing sooner.
Runt was not my primary responsibility. He just appeared on
our doorstep one day, dirty and hungry. Tony became is friend. Tony
is the one who took care of him. This is going to sound stupid but I
honestly didn’t realize that I should have been taking care of Runts
needs while Tony was ill. I just assumed that everyone took care of
everyone. I have a tremendous amount of responsibility around here. I
try to make sure that life around Bear Country runs smoothly and most
of the time it does.

The Cage Fights

The Cage Fights

In the dimly lit gymnasium of Central Bobcat High School, Xavier, known to all as The Hulk, held court on his makeshift throne, encircled by his loyal crew of goons. Their eyes were fixated on the cage fights unfolding before them, the atmosphere thick with tension and anticipation.

For Xavier and his goons, these fights weren’t just a pastime; they were a vital part of their strategy to assert dominance over the community. If Xavier harbored any hopes of extending his influence beyond the school walls, he knew his crew needed to be battle-ready at all times. And besides, there was no denying the twisted thrill they derived from watching the chaos unfold in the cage.

The sight of frightened kids being thrown into the pit, their pleas for mercy falling on deaf ears, sent a shiver of excitement down Xavier’s spine. Yet, beneath his veneer of callous indifference, Xavier was a strategic thinker. He ensured that when the stakes were high, his enemies faced off against his own crew. After all, he couldn’t afford to risk the safety of his top fighters. Building an army required strength and resilience, qualities Xavier’s crew possessed in abundance.

But amidst the adrenaline-fueled chaos of the fights, there was one figure who lingered in the shadows, the Runt slouched in the back of the cage, his small frame overshadowed by the larger children around him.

The Runt had no desire to prove his worth in the cage fights. He had spent his life avoiding confrontation, preferring to blend into the background rather than draw attention to himself. As he watched the mayhem unfold before him, a sense of dread gnawed at his insides. He prayed that he wouldn’t be chosen as the next participant, knowing all too well that he lacked the skills to survive in such a brutal arena.

For The Runt, escape was his only goal. He longed to return to the safety of Bear Country High School, far away from the violence and chaos that consumed Central Bobcat gang. The prospect of fighting in the cage was a nightmare he couldn’t bear to contemplate, a fate he would do anything to avoid. And so, as the fights raged on around him, The Runt plotted his escape, determined to break free from the shadows of the cage and reclaim his freedom.

Journal Entry 13

Journal Entry 13

I woke up early this morning. I didn’t sleep very well last
night. I kept thinking about what Tony said to me yesterday. By the
way, he is now avoiding me. I tried to talk to him this morning but he
wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. To get my mind off things I
went to the plaza to see if I could find another pair of shoes. No shoes,

but I did run in to a kid with a very well trained dog. They were doing
some amazing tricks and entertaining the crowd. The dog listened so
well. Then a couple of Central goons showed up. They enjoy causing
trouble and as usual, they did. They started tossing trash at the dog and
pushing around his owner. I wanted to see the dog eat one of them.
They would have deserved it. Unfortunately, the dog was well trained
and didn’t attack but he did display an impressive display of I am
going to eat your heart out if you don’t leave my owner alone.

With help from the crowd, the Central goons crawled away in
disgrace. I can feel trouble in the air. The Central Bobcats continue to
make life difficult. I heard that the Hulk is recruiting goons. I need to
organize a meeting with the town leaders to see if we can do
something about Central. Unfortunately, people are getting more and
more afraid. People like to look the other way when it doesn’t involve
them. I have a feeling this is going to involve the whole town soon.

The Central Bobcats terrorize the town

The Central Bobcats terrorize the town

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting long shadows across the streets of Bear Country, a sense of unease settled over the town. Xavier, better known as “the Hulk,” and his gang of goons prowled the streets like wolves, their presence striking fear into the hearts of the townsfolk.

Among them, a boy named Alex pedaled his bike down the familiar lanes, the wind tousling his hair as he enjoyed the last moments of daylight. But little did he know, he was about to cross paths with the most feared figures in town.

As Alex rounded a corner, he found himself face to face with Xavier and his crew. The air grew tense as the goons blocked his path, their intimidating presence suffocating. Without a word, they grabbed Alex’s bike, wrenching it from his grasp before he could even react.

“Hey, that’s mine!” Alex protested, but his cries were drowned out by the barks of laughter from the goons. With a swift shove, they sent him crashing to the ground, his cries for help lost in the shuffle of their cruel amusement.

To Alex’s dismay, the passersby on the sidewalk averted their gazes, hurrying past as if they hadn’t witnessed a thing. It was as if they were too afraid to stand up to Xavier and his gang, preferring to bury their heads in the sand rather than confront the tyranny that gripped their town.

The atmosphere in Bear Country had shifted, tainted by the looming presence of the Central Goons. Fear hung heavy in the air, driving people to avoid the streets altogether, lest they become the next target of Xavier’s aggression. No one was safe from their reign of terror, not even the most innocent among them.

Xavier and his goons grew bolder, their actions becoming more brazen as they seized whatever they desired with reckless abandon. Their disregard for the consequences left a trail of devastation in their wake, leaving the once vibrant community shrouded in fear and despair.

Journal Entry 14

Journal Entry 14

Tony is still avoiding me. He won’t look at me. He won’t talk
to me. He will not enter if I am in a room. I wish I knew what to say. I
have tried to apologize. I have never seen him this angry with anyone
before. I don’t know what to do. The cold shoulder he is giving me is
breaking my heart. I keep hoping that Runt will walk thru the front

Journal Entry 15

Journal Entry 15

Central continues to cause trouble. I went to the Plaza today
with Matt and Jonas. The streets are crazy. People are missing. No
proof but the word is that the Central Bobcats are behind the
disappearances. I knew Central was recruiting older males, large males
of substantial build but the missing are young boys. Apparently, four
young boys have disappeared in four days. Took Matt and Jonas,
collected a few community leaders, and went over to the Central
campus. We were hoping that the Hulk (as we enduringly call him)
might be able to help us. Let us know where the boys are. His goons
wouldn’t let us thru the front door. Apparently, the Hulk is busy with
Central Bobcat business and can’t be disturbed. We tried to force our
way in but the goons guarding the entrance had lethal weapons we
weren’t prepared to deal with at that moment in time. We left a
message. This whole thing with Central is getting on my nerves.

Journal Entry 16

Journal Entry 16

I held a meeting with the community leaders of the larger
gangs that are allies with Bear Country. I love community meetings.
No, actually, I don’t but sometimes they are a necessity. I am not a
very good diplomat. I have trouble hiding my emotions. I always turn
a bright shade of red when I get flustered. What I hate the most is that
these meetings always end up loud and noisy. Getting everyone to
agree is always a challenge but I think we have a workable plan. All
the gang leaders have agreed that getting someone inside the Bobcat

campus is a necessity. Bear Country will have to get someone inside
but first we have to find out what kind of security the Hulk has in
place so that we can get information out once we are inside.

I went to see Tony after the meeting. He is still angry with me.
At first, he pretending to be working on something and ignored that I
was even standing in the same room. I said I was sorry and that if I
could bring back Runt I would. I said I needed his friendship. He thru
a wrench across the room (It barely missed my head) and he said I wasn’t
a very good friend. A friend is someone you can count on. Someone
you can depend on. I said, “I was dependable.” He said I wasn’t. He
said I should have kept a closer eye on Runt. Perhaps he was right. I
should have kept a closer eye on the little guy. However, honestly, I
can’t be everywhere at once. I have a great deal of responsibility. I
would have done my best to look after Runt if Tony had died. We all
would have looked after him. It’s what we do in Bear Country. We
look after each other. No one could have prevented Runt from leaving
if he wanted to leave. No one is under lock and key.
Tony went back to what ever it was he was working on and I
left the room. I said I really was sorry.

The Secret Spot

The Secret Spot

Tony, Matt, Jonas, and Madie huddled together behind the rusted remains of a forgotten playground, their voices hushed as they discussed their plan.

“We need to find a spot where we can pass messages without anyone noticing,” Tony said, his brow furrowed in concentration.

Jonas nodded in agreement. “Somewhere easily accessible but out of sight.”

Central High School Campus sprawled before them, a maze of crumbling buildings and overgrown pathways. It was a stark contrast to their familiar Bear Country High School.

“Definitely not as cozy as our old school,” Madie remarked, her eyes scanning the desolate landscape.

Tony chuckled. “No kidding. But we’ll make do.”

They set off, weaving their way through the deserted corridors of Central. Despite its size, they soon discovered that there were pockets of emptiness scattered throughout the campus, hidden from prying eyes.

“Looks like the guards stick to the main areas,” Matt observed, ducking behind a row of abandoned lockers.

Jonas nodded. “That works in our favor.”

After what felt like hours of exploration, they stumbled upon the perfect spot—a secluded courtyard tucked away behind the art building. It was overgrown with ivy and littered with fallen leaves, but it offered the privacy they desperately needed.

“This is it,” Tony declared, a triumphant grin spreading across his face.

Madie nodded in agreement. “It’s perfect.”

With their secret spot secured, they set to work devising a system for passing messages back and forth. They agreed on a series of signals and codes, ensuring that their communications would remain undetected by the watchful eyes of the guards.

As they finalized their plans, a sense of determination washed over them. Despite the challenges ahead, they knew that as long as they had each other, they could face anything Central High School threw their way.

Journal Entry 17

Journal Entry 17

Tony stopped by my room in the admin hallway. He said he
wanted to help. I guess this is his way of saying he is sorry for being
mad at me.

It’s been a long night. Tony, Matt, Jonas and I (under the cover
of darkness) went to the Central campus. There was a lot of activity
even at the hour that we were snooping. The guards seem to all be
visible. No need to hide, the size of these people would keep most
people away. Of course, we don’t know exactly what is going on
inside. We snuck around the entire campus. No one seemed to be
guarding the east end backside of the building. The door was even
unlocked. We went inside. The classrooms in this hallway were all
locked and empty. At least the rooms we peaked into were empty.
Things seemed a little too easy. Feeling uncomfortable with the ease
that we entered we decided to quietly leave. Ok, we can get in. Which
means we should be able to get information to each other? The next
step is to get someone into the Bobcat gang.

The Agriculture Club

The Agriculture Club

Jake, Maya, and Ethan surveyed the sorry state of their crops at the back of Bear Country High School. The bug infestation was getting worse by the day, and they knew they needed all the help they could get from their fellow residents to rescue as much food as possible.

Maya, the determined and organized leader of the Agriculture Club, gathered the four volunteers who had shown up to help. She divided the tasks efficiently, assigning each person to a specific area of the garden.

“Alright, Tommy, you’re on pest control duty,” Maya instructed, pointing to a tall, lanky boy with a determined look in his eyes. “Samantha, you and Joey focus on weeding out the dead plants and put everything in the compost bins. And Emily, you’ll help Ethan with collecting the fruits and vegetables that can be used.”

Ethan, the practical and caring member of the group, chimed in, “Remember to drink water and take breaks when you need them. But we can’t afford to dawdle. If we don’t save as many plants as possible, we’ll be trading with other gangs just to avoid starving.”

Jake, the resourceful and thoughtful one, distributed the few sets of gloves they had salvaged from the school’s storage rooms. “Make sure to return these at the end of your shift,” he reminded everyone. “Other people will need them too.”

Maya added, her voice firm but kind, “And don’t forget about canning. We need to preserve as much of the harvest as we can. We’ll start in the evening, and we still need volunteers. Spread the word, and I’ll put up a message on the admin hall bulletin board.”

With a nod from Maya, the volunteers dispersed, ready to tackle their assigned tasks and spread the word about the upcoming canning session. Despite the challenges they faced, Jake, Maya, and Ethan remained determined to save their crops and ensure the survival of their community at Bear Country High School.

Canning beans with Maya

Canning beans with Maya

Maya stood before her group of volunteers, a sense of purpose radiating from her as she prepared to guide them through the process of canning green beans.

“Alright, everyone,” Maya began, her voice steady and confident. “Canning green beans isn’t too complicated, but it’s important to follow each step carefully to ensure the food stays safe to eat.”

Madie watched from the sidelines, her admiration for Maya growing with each passing moment. She had never realized the extent of Maya’s knowledge and resourcefulness, nor the hidden treasures within Bear Country.

“First,” Maya continued, “we need to prepare the beans. Make sure they’re washed and trimmed, removing any blemishes or tough ends.”

The volunteers nodded, listening intently as Maya demonstrated the process. Madie couldn’t help but marvel at Maya’s expertise. She had been eating the food grown and preserved by the Agriculture Club without ever truly understanding the effort and skill behind it.

“Once the beans are ready,” Maya instructed, “we’ll blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes to preserve their color and texture.”

Madie listened intently at Maya’s instructions. She didn’t want to make a mistake in the process.

“After blanching,” Maya continued, “we’ll pack the beans tightly into sterilized jars, leaving a little space at the top. Then, we’ll cover them with boiling water and seal the jars tightly.”

Madie listened to Maya, suddenly realizing just how much she had underestimated the members of the Agriculture Club. They were not just residents of Bear Country; they were heroes, keeping their community fed and thriving in the face of adversity.

“Finally,” Maya concluded, “we’ll process the jars in a boiling water bath for the specified time to kill any bacteria and ensure the beans stay fresh.”

Madie nodded in understanding, grateful for Maya’s expertise and leadership. As the she and the other volunteers set to work, Madie couldn’t help but feel a sense of hope for the future of Bear Country High School.

Journal Entry 18

Journal Entry 18

There are days and then there are days. Matt and Jonas fought
at the plaza today. It was awful. Both boys were injured. They both
had bloody lips, cuts and bruises. A couple of venders are going to
have to rebuild after Matt and Jonas crashed thru their kiosks.

It didn’t take long for a crowd to develop. People began to cheer for one or the
other. It always annoys me that people encourage fights. You would
think that the proper thing to do would be to stop the fight but not in
this town.

Any way, as the fight grew in intensity a couple of the Hulk’s goons from the Central campus arrived. They just stood back and watched. I am not surprised. The fight ended as Matt pinned Jonas to the pavement. Some words exchanged that I would rather not repeat. Then Matt released Jonas and stood up. Jonas struggled to his feet. He yelled at his brother that they were no longer brothers. I wanted to cry.

After the show, the crowd dispersed as quickly as it formed except for the Central goons. They were interested in Matt. I wasn’t close enough to hear the conversation, but Matt left with the enemy.

Journal Entry 19

Journal Entry 19

Jonas limped back to Bear Country. He didn’t say a lot when
he got back. I cleaned up his wounds and made him something to eat.
He didn’t eat much. I am not sure if it was because of his physical
injuries or because of the mental anguish I am sure he feels. The whole
thing was just incredibly sad. I find it hard to think about one without
the other. Matt and Jonas have always done everything together.

Journal Entry 20

Journal Entry 20

I have such a headache. Probably stress. The preparation for
the naming ceremony is going well. Casey is getting so excited and the
baby seems to be thriving. Casey is also doing well. Plans for the
festival also continues. We have had several responses from several of
the local gangs who wish to participate. The same gangs come year
after year. I can’t wait; we need some diversion, some fun. My brain is
tired. What else can I tell you? Oh, I know, Jonas is climbing the
walls. We still have not heard from Matt since he defected over to the
Central Bobcats. I hope he is safe and not taking any unnecessary

Journal Entry 21

Journal Entry 21

A message was sent to me from Matt sent a message to me. He is inside the Central campus, and it sounds as if he is doing fine. His letter read,


Just checking in to see how everyone’s holding up, especially Jonas. Please let him know I feel bad about his eye—I lost my balance during that last scuffle. And my chin should be back to normal in a day or two.

I’ve managed to explore most of Central campus, but some areas are seriously guarded. On the bright side, tell Tony I’ve spotted the Runt; saw him earlier today. It’s rough, though—he’s enslaved. Haven’t had a chance to chat with him yet. They keep those guys under lock and key, only letting them out for work.

Pretty sure the other lost boys are around too. Wrestling’s a huge deal here; people are constantly throwing down challenges. I’ve been flying under the radar so far ’cause I’m not gunning for rank. The higher-ups get all the perks—better food, more privileges. Not my scene.

Hopefully, I’ll be back home soon.

Catch you later, Matt

So that was his letter.


Sneaking into Central

Sneaking into Central

Sheriff Pete and Tony crept through the shadows of the Central Campus, their steps muffled by the thick layer of dust that coated the ground. They exchanged wary glances as they approached the designated note drop, a dimly lit alley behind one of the crumbling buildings.

Tony reached out a hand, snagging a crumpled piece of paper from beneath a loose brick. “Another note from Matt,” he muttered, his voice barely above a whisper.

Sheriff Pete unfolded the note, his eyes scanning the hastily scrawled words. “Seems like our boy’s been busy,” he remarked, a frown creasing his brow.

“Not everyone is happy with the way the Hulk runs the Central Campus,” Tony read aloud, his voice tinged with apprehension. “This is a good thing.”

Sheriff Pete nodded in agreement. “Sounds like Matt’s stirring up some trouble.”

The note continued, detailing Matt’s encounter with a breakfast-stealing bully that very morning. Tony’s eyes widened as he read about the knock-down fight that ensued, his admiration for Matt growing with each word.

“Looks like our boy knows how to hold his own,” Tony said, a proud smile playing at his lips.

Sheriff Pete grunted in approval. “That he does.”

But it wasn’t just Matt’s fighting skills that were making waves. He had made some unexpected allies, including a girl named Hemy who shared a similar disdain for the Hulk and his cronies.

“Hemy says there are people at Central who do not like the Hulk or his goons,” Tony relayed, his voice tinged with excitement. “Seems like Matt’s finding himself a little rebellion.”

Sheriff Pete nodded thoughtfully. “The Hulk and his inner circle may have most of the people here afraid, but there’s strength in numbers.”

The note painted a grim picture of life at Central, where fear and survival were the driving forces keeping its inhabitants in line. But amidst the oppression, there were those who found solace in the wrestling tournaments and the camaraderie they provided.

“Central reminds me of the stories I heard when I was young about the gladiators,” Tony mused, his mind drifting to tales of ancient battles and valiant warriors. “The guards force people to fight as the Hulk and his goons watch.”

Sheriff Pete’s jaw clenched at the thought of innocent lives being manipulated for the entertainment of others. “We need to put an end to this,” he declared, his resolve firm.

Tony nodded in agreement. “And we will. But first, we finish the takeover plan.”

As they folded the note and tucked it safely into their pockets, they made a silent vow to bring an end to the tyranny of the Hulk and his inner circle, no matter the cost.

Journal Entry 22

Journal Entry 22

I am having trouble sleeping. I seem to constantly worry about everything.
Last night was horrible; I couldn’t shut my mind off from thinking
about the day. I don’t like that Matt is inside the Central campus. I
don’t want him taking any unnecessary chances.

I am sure he will only do what is necessary, but I still worry about him. Tony is feeling a little happier. He is anxious about the Runt. It was difficult to convince him that he can’t just run over to the Central campus and get the Runt back. We
have a workable plan to get all the missing boys back. I think he
understands that if he ran over there and tried to take Runt back right
now the other missing boys could be in trouble. One-step at a time and we will get our friends back. Sheriff Pete is currently training his deputies. I think he is enjoying his new role as Sheriff. He walks differently, taller, I think.


Journal Entry 23

Journal Entry 23

Sheriff Pete and Tony retrieved another note from Matt.
Not everyone is happy with the way the Hulk runs the Central
Campus. This is a good thing. Matt got in an argument this morning
with someone trying to take his breakfast. The bully was trying to
prove to his pals that he was big and tough. Matt won the argument
after a knock down fight.
Matt made some friends. One in particular, a girl named Hemy.
She said that there are people at Central that do not like the Hulk or his
goons. The Hulk and his inner circle have most of the people who live
at Central afraid. Food and a place to sleep seem to be the strongest
reasons why people stay. Others stay because they enjoy the wrestling
tournaments and that way of life. Central reminds me of the stories I
heard when I was young about the gladiators. The guards force people
to fight as the Hulk and his goons watch. Matt said there are 10 goons
in the Hulks inter circle.

Journal Entry 24

Journal Entry 24

Met with the gang leaders and shared the notes from Matt. The
atmosphere in this meeting was calmer than the previous one. The
gang leaders shared their thoughts on how to proceed toward getting
rid of the Hulk and his goons. Everyone agreed that the Hulk was a
nuisance. The longer he stayed in town the stronger he was going to
get. We have all decided to band together in a show of force. A lot of
violence is expected. I gave the gang leaders the opportunity to back
out of the conflict if they found the risk was to great. No one withdrew his
or her gang. I will send a courier to inform Matt on how we plan to

Journal Entry 25

Journal Entry 25

Matt has sent word that he has received our plans. He had a
few suggestions that might make the take-over a little easier. The Hulk
has scheduled a wrestling match for tomorrow morning. The Hulk and
most of his goons will be present in the gym for the event. Having
everyone at the Central campus in the same location of the school will
make our attack easier. I am holding a final strategy meeting this
evening with the allied gang leaders.
Matt has made allies inside the Central campus among several
of the current residence that do not like the Hulk’s style of leadership.
This is good news. Allies inside will make the battle a little easier. I
am keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly and that
any injuries acquired will be minor.

Journal Entry 26

Journal Entry 26

It’s early and I have butterflies in my stomach. I want today to
go well. All the gangs have designated places to be around the Central
campus. Our attack will occur soon after the start of the wrestling
tournament. The gang leaders have agreed that we will only use the
force necessary to get the Hulk and his goons to leave Central. I am
keeping my fingers crossed that the violence doesn’t escalate into
something ugly. I don’t want to see anyone seriously injured,
especially those that are on our side.

Journal Entry 27

Journal Entry 27

Everyone that was going to participate in the take over at
the Central campus gathered in the admin hallway. No one said
anything at first. We just stood there looking at each other. Casey
asked me to deliver a note to a friend she once new at the Central
campus. I said I would do my best to deliver the note. With everyone
gathered, I gave everyone one more chance to back out.
The walk to Central was a quiet one, a few people chatted back
and forth trying to keep the mood a little less serious. I was so nervous
and afraid but I tried to look confident. I didn’t want the others to
know that I was scared.
I don’t know if the Hulk was expecting guest but he didn’t look
surprised when we entered the gym. He had a sort of welcome to the
festivities grin on his face. It was a little unnerving. There was a sharp
pain in the pit of my stomach as I announce to the Hulk that we were
demanding that he leave Central and the local area with his goons. The
room went silent. I felt as if I was beet red in the face. The Hulk stood
up from his chair. He said something sarcastic like “I’m sorry, have we met?”
Trying to sound confident, I told him who I was.
He said, “Look little lady I’m going to pretend that you and
your friends here haven’t disturbed my festivities. Just turn around and
walk away and I won’t have my goons beat you to a pulp.”
I took a deep breath and said, “We’re not leaving but you and
your goons can leave quietly or with a fight.”
The Hulk and his goons began to laugh. “You are no challenge
for us; you don’t have a chance…Prepare to Die!”
I puffed up my chest in a display of courage. “I didn’t come
alone; I brought a bunch of friends with me.” The gym filled with gang
members from around the community.