Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay


Zachary ran. He checked the time and saw that he had about twenty seconds before his class started. He raced through the halls, almost bumping into a teacher on the way. He turned the corner right as the bell rang. He ran into his class a second later. His teacher, Ms. Jefferson, looked at him and frowned.

“Late again,” she said. “That’s the third time this week. If you’re late one more time, you’ll have to stay after school.”

“Come on, really?” Zachary said. “You’re really going to count that as late when I was one second after the bell?”

“I don’t care if it was only one second. It’s still late.”

Zachary groaned and walked to his seat. He sat down next to Tony Fresko. He was pretty much the one kid that didn’t make Zachary want to leave Xi’an, China and never come back. Most kids talked about him like he was some weird kid with no friends. Well, it was true that he had no friends, but he wasn’t weird. People just never wanted to talk to him. There were rumors about him that had spread around the school. People thought he was some terrible kid that killed small animals, and even dogs, in his free time. Some people even went so far as to say that he wanted to release the FaremikaVirus, the disease that had wiped out the Middle East, as well as most of Africa. In science class, he had learned that the virus made the air a dark brown.

Tony, however, knew that people just said these things, and he knew they weren’t true. At least somebody didn’t think he was an animal killer trying to erase all life on earth.

An hour later, the bell rang, signaling the end of class. He walked out quickly to get back home. He walked to a bus stop and waited. He saw a man selling rou jia mo on the sidewalk. Zachary was hungry, but he had no money. He would have to get food at home.

After a few minutes of waiting, his bus pulled in to go home.

He arrived ten minutes later. His mother greeted him.

“Hey Zachary,” she said, “ how was your day?”

“It was ok,” he replied. “We just learned about the Chinese Civil war. Pretty boring.”

“Alright. Oh, by the way, we have guests coming over in an hour or so. I have to get ready for them.”

Zachary grabbed some chips and walked up into his room. He turned on the holographic screen on his desk to do his homework.  It took him almost an hour to finish.

Right as he finished, his mother called him down to meet the guests. He walked down and recognized the woman as Mrs. Chen, who happened to be a teacher at his school. There was a man with her, who Zachary assumed to be her husband.

They all said hello to each other and bowed.

“Zachary,” mother said, “ I just realized I forgot to buy lettuce. Could you please go grab some at the market?

“Ok, sure,” he replied. As he left, Mrs. Chen made a comment on how nice mother’s pottery was. 

He had to hurry because the store would close soon. When he got to the market, he didn’t see anybody inside. He opened the door and walked into a huge store filled with dark brown air.