Final Section

Illinois Voices won the third round, so here’s the thrilling conclusion:

 

Cassie smiled at the family. “I did have help. Do you want to know what it was?”

The kid bit her lip and nodded. Cassie held up the gem. “A rock?” the kid said. “That’s silly.”

Cassie laughed. “It probably seems that way. I can hardly believe it myself. But you know what? It did help me. And now, I want it to help you.”

Cassie let herself think about keeping the gem for just a minute. Think about what it would be like to hang onto her power. But then she handed it over to the little kid. The kid took it, then looked up at her mother. Her mother looked at Cassie. She said, “Thank you so much for saving us.”

Cassie smiled. “I’m just glad you’re safe.”

The kid said, “Hey hero lady, who do you think sent the robots?”

Cassie stopped smiling. She’d been so focused on protecting the family that she hadn’t even thought about that. “I have no idea,” she said. She kind of wished that she had the gem back.

The kid touched Cassie’s hand. “If they do come back, then we’ll use this rock, and we’ll kick their butts.”

Now Cassie laughed, and her laugh pushed away the anger and the fear that seeing the robots had brought. “I’m sure you will,” she said. She patted the kid’s hand and walked away. As it turns out, the force behind the robots did come back, but that’s a story for another day.

Third Chunk

What Cassie envisioned was all of the robots tipping over. What she envisioned more specifically was that she was the one making the robots tip over. It was strange, because, in her vision, she was moving too quickly for any of the robots to touch her, but she never was the fastest kid in gym class. The robots were moving at a decent speed, and the lasers would hit her if she tried to get too close to the robots.

Still, she wanted to try. Cassie wanted to keep the family in the car safe. The kids looked like they were crying by now. So, Cassie sighed, she picked up a stick, and she started running towards the robots, because she’d been carrying a stick in the vision. She followed her vision and ran as fast as she could towards the robots. To Cassie’s own surprise, she moved incredibly quickly. The first thing that she did was to jam the stick into the base of the robot that was smashing things. Its club started to swing, then it got stuck and recoiled backwards quickly. When it recoiled, the club swung back and hit the laser robot. The laser robot tipped. Some of the pipes fired lasers into the sky, but many of the pipes also fired into the ground, which split open. That made the laser robot tip even further, falling all the way over.

When that happened, the laser robot fell into one of the saw robot’s saws. The saw tore through the laser robot, but the pipes continued to fire for a few seconds. In that time, both the saw robot and the club robot got hit by the laser robot several times. In fact, the club robot’s club arm got hit by a laser, and the club fell off, smashing the robot itself flat, like crushing a soda can, though Cassie guessed that she’d never seen someone use a giant club to smash a soda can. Cassie circled back, laughing at the two destroyed robots. The third, the saw robot, also got hit by the laser. For that robot, though, whatever was holding one of the saws in place broke, and the blade flew from the robot. Cassie watched its arc and almost immediately recognized where it was headed:  the family in the car.

Cassie gasped; that hadn’t been part of her vision. She had to stop the blade. She ran as quickly as she could, and then she jumped up, catching the blade in the air, spinning once, and throwing the blade back to the robot. It flew into the robot, digging deep. The robot shook back and forth a bit, and sparks started to fly. After a few seconds, the saw robot exploded. At first, Cassie thought that was good news, because it was gone. But as she started to watch the pieces fly into the air, Cassie realized that the pieces would come down, and fast. She tried to track their path up so that she could figure out where they would come down. Cassie started running in a large arc so that she’d be able to bat away any of the larger pieces before they would hit anyone.

The pieces came down fast, and Cassie ran, slapping them if they seemed to be headed toward something. The pieces burned her hands a little, and she had to wave her back and forth quickly to cool them off. Her feet had started to feel hot, too, but Cassie couldn’t stop running. She had to keep going to make sure that she kept the city safe. The last falling piece was headed right towards the car with the family in it. Cassie realized that it wasn’t just her hands that were heating up as she ran. Instead, it was her whole body. But she couldn’t stop now. She couldn’t even slow down. As she tossed away the last piece, there was an explosion.

Some time later, Cassie blinked herself awake. At first, she thought that the robots were still alive. She started to sit up, but she didn’t go nearly as fast as she had while fighting the robots. Cassie looked around, and she saw that the family had stepped out of the car and was watching her. They were okay. Cassie let out a deep breath and rubbed her head. After looking around a little more, she saw the gem again. Cassie picked it up, and she could feel the power in it, but the power didn’t seep into her quite yet like it had the first time.

“You saved us,” one of the kids said. The mother was hugging her.

Cassie smiled. “It wasn’t just me. I had some help.”

The kid smiled back. “You had help?”

Cassie held the gem in her hand. She thought about what to do next. She thought that she knew what the gem was, but she couldn’t decide what she should do about it.

 

If you want Cassie to throw the gem away so that no bad guys get it, give to CISHA

If you want Cassie to keep the gem and help others, give to MarcFirst

If you want Cassie to give the gem to the family, give to Illinois Voices Theatre

Second Chunk

Thanks so much to everyone who gave during the first round!

MarcFirst/Robots won the first round, so here we are

What happened was a loud crash. It startled Cassie so much that she fell back and pushed herself behind a tree. When she peeked out, she saw three large, metal things. For a second, she thought that they might be some kind of weird playground equipment, but they were moving. The first one was tall and had pipes sticking out in all directions towards the top. Cassie ducked back behind the tree when lasers shot out of the pipes. There was some whirring, and Cassie looked out to see the other robots. The second one was shorter than the first. It had treads like a tank on each side, and there were arms with circular saws spinning. A little way behind it, a fallen tree was laying by a stump, which explained the crash. The third robot looked like a large garbage can. It had a single large club that swung from one side to another, smashing the ground as it moved forward.

Cassie looked around, and saw burns around, but it looked like, up to that point, it was all damage done to buildings, trees, or cars. She didn’t see people hurt or injured, but crowds of people were running, and it was only a matter of time before someone got trampled. Cassie looked at the direction the robots were heading in. It took her a second, but Cassie realized that the robots were headed towards the park, and that would make things even worse. All the children would likely make easy prey for these awful machines. Cassie wished that her parents had given her a cell phone so that she could call the police. She tried to tuck the thought away without forgetting it so that, if she lived through the robot attack, then she would have to tell her mother that things like this really meant that she should have a cell phone of her own. In the moment, she wasn’t sure what the police would do about the robots anyway. A laser hit one of the buildings, and there was a large, black burn on the wall.

But even with all the mayhem and damage, there were still people being dingbats. In fact, there were at least a half dozen people on the sidewalks using their phones to either take pictures or videos of the coming robots. Cassie looked past one of the dingbats and saw a family trapped in a car. Cassie felt a deep panic. It was an awful thing to see, and she knew that she couldn’t just sit back and watch some poor family get destroyed by robots. But what could she do? The robots were huge and powerful, and she didn’t know how to fight lasers or circular saws.

Cassie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them again and looked at the family in the car. It was a mother in front and two kids in the back. Both of the kids were crying. The mom looked like she was trying to balance between keeping them ducked down and comforting them. In that moment, Cassie hated the robots more than she’d ever hated anything else in her life. She was so angry at them that she wanted to pick them up and throw them straight up to the sun. The club slamming robot cracked a picnic table in half. The idea of what it could do to a car (and the poor people inside it) made Cassie shiver. But maybe she could distract the robots, get them to move off course and away from the family and the park. The problem, of course, was that getting there attention would put Cassie in harm’s way. If she had that gem back, maybe she could whip it at a building and break a window or something.

Cassie ducked back behind the tree and looked around for rocks. There were a few decent-sized ones, and one was at least not partway buried. That rock looked like it could make enough noise if it were to hit an empty car door or shatter a window. That should be enough to capture the robots’ attention. When Cassie picked the rock up, it felt heavy. She had a clear idea of what to do, but Cassie still wanted to feel confident, so she closed her eyes and pictured the blue gem. She pictured how good she’d felt when she first picked it up. As she pictured it, she started to feel good again. In fact, she felt great. She giggled once, and, when she opened her eyes, she drew her arm back, ready to throw the rock. But she didn’t throw it. Instead, an image popped into her mind, distracting her. And that image felt so strong that she couldn’t help but give it a try.

If you want the gem to give Cassie super strength, donate to Seedling

If you want the gem to give Cassie extreme speed, donate to Central Illinois Sled Hockey

If you want the gem to give Cassie telekinesis, then donate to MarcFirst

First Chunk

Here it is. Go to Facebook to vote by donating to the appropriate charity. I hope you all enjoy this choose-your-own-adventure project:

Cassie had actually been trying to mind her own business when she’d found it. Her dad had told her plenty of times that curiosity and trouble were rowdy cousins, and comfort and respect for privacy were pleasant neighbors. She didn’t totally understand the second part, but the first part was pretty clear. So Cassie had been working on avoiding a steady stream of people on her way to the park. Instead of ending up at the swings, where she’d wanted to be, she ended up by some bushes. She decided to just stand there and wait a minute while people went back and forth across the sidewalk just outside the park. There wasn’t a lot that was interesting to look at there.

Still, Cassie needed to keep her mind occupied, and she didn’t much feel like talking to anyone, so she kicked around at the ground a bit. A few kicks in, a little blue gem seemed to pop up from the dirt. Cassie took a quick look around. She was fairly sure that neither of her parents would want her taking strange things from the park, but the gem was very pretty. When Cassie finished her look around, she realized that she wasn’t really sure what she was expecting, but nobody seemed to notice that she’d found anything.

She knelt down and brushed some of the dirt away from the gem. It was shiny, and its edges were smooth. Cassie ran a finger along one of the sides. She felt a deep sense of calm as she did so. The gem felt warm, though that didn’t make any sense to her. If it was stuck in the ground, then the gem should be cold. She kept running her finger along its side. As she did so, she realized that the sensation that she felt might not have been centered in her finger. It wasn’t something that started in her touch of the gem and traveling up her arm to her heart. Instead, the warmth seemed to start from inside of her, from her heart and tummy, even though it was triggered by her touching the gem.

Cassie picked up the gem, and she pressed it to her chest. As she did so, she almost fell over. Her head felt light, like a balloon at the end of a string. But not just an empty balloon. She felt like it was filled with helium. For just a minute, Cassie felt like anything was possible. She closed her eyes and felt warm and light. But it was interrupted when she heard some shouting in the park. Cassie opened her eyes and looked around. There were two guys yelling at each other. Cassie had no idea what they were yelling about, but she decided not to hang around long enough to find out.

As Cassie walked away, she kept a careful lookout, though she wasn’t entirely sure what for. There wasn’t anyone that looked particularly threatening. Still, it seemed like there were a lot of people angry with each other. There was a family near the ice cream truck, all yelling at each other about who was ordering what. Just a little ways further, there was a whole group of kids fighting over one of those big, red balls that Cassie had been hit in the head with a number of times during dodgeball games. When one of the kids got it away, he turned and whipped it into the face of the closest kid. Cassie picked up her pace.

She started to worry that maybe the gem triggered all this fighting. She didn’t think that anybody had been fighting before she found it. Cassie liked the feeling that the gem gave her, but she didn’t want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. She sighed. Cassie held up the gem to take one last look. It was so beautiful. She whispered, “I’m sorry,” and held her hand back, ready to throw it away. Before she could throw it, though, she felt faint. She felt like she did when she stood up to fast. Cassie closed her eyes, hoping to regain her balance. Instead, she lost touch with the world.

It was hard for Cassie to tell how long she’d been out when she opened her eyes again. It was still daytime, so that was something. She touched her head. There wasn’t a bruise or real pain, it seemed. Suddenly, she remembered the gem. She looked around. If she’d dropped it, then it couldn’t be that far away, but she didn’t see it. Cassie got on all fours and looked around. It seemed to have just disappeared. She stood up and brushed herself off. After a few deep breaths, Cassie realized that she felt different. Even better than when she’d first picked up the gem. But before she had a chance to really get a sense of why she felt so good, something happened. Cassie heard some noise, and she looked towards it.

 

If you want Cassie to see zombies, give to CISHA

If you want the disturbance to be aliens landing, give to Illinois Voices

If you want Cassie to see robots, give to SPICE

Fundraiser

After just some odd months, I’m back! Starting next week, I’ll be doing a fundraiser. The very basics are that I’ll be writing a choose-your-own-adventure story where readers will choose the next piece of the story by deciding which of three charities (links below) they want to give money towards (via Facebook fundraisers). All three charities are related to accessibility/disability support. I’m hoping it goes well. Stay tuned for another announcement later next week.

Seedling Theatre/Illinois Voices Theatre

https://ilvoicestheatre.org/seedling/

CI Sled Hockey

https://www.cisledhockey.org/

MarcFirst/Spice

https://www.marcfirst.org/

Privilege

Yesterday, my daughter and I were walking out of the store. Another father was walking with his daughter. I would guess his daughter was about 5. They were African American. The girl dropped a little heart-shaped mirror. I picked it up and called out to him, “Sir.” He turned around, and I told him that I thought his daughter had dropped something. He thanked me, and we both went on our way.

When he turned and looked at me, it made me think about how white me and black men must hear that differently, walking out of the store. I tried to keep my voice pleasant, but I’m sure it’s easily identifiable as a white person’s. When he heard a white man calling out to him, was his first assumption that he would be hassled? It also made me think about the fact that, if I did hassle him, as a white person, I have that privilege, that cushion where, if we got into a fight, he’d probably be seen as the aggressor, even if I was the one to provoke everything. I’m sure that he’s forgotten about me handing his daughter what she’d been carrying, but it was one of those odd interactions that stuck with me.