A tale of friendship, mystery, and Peanut butter
The Mecca
CHAPTER
1
Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member. ~Paul Pearshall
On the second Sunday of May there’s always a town gathering. Misty Cliffs is small enough to have everyone gathered in the Misty Matey’s Mighty O’s factory parking lot. Or maybe the parking lot is so big it can fit everyone from Misty Cliffs in it.
A scaffold-like thing is raised on one end of the parking lot, and the sometime mayor and school principal Ms. Wellman stands on it, looking over the crowd. She has a red-and-white megaphone in her hand and scans the crowd through her nose-pinching spectacles. My family pulls into the parking lot, and then we get out of the car and join the rest of the town. My sister holds Dad’s hand, and Mom is shaking.
Dad glances at his watch. he is very jumpy today, just like the rest of the parents. Mom is crying into a Kleenex, and who knows what’ll happen if— I don’t want to think about it. I shiver, and then Ms. Wellman clears her throat, the megaphone amplifying the sound.
“Good morning, Misty Cliffs.”
Maybe it was ‘Good throwing Nifty Spiffs.’
“Today is the seggend Sundee of Me, and ye’ll know ut that means. Ahem.” She clears her throat and tries again, articulating carefully. “Today is the second Sunday of May and you all know what that means.
“The Fourteen are chosen.”
Weary, frightened whispers circulate the crowd. Middle schoolers are hugged closer. I stand partly away from my family. If I am chosen, I don’t want them to think it hurts me. Mom is still sobbing. I wonder if she can actually hear anything over her sniffles.
“This year, the eighth graders chosen are...” she clears her throat again and puts down the megaphone. She pulls out an envelope and opens it.
Now, before you get any ideas, I’d better explain this to you. The Fourteen are fourteen eighth graders chosen once yearly. They get to go on an ‘exclusive’ trip to a science museum in the middle of the woods.
Not bad, right?
Ha.
Right.
Except for the fact that none of those kids are ever seen again.
Ever.
Wellman picks up the megaphone again, reading slowly and clearly off the list she holds in her other hand.
“Vivian Kinder. Cassidy Thompson. Andrea Hanson. Lela Reynolds. Kelliana Chevalier. Loraine Tiedemann. Anna Owens. Bill Callahan. Dustey Benedict. Darren Warner. Carlos Rodriguez. Benjamin Rowe. Jasper Freeman. Dominic Whitbeck.”
I look at my family, surprised. Mom sobs harder and I’m crushed into a hug. They hug and hug, and I know this will probably be my last feel of them all. I hold on to them extra long, tears leaking out of my own eyes.
A firefighter walks over to us. “Mr. and Mrs. Owens, say goodbye one last time to your daughter please.”
Angie, my sister, gives me a squeeze. Dad steps in between me and the firefighter. “You won’t have my daughter!”
The firefighter rolls his eyes. “Everybody says that. Sorry, sir.” He pulls out a handgun. “Hand her over and nobody gets hurt.”
I look around. Firefighters and police officers are aiming handguns at thirteen other angry dads.
I wipe away my tears with the back of my hand and step over to the firefighter.
“I love you, Mom, Dad, Angie!” I say. I don’t want the firefighter to shoot my dad, and I know that if I don’t do something, he would.
“My baby!” Mama wails. “My baby!”
Angie’s face crumples.
I am led away from my family, mind racing. I get onto the school bus that is waiting to take us away. Thirteen other families are being coaxed to release their children, and eventually there are fourteen kids on the bus. It drives away from the broken families, towards the school.

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Chapter 2

True strength is keeping everything together when everyone expects you to fall apart. ~Unknown

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