Preps Pen Stories That Deceive

Deception or disguise was the theme of this year's second annual all-prep short story contest, organized by Deborah Lang, instructor in English. For the contest, each prep was asked to write a short story no longer than 500 words on the theme of deception or disguise, both which are central in The Merchant of Venice. The project culminated in a reading of the best stories at Harris House on the evening of Nov. 2. The following students read their stories: Billy Meneses, Sydnie Goldstein, Isabel Su, Carolyn Chinatti, Andrew Preis, Zachary Scrima, Mackay Bommer, Cooper Roh, and Keala Henry. Read some of their stories below. Read carefully and don't be fooled!

The "It" Girl

By Sydney Goldstein

Dear Diary,

Today is the big day - Friday, March 19, 2017, when my twin sister, Julia, and I find out if we got into Stanford University, both of our dream schools since we were young. I do not know what to say, but I have to tell someone about something I did. I must confess that I secretly switched the names on our applications and transcripts before we submitted them in the mail. I know I sound a tad psychotic, but I was tired of everyone approaching me and saying, "Jackie? Oh, right. You're Julia's sister". I decided getting into Stanford would be my way of showing everyone that her ideal grades, internships, and extracurriculars could not define perfection, and I had much to offer, too. Unfortunately, I knew Stanford might not see the greatness in me, and with only one spot available for the two of us, I would have to trick them into thinking I was her and she was me. I will update you soon!

Xoxo, Jackie

Dear Diary,

Here is an update: we just received emails about our admission statuses, and all went as planned! Julia was really convinced they wanted me and not her. You should have seen the look on her face. For the first time in her life, she is second best and I am number one! I cannot wait for everyone to hear the news! See you this fall, Stanford!

Xoxo, Jackie

Dear Diary,

Expectedly, my parents, friends, and the rest of my family was as shocked as Julia was when they found out I got into Stanford instead of Julia yesterday. Though they were surprised, no one would ever think that I, the quiet, nice, supportive sister, would ever do something like sabotage my own sister, so they moved past their awe, and congratulated me. I never thought I would say this, but things are finally going my way, and I feel happier than ever before.

Xoxo, Jackie

Dear Diary,

Five weeks ago, Julia moved into Syracuse, and I went with Mom to help her set up. I could not help but feel guilty when she said goodbye to mom to face a future at a school she never envisioned herself attending. Well, she should feel this way after I lived in her shadow my whole life. I have been at school for a month now, and I am feeling pretty settled in. I have been to some fun parties, and I must say, I am in with a cool crowd of people, unlike at my old school where everyone always obsessed over Julia, the popular and perfect girl. I wish I could tell the truth and say I am doing well in all of my classes, but I would be lying. I am starting to wish I was as smart as Julia, but I am sure things will get better, assuming no one finds out about what I did...

Xoxo, Jackie

The Fall of Innocence

By Kiki Henry

My favorite stories were ones brimmed with horror. Stories that made me turn numb and uncontrollably shake with fear. That was before. I would not say that I am a grim being, I just have a grim purpose in life. I can't camouflage my power with a plastered on smile anymore. I have been hiding my abilities for so long that I need to let out the disgusting truth, my truth. It is time to be vulnerable.

Right now I am putting my real self blatantly out there. I can control people by their souls. There, I said it. I find solace in the depth of the human heart, basking in waves of grief. I thrive off of the salty tears that result from loneliness. I am cruel. I kind of like it that way.

But at the same time I am ashamed. I can't change the fact that an urge takes over my limbs and emotions to make people's life miserable. Through all of my time on this planet I have had to hide the fact that I have no choice but to be a terrible person. My life is like a game that I have absolutely no control over how it goes and no way of winning. 

It was midnight when my feet magically started walking out of the door onto the empty street.The sky was dark. Darker than most nights come which makes it seem like the universe was anticipating my act of cruelty. Up ahead was a little girl, no more than ten years old, illuminated by the light of a musky streetlamp. She was staring at me with blank fear in her eyes. Her curly short mop of blond hair looked so youthful that I felt bad for the guilty pleasure of what I was about to do. Why her? 
Diving into someone's soul is a curious sensation. I am taken away from my body in the form of a silver blur. The several seconds between beings comes with Excruciating pain. Not only physical pain, but emotional. Grief of all the lives I have wasted and lies I have told. To my parents. My friends. Regret that it has taken so long to share my story with the world. I deserve the agony.

I know that I am inside of her when I can breathe again. It takes a few moments to open my eyes before I am blinded with innocence. I can't do this, not yet. She is too young. My brain tells me to just go. 

We walk down the eerie street until we stop at the perfectly paved driveway to a humble home. Her home. I feel a sharp blade in my...her pocket. Through the door, up the stairs, to the right. Why do I have to do this. This is not fair. She is only 10. The door to her parents room slides open and I close my eyes because I know what is about to happen. Only 10. Closer...closer...closer. 

Second Impressions

By Zach Scrima

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what side of the political compass our family lands on. Mom told Helena and I that her and Dad are "old-fashioned". I told her that even 50's housewives didn't own two-story closets. Helena giggled at 'Erika's back-talk', but Mom didn't seem too happy about it. In fact, Mom and I only seemed to see eye-to-eye when Dad is a pain in the ass to both of us, with his over-the-top conservative lectures. To call him political would be an understatement, which is why I was extra hesitant about inviting Jason over for dinner.

My friends haven't exactly hit it off with my dad ever since Jade started dabbling with cigarettes and Jeff was caught shoplifting, so introducing him to someone new was already a bit of a risk. Even so, Jason is the type of person I thought could stick it to my dad and prove him wrong about my friends. I asked Mom about it, and she, having known Jason prior to the dinner, said, "Are you really considering not introducing that child to your father? Honey, I've raised you better than that."

I tapped my nails on the marble countertop, eyes locked on the stove clock. At around five thirty-five, the doorbell finally rang. I strutted down the hallway and opened the main door.

"The Jason I know would show up twenty minutes early, not five late."

Jason smiled. He does that a lot.

"I would feel genuinely sinful if I did so much as step into this gorgeous house, Erika. Are you sure it's yours?"

If it were anyone besides Jason making that remark, I would make sure they lost a tooth, but his playful insults were amusing.

"Actually, Dad would want you to take off your shoes here," I muttered.

"Lovely. When will I meet the Man of the House himself?"

"Seriously. Don't say shit like 'Man of the House'. It doesn't make anyone sound more masculine, buddy."

The dinner table was strewn about with all of Mom's signature housewife dishes. As customary, Dad sat at the head of the table and we filled in the sides.

"The chicken pot-pie is simply made for the divine, Mrs. Westwood," Jason declared.

Dad raised his glass. "I would have to agree with the boy."

"That's the first time you've agreed with anyone in years," Mom teased. We all laughed, and continued laughing through bites of pot-pie.

We were still talking as we walked Jason out the front gates. Jason smirked as he turned to me.

"How are you so skinny, living with cooking like that? Next time, you'd better invite Conner as well."

Dad cocked his head as I held my breath. I knew what he would say next. "My boy, who's Conner?"

"Conner? He's my boyfriend."

I remember that moment of panic to this day. My fists clenched so tight my palms turned green and clammy. My body was tenser than the situation turned out to be.

"Well, Jason, we'd be delighted to have him," Dad said.

My nervousness turned into relief, which immediately turned into bafflement. I could only stare as the two shook hands. I was about ready to jump into a monologue about how ignorant Dad was. As it turns out, I was the one making unfair assumptions.

An Admonition

By Isabel Su

The pavement was lined with pastel storefronts that boasted their offerings in painted curlicues of letters. Trendiest Haircuts in Town! Cheapest Nail Salon! The gaps between buildings were shadowy, barely large enough for a malnourished cat, but the woman standing on the street ignored these. Her attention was drawn instead to the wispy willows placed in front of these alleyways, bright green and rich brown vibrant against the hint of gloom.

Her mind and senses were fuzzy, as if she had just woken from a deep slumber. This was unknown territory, but it reminded her of the town of her childhood - somewhere she had always found comfort in but never returned to once she felt too large for her surroundings.

There were no sounds coming from any direction. The silence was thick and enveloping, almost comforting, but not quite. It was too quiet. Where were the birdcalls, the shuffling of footsteps, the creaking of doorways, the comforting chorus of voices? Narcissa – for that was her name – had made it a point to always be around people. To know Narcissa deeply was to hate her, but those that met her in passing felt her presence like a radiant, albeit malevolent, goddess.

The woman, now perplexed by the dead air, approached a nearby store. The glass door revealed only the dark depths within the outwardly cheerful façade. Hand grasping at the doorknob, she pushed her way in, moving with the same arrogant carelessness with which  she approached life. Inside, she could see what had been too dark to make out from outside. Her best friend from childhood was propped up in the center, head lolling to the side, eyes blank and unseeing.

Narcissa, who had ditched this best friend in favor of more beautiful, sycophantic ones, felt an instant pang of revulsion at the sight and smell of death. Distressed, Narcissa turned and ran back into the street, when she was compelled to enter another one of the many florid buildings. In it was yet another propped-up body, but that of her mother, whose love and caring she had always rejected.

This town was not a town, she knew. Each building contained yet another person she had wronged in her life. There was not a sign of life anywhere, the only sound, her pounding footsteps, as she was forced from building to building. This is torture, she told herself, and in the same minute, she thought, at least it's them, not me. The last building held not a body, but a large mirror. Narcissa ran to it, worried about her appearance after hours of running. She was greeted by dead eyes and gaunt, pale limbs. She would have screamed, but she found she could not make a sound. She, too, was dead, and this was her own hell. A life of self-worship and disregard for those around her had condemned her to a world with no one but herself and the dead figures of those she had aggrieved.