June 30, 2008
By Lolita Safarian, Franklin, NJ

The planet was called Centria, and it was unlike any other. Centria itself was alive. It could not speak, but it could act. It was quite capable of punishing or gifting anyone. However, like any other living thing, it had a weakness. A weakness that, if found, could be used to control it.
Before long, a young Centrian figured this out. Although he never shared what he knew with anyone, he eventually formed a small army. Together, this small army made up the Centrian government. They preferred to be known as the Leaders.
The Leaders were disturbed by how curious their people were about Earth, and so they came up with a plan. Since they were respected and obeyed by all, it was easy for them to, over the course of many years, brainwash the Centrians. The Leaders convinced them that the inhabitants of Earth were reckless, cruel, insane, and, above all, dangerous. The Centrians began to fear Earth and its people, not knowing that most humans were just as normal as they were. Human was a synonym for monster and was used to offend.
Centrians referred to Earth as Planet of the Crazed.
I couldn't stop staring. The alien world that surrounded me was too beautiful. Silver sand coated every surface. It receded quickly when I walked (probably to avoid contact with the undersides of my shoes), revealing patches of the colorful ground beneath. The sky was some kind of mirror; it reflected everything. I was told that if I could fly high enough, I would see my own reflection. Tiny creatures floated languidly in the air. To my eyes they simply appeared to be flowers, but I knew that they were much more than that. They flapped their pedals every few moments, and if I collided with them, they jerked away and emitted eerie squeaks. They were alive. They were breathing and thinking. Communicating, even.
I turned without actually meaning to: the slightly familiar voice seemed to pull me towards it.
A woman was standing at my right. Her arms were crossed and she was smiling at me, examining my expression.
"This is where we're going to live?" I asked after a lengthy pause, putting my hands behind my back in an effort to hide them from her gaze. They were shaking terribly.
“Yes, Kalyx. If you decide that you want to stay.”
I tried to take in her appearance, which was so different from what it had been before that it made me feel nauseous. Her eyes were a color I couldn't even name, flecked with golden dots that made them sparkle and shaded with long black eyelashes. Her lips were unusually full and her nose pointed at its tip. Her complexion was neither pale nor dark; I wouldn't even say it was in the middle of the two. It was impossible to be sure, because she radiated light. Her golden curls fell past her shoulders, dancing in the breeze. She wore a dress that wrapped itself around her body so perfectly that I, at first, mistook it to be some sort of second skin. Her posture was straight, her form slender.
I was looking now, not at a stranger, but at my mother.
I looked past her to see a group of people approaching us. Behind them was a golden building that shot up into the mirror sky, too far up for my poor neck, which cracked painfully once I gazed up at it.
My eyes snapped shut as I grimaced. When I opened them again, the group was standing only a few feet away from me, with Mother and a man I didn't recognize at the very front.
I stepped back, inhaling sharply. How had they reached us so fast?
I caught some of them gaping at me as though I was some sort of ticking bomb. What did they think I was going to do? Scream? Cackle? Dance? Turn into a violent donkey?
And what happened to the pretty flowers? I thought.
They were all gone.
"Why are you here, Kamili?" the man said to Mother. His light blinded me. It was not as gentle as Mother’s.
“This is where I wish to be, Darius,” Mother snapped. “Does my presence irritate you? Please do not hesitate to leave if it does. You will not be missed.”
Darius laughed coldly. “Still daring, I see. I will gladly admit that your presence does, indeed, irritate me. Even the sight of you irritates me.”
Mother glared at him. “Shut your mouth, Darius, and step out of my way. Kalyx and I must go to Ralnam now.”
“He won’t let you stay, you know.” Darius turned to the others. “Shall we celebrate early?”
None of them responded. I noticed that, other than Mother and Darius, no one else had the light.
“Out of my way, all of you!” Mother ordered impatiently.
They did as she asked. Darius, looking betrayed, was the last to follow them.
Mother reached out her hand and motioned for me to take it. I gently placed mine in hers and allowed her to pull me along.
“Where are we going?” I murmured.
“To Golden. The only building here. Or, at least, the only visible one.”
“There are others?”
“Many others. They are hidden. Invisible.”
My eyes widened in horror. “What if we crash into one of them?” I warily glanced around, wondering if we were being watched.
“We won’t. If we can’t see them, we can’t feel them.”
I frowned, processing this information.
“Your Kalyx is the first, you know!” someone called out.
Mom halted abruptly, causing me to stumble forward, and turned around. “The first?”
The one that had spoken earlier was a young girl. She nodded, stepping toward us. “Kalyx was born in Planet of the Crazed, yet she entered our world. No creature from that horrid place has succeeded before!”
My eyebrows shot up. Was this idiot talking about Earth?
"That does not matter!" Darius screamed. “Her world is filled with deranged fiends!”
“Yes, but perhaps she is different,” the girl said. No one seemed to hear her.
“I am tired of listening to your lies,” Mother said, unease stiffening her back. “The truth about Earth will be discovered, Darius, and when that happens . . . you will pay severely. So will the others.”
Mother’s words outraged Darius into silence.
The people muttered to one another, sounding either incredulous or confused. Mother held her chin high as she turned her back on him. She resumed walking, and I followed her.

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