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A little girl sat on the corner of her street, quietly observing two strangers walking across the road towards the slowly fading sun. As they made their way to the woods, the two strangers glanced around frequently as if looking for something…or maybe, the little girl thought to herself, as if frightened of something.
She sat with her feet on the black, dusty road and her knees together; one hand on her chin, her dark eyes simply watching. She gazed gently, as the strange girl’s wavy brown hair fluttered in the wind and the boy looked at her and smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling with a delight only seen in the kind of love that is pure and untouchable. As the two strangers disappeared into the darkness the little girl caught a glimpse of a strange, thick, rectangular object wrapped in a piece of dull brown paper. As one corner of the brown paper fluttered slightly in the wind, she thought she saw a corner that looked suspiciously like the priest’s Bible that sat in its glass case inside the church. But of course, that was impossible.
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Kaelie and Maxwell walked into the woods near their neighborhood, fearfully clutching the brown wrapped object between them. As they looked around for prying eyes, they failed to notice the little girl sitting not so far away from them, watching.
The wind blew furiously for a second and then again calmed down as the two hurried into the dark woods. They looked at one another and smiled faintly. Suddenly, they took off running, eager to get to the place they had been waiting to go to for days. They had a secret, a very astonishing one, but just as dangerous as it was exhilarating.
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The old man sat in his living room chair with a notebook in one hand and a beautifully carved, wooden pen in the other. He ran his fingers across the intricate cuts that formed a delicate spiral design and looked out the window. The street was empty, save for the little girl sitting on the corner. The sky was an ugly shade of grey, and the wind was making the dust from the street swirl in the already unclean air.
As the wind died down, he saw two people, a young man and woman, walking into the woods directly in front of him. The girl, he thought, looked very familiar. They glanced around frantically, as if watching out for something. The girl held a rectangular object that was wrapped in plain brown paper. The grey-haired man looked down at the blank pages of the notebook in front of him, slowly poised his pen over the paper, and began to write.
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As Kaelie and Maxwell arrived at their secret place they fell to their knees, breathless not so much from the run, but more from their tingly sense of anticipation. They climbed up the steps that were hammered into the strongly rooted tree, and then scrambled into the tree house, which was cleverly hidden by the tree’s branches and brown leaves. As they settled themselves on the floor, Maxwell grinned at Kaelie and motioned at the brown object. She opened the paper, revealing a book, with a hard blue cover and a bold black title. They opened the book, holding their breath, and Kaelie bent to gently blew the dust off of the nearly tattered pages. Their world was about to change.
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The little girl slowly got to her feet and brushed the dust off her legs, as it was getting darker. She walked home quickly, seeing the drunken soldiers and the ugly, brown leafed trees. The girl hurried home and climbed the trellis underneath her window and slung her legs over the sill into her room. She looked around and sighed at the plain walls and the dingy metal bed in one corner. She could hear her parents downstairs, arguing loudly, tirelessly, as they did every night. Her father punched the wall behind him, and her mother strode out of the house, slamming the door indignantly behind her. She felt a hint of sadness for just a second, but then her heart hardened once again. This wasn’t anything new.
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Maxwell had lit a candle and was holding the book right next to the flame, reading out loud, struggling to see the words in the dim light. The book was called “The Tale of Gengi,” written by Murasaki Shikibu. The author’s name was the strangest they had ever heard. They found the book remarkable, perhaps because they had never read anything in their entire lives, except for a few passages from the bible. Both of their fathers were priests, and Maxwell had been taught to read at a very young age. Kaelie had not, because, supposedly, a woman with that kind of knowledge would simply be a catastrophe. She had been taught, too, however, by her best friend, and when Maxwell first taught her the alphabet, she had been filled with a sense of enlivening and purpose. But the two had never had the chance to truly put to practice their unique abilities. So unique, that to their knowledge, they and their fathers were the only ones able to read for more than a thousand miles. Kaelie listened intently as Maxwell spoke, realizing that perhaps people could be looking for them, perhaps they could be found, and perhaps they could be arrested or worse. But for the moment, she closed her eyes and let the words flow over her exhausted body. “Not that tales accurately describe any particular person, rather, the telling begins when all those things the teller longs to have pass on to future generations – whatever there is about the way people live their lives, for better or worse, that is a sight to see or a wonder to hear – overflows the teller’s heart…”
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The old man was writing furiously now, his mind spinning out phrases he had never imagined. A sharp, hard knock on the door brought him back to reality and he quickly slapped the note book shut and looked around for a place to temporarily hide it. His usual hiding place was too far away. He stuffed it behind his cold, metal bed and hurried to the door. When it opened and he saw who it was, his heart began to thump dangerously inside his chest, and his mind filled completely with fear. But he took in a deep breath, and his resolve strengthened once again.
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The little girl lay on her bed thinking about the two strangers. Downstairs, she could hear her father slamming empty bottle after bottle onto the floor. Her mother still hadn’t returned.
As tears began to well up in her eyes, she felt overwhelmed. If only she had some way to lose herself in something. She looked at the empty room, furnished with only her bed and her threadbare mattress. She crept downstairs and saw her father snoring among the shattered glass on the kitchen floor. He was a painter for the wealthy people in the community, and sometimes he brought home some cans of paint still half full. But for some reason, he never wanted to add color to their own dull house. She stepped carefully over the glass and opened the lowest kitchen cabinet. She grabbed as many paint cans as she could, as well as her father’s freshly washed paintbrushes, and ran back upstairs. She had a scene imagined in her head and she painted with simple and childish, but nevertheless talented, lines and colors. As two brightly clothed strangers walking into a dull forest with a brilliant sun setting behind them appeared on her wall; she began to feel as if something inside her was being set free.
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The soldiers burst through the door into the old man’s house, their muddy boots stomping through his clean wooden floors. “What are you doing?!” The man yelled. “You have absolutely no right to come into my home uninvited!”
One soldier turned to him with a sneer, “We can do what we want.”
The old man sighed. He hated doing this, but in this case it was an emergency. “My son is the priest of the community! He is an important man! He could have you fired!”
“Your son,” the lead soldier stated cruelly, “was the one who gave us the notice and permission to search your house. He suspects you of rebellion.”
The man crumpled into his chair and lowered his head. “My own son...”, he thought to himself. There was no longer any chance of escape. Now he could never get his manuscript published. He had hoped to create a movement, a rebellion. The piece behind his bed would surely be found. The soldiers were already ripping down his frames; checking inside his cabinets. But if he could somehow tell his granddaughter where the other pieces were…He had seen that spark of rebellion inside her and her friend, what was his name? Maxwell. He knew that they would stand up for their freedom, if they had the motivation and the chance. If only he could contact them somehow…
The soldiers pulled his bed away from the wall, and one saw the notebook on the floor. The soldier, who couldn’t have been any older than sixteen, picked it up and handed it to the leader. He quickly flipped through pages, his face twisting in rage as he realized what it was about. The soldier turned to the old man just as he began to lift himself out of his chair. Two men grabbed his hands and tied them together with coarse, brown rope. He did not resist, as he knew it would do nothing, but as they were pushing him out the door, he quietly said, “There are people who will fight. You and your leader cannot control us forever.” The soldiers sneered and shoved him out the door.
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The candle in the tree house was slowly dying, and Maxwell pulled out another one with a box of matches. As he lit the candle Kaelie caught a glimpse of a stack of papers on a shelf built into one wall of the tree house.
She slowly walked over to it and looked at the first page.
“That’s my grandfather’s name.” Kaelie whispered.
“What?”
Kaelie walked back to the candle and placed the papers next to it. Both of them knelt down and began to read.



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