The Magic Bullet

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The Magic Bullet

Sadie, Noah Mark Ezekiel Agbulos, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Colonel Arman is a variant with a special gift. But when this power betrays his body, it is up to his teenage daughter to save him before her own demons destroy her.  


The Magic Bullet 

Sadie, Noah Mark Ezekiel Agbulos


With great effort, Nalon Arman sat up and leaned against the hospital bed’s headboard. Even this simple task was getting increasingly difficult as sharp stabbing pains pierced his back with every move. His current state was an especially humbling experience for a proud man such as Colonel Arman, who was not only a senior military officer but also a variant – a person born with the ability to channel energy from their body into objects around them. Some said it was magic. The scientists called it transposition. The doctors said it was killing him. 

With dark irony, a rare cancer found only in variants had infected part of his nervous system and was now threatening to spread to the rest of him. But despite the alarmingly fast deterioration that panicked him at first, Nalon had become more accepting of his body’s betrayal. At this stage, there were more important things to attend to than this mortal coil.  

From the corner of his eye, Nalon caught the movement of someone lurking behind the doorway to his flower-filled room. Despite a bone-dry throat, he managed to call out, “Marcie, is that you?” 

After a brief pause to fix her expression, a seventeen-year-old girl emerged from the hospital corridor with one hand fidgeting in the pocket of her lab coat. Her maroon hair was tied back as tightly as the smile she wore. 

“Hey, Abba, how are you feeling?” Marcia asked, trying her best to look her father in the eye.   

“It could be better,” Nalon admitted in a weak voice, “but you’re finally here, so that’s all that matters.”  

He smiled as his daughter sat down on the bed and enquired, “So, how’s work? I see you’ve been busy.” 

“It’s good, Abba…That’s actually —” Marcia paused to steady her emotions, “why I’m here. I wanted to ask you something.” 

“Of course, dear, anything.”  

“Abba, I heard the news. I heard that the tumour is not going away…that it’s metastasized.” His daughter took a moment to steady her voice before continuing, “and that you’re going to sign the hospice letter.” 

Nalon wanted desperately to protect his daughter but was a man who refused to ever lie, even now. 

“I’m not getting better, dear. Normal medicines don’t work well on people like us.” 

“I have something that might help,” Marcia said as she produced three glass tubes from her pocket and laid them out between them.

She removed the stopper from the first one, labelled water, and inserted a finger while she narrated her little demonstration: “Notice there is no reaction until I channel my energy.”

She then narrowed her eyes and did just that. The water went blurry with activity as the current she created split the hydrogen and oxygen of the water into gas. 

Marcia explained, “It’s theorized that a variant tumour constantly produces a similar voltage because the damaged cells lose control of their normal functions. We can control our ability to transpose energy, but the tumour cannot – the damaged cells are constantly switched on. And this lack of control is key to the cancer you have spreading in variants.”

His daughter then continued the demonstration with another tube, which contained a fluorescent green cell culture: “Different parts of a cell, like proteins, are attracted to electric charges. The voltage produced by the tumour, or my finger, pulls in cells which are made up of millions of these charge-loving proteins.”  

She narrowed her eyes again, and the green fluorescence solution instantly clumped into a glowing ball around her finger as she noted, “This causes the cells to clump around the tumour making it easier for the cancer to row.”

Marcia then shook the last bottle, which glowed a fluorescent blue. She opened it and produced from her pocket a scalpel that glinted in the light. A bead of blood trickled down her pinkie as she made an incision and continued, “These last cells are a type of bacteria I’ve been working with. I’ve found they can inhibit our transposition ability.

Marcia dipped the cut finger into the blue solution and narrowed her eyes. She grimaced from the effort, but the fluorescent cells would not clump around her finger. 

“They can’t migrate to the exposed tissue!” She announced. 

Nalon couldn’t help but smile at her youthful enthusiasm as he clarified, “So, if these bacteria can stop the cancer cells from clumping around a variant tumour, that might halt its progress? 

His daughter nodded and added hopefully, “And it should alleviate the paralysis it has caused, and maybe even create a partial remission.”

Nalon sighed before continuing, “Oh Marcie, my precious little scientist. Come here.” He reached out his hand, and in an instant, she embraced him. 

“This might be it, Abba! This might be the cure! You won’t have to go,” she reassured her father as a single tear escaped onto her young face.   

“It may very well be, Marcie, it may very well be,” Nalon braced himself, “but it won’t be my cure.” 

Marcia pulled away to examine the face behind these puzzling words. 

“I know this has promise, Marcie, just like the amazing potential inside you. I know you will heal hundreds, even thousands with it, but not me.” 

“What? Why? Abba, do you want to go?” 

“No, my dear, of course not. But you know more than I how long it takes to develop medicines.” 

“That’s why I must act now!”  

“I know, I know, but…you don’t have to. Think about it, please, my love. How long will you have to spend working and testing? And how long do I have left? I don’t have maybe even a month-” 

“Abba…don’t say that!” 

“Marcie, I love you, and that won’t change if you don’t cure me. I will always be in your heart-” Nalon’s words were cut short. 

“I don’t want you to be in my heart, I want you here,” came the defiant daughter’s plea as she turned away and left the room before her tears started to flow.  

Nalon watched helplessly as she left. He had an overwhelming urge to stand and pull her back into the room, back into his protective embrace and squeeze her tightly as a father should, but his now useless legs had lost the fight long ago.

“I’m sorry, Marcie,” he whispered in apology.

Lucas Arman glared at the oscilloscope’s stubbornly flat green line as if it were mocking him. He had his arm inside a metal lattice that was covered in pale pink rows of muscle tissue. It was the sleeve of a Src unit, a military exoskeleton of cultured pig muscle. Its use demanded one’s constant attention like a baby, but at least its operation kept his mind off his father.

As Lucas focused his energy, his arm lost some sensation. His tests on the Src’s sleeve required it to contract whenever he transposed voltage into it, leading to a corresponding jump on the oscilloscope’s line. But there was still no movement at all. 

“I can’t make this sleeve contract. The cells are probably corrupted,” he said with frustration at his ongoing failure.

“Bad workmen blame their tools,” replied Cillian, his best friend and colleague, and the only other person assigned to this secondary lab tucked away in the very out-of-the-way basement of the base’s vehicle assembly building. Out of sight and out of our minds, was the common refrain for these two junior-grade engineers.  

Just then, the door to the lab opened, and Marcie trudged into the room. 

“You really shouldn’t be in here, uncle or no uncle,” Lucas said without conviction before asking, “How did it go?” and then added, “Did you tell him I’d come to see him later today?”

“Not well!”  Marcia shot back as she sat down on a stool dejectedly. To emphasize her frustration, she flung her security pass – which she had coaxed from the base’s engineering director, her Uncle Karel – along the adjacent workbench. 

“What’s the latest?” Cillian asked in a soft tone, aware of the poor health of his friend’s father but not much more. 

Lucas explained his sister’s crazy idea to use her ‘magic’ bacteria to inhibit variant powers and thus reduce the effects of their father’s cancer.  

At Cillian’s urging, Marcia repeated her demonstration that had earlier failed to impress Nalon.

“You did that to prove your cure?” Cillian asked unable to hide his incredulous tone.   

Marcia’s frayed response made Lucas shrink: “So, what would you do? We don’t have mice to test on, and you can’t test safety on cell lines.” 

Cillian knocked on the Src unit and proclaimed, “You can use this. Lucas says the tissues are corrupted anyway. My bet is they have become cancerous.” 

Marcia studied her brother’s friend skeptically.

He explained further, “It’s all cultured cells from a variant type animal. It’s got muscles, blood vessels, and an immune system even.”

“Could you isolate any tumours it might have?” Marcia asked.

“I don’t see why not.” 

Lucas spoke up, “Listen. Even if Marcia’s idea has a chance in hell of working, which I don’t think it does, this is the only unit assigned to this lab! If we mess up…” 

“You want your sister to keep testing it on herself, then?” Cillian challenged. 

Lucas thought for a moment. “Fine.” He looked at his sister and warned, “But if you break this, I don’t see any other way to help Abba.” 

“I know,” Marcia responded gravely. 

Over the next few days, they got to work. Marcia began searching, and sure enough, she found the culprit that was paralyzing her brother’s Src unit. Several pea-sized tumours were growing inside the unit’s bicep.  

Cillian inquired about her discovery: “So, if your magic bacteria cure really works, it should stop the variant tumour from infecting normal tissue and thus send the paralysis into remission?”

“Yes,” Marcia replied, “and if the bacteria do their job, this bicep here should contract again.”  

Eager to begin the test, she inserted her arm into the sleeve of the Src unit. It’s internal casing was slightly warm from the tissue surrounding the lattice, and it felt foreign to move the unit’s fingers without having any sensation. 

Cillian responded to her cue by powering up the oscilloscope and instructing, “All right, let’s recheck the muscle activity.  Marcia, test the baseline three times before we start.” 

Everyone’s eyes were on the flat lead. Marcia lost the sensation in her arm as she directed the ions from her arm into the unit’s flesh. Just as with Lucas before, its muscles tensed but could not contract.

Her arm prickled with pins and needles as her sensation returned. “Lulu, please add the solution,” she requested. 

Her brother leaned over, and with a pipette, flushed the tumour with the blue bacterial solution. His sister had chosen to kill the bacteria by lysing them beforehand, to make sure the unit didn’t get infected.   

After a few minutes, Marcia narrowed her eyes and focused, but no amount of transposed energy could cause the Src’s sleeve to contract. A few more minutes of repeated attempts brought the same result. She growled in frustration but kept at it.

After half an hour, on the eighth attempt, the oscilloscope’s line and the sleeve suddenly leapt to life. 

“It worked,” she gasped. “It works!” 

Her brother stood with mouth open, and a look of disbelief frozen on his face. After he confirmed his sister’s results, he finally allowed himself a yelp of joy and a high-five that echoed through the dark basement hallways outside the lab. 

“This is good, really good, Lucas began, “but it is just the first step. We next need to -”

“We know, we know,” Cillian interrupted, “but just let your sister enjoy this first victory for a moment.”

The three of them began discussing potential names. Magic Blocker was considered as it blocked the cellular machinery that gave variants their transposition ability. But Cillian pointed out it was like a bullet through an engine, and the matter was settled. 

After the promising breakthrough, all of Marcia’s exhaustion evaporated, and she spent the night tossing and turning with anticipation. In the morning, with only an hour or two of sleep in her, she ignored the walkways and ran across the military base’s hot sand from her quarters straight to the infirmary with the oscilloscope’s printout fluttering in her hand. She held it without her pinkie, which had grown slightly inflamed from her previous demonstration, but she didn’t care.

When she arrived at her father’s room, everything went cold. It was empty. 

“No, no…it can’t be…no!” 

The voice inside that had been her dark companion since her father fell ill came back louder than ever: Look at what you did, you were too slow. You didn’t finish the work in time. Stupid girl!

She ran across the infirmary’s halls until she found a nurse and demanded answers: “Have you seen Colonel Nalon Arman? He was in this ward. Where is he?”  

“He’s in the emergency room, he-” 

Marcia was already running, her boot’s loud steps on the otherwise quiet ward echoed her panic. 

You were too slow! You’ve failed! Stupid girl!

But when she arrived, she saw her father sitting in a wheelchair, getting his hand bandaged. He was talking with the doctor, and the two of them were laughing quietly. 

“Abba, what happened?!” She felt sick as the adrenaline flushed out of her system. 

As Marcia and a nurse wheeled her father back to his room, he explained how his hand had seized up while he was eating.  

After helping get her father back into his bed, Marcia apologized: “I’m sorry I wasn’t there, Abba.”  

“I wish you were, my love,” he confessed in a voice that betrayed his sadness, but his daughter mostly heard disappointment.    

Marcia then looked down at the oscilloscope’s printout, now crumpled in her hand.  

What if he didn’t just spill some soup? What if something worse happened? 

She did her best to shake off these dark thoughts and focus on the task at hand: “Abba, we were able to do some testing, and… we found that the bacteria I showed you can inhibit the effects of your cancer.” 

Her father sighed his acknowledgement: “I knew that’s what you were doing.”  

He then managed to put his bandaged hand onto hers to emphasize his words: “Marcie, I already told you, I don’t need you to cure me. I just want you and your brother with me.” 

“I want you with me, too,” she looked down at his damaged hand, “but I have a chance to help you. I can’t sit by and just do nothing.” 

“Spending what time I have left with me isn’t nothing, Marcie,” his voice soothed, “it is everything.”

Marcia was moved by her father’s plea, but the voice inside of her wanted the last word: If you continue your work, he won’t have to worry about time. And you can’t continue your work if you stay. 

As she waivered, the voice got sharper: Sure, you can sit by and watch him waste away. But if he dies without you lifting a finger to help him, then you are a pathetic failure of a daughter.  

Marcia stood up, kissed her father on the forehead, and ended the debate: “You can’t go, Abba. Not now. I won’t let you!” 

By the time Marcia arrived back at the lab, her resolve had been eroded by exhaustion and the self-doubting voice inside. She couldn’t focus properly, and before she knew it, her foot had been caught in a bundle of cords and a good chunk of her tubes went down with her. 

Cillian rushed over and began to help her up.  

“Don’t,” Marcia snapped.  She needed more time, not pity.   

Cillian stood by her but reconsidered his approach: “I find ice cream always helps in high-stress times.”

Marcia ignored him. 

Despite his youth, Cillian was not a man to be ignored: “Is there a way we could get more people on board…so you could spend time with your dad?”  

“Everyone who could help us has their own contracts to fulfil, and none of them are focused on medicine. And the doctors here are trained for administering care, not for research.”

Cillian persisted: So, another hospital then? 

Marci shook her head and felt her eyes getting wet as she explained, “He refuses to leave his base. He says he wants to die here in the desert.”  

“So, it’s just up to us then.”  

It’s up to me, she corrected her new friend silently as she wiped a tear.  

And that was the worst part, Marcia thought. All the decisions seemed to fall on her: what testing to prioritize first; what laboratory protocols to break; what base rules to bend; and how much time to spend with her father. And each decision created a hundred different permutations, ways things could go wrong. Regardless of whatever decision she made, the consequences would affect someone she cared about. 

It’s up to me.  

Marcia’s heart had sunk when she found the Src unit’s tissue bruised. It had gone into septic shock even though they added dead bacteria. That meant its immune system had overreacted to the dead cells’ inner components, triggering sepsis-like bruising. She supposed the mechanism was similar to when yeast continues to ferment wine even after the alcohol they make kills them.

Everything leaves a mark after it dies, she thought.

“Have you figured it out?” Cillian asked tentatively. 

Before she could snap out a no, her thoughts unexpectedly went back to the ice cream Cillian suggested earlier. Perhaps he did offer her something meaningful. She thought for a moment while her unofficial lab partner watched bemused…and then she had it. 

“Cream is lighter than milk. When you centrifuge it, you get the lighter cream on the top, and all the heavy proteins at the bottom. If the bullet is water soluble, we could isolate it the same way. Since water is lighter than the bacteria, it’ll be on top, with the heavier cells at the bottom.” 

Now we just have to find something to test it on, she thought. 

“We have to hurry before she hurts herself any further,” Nalon urged in a hoarse but determined voice: “The cut she gave herself is inflamed; I don’t want her to keep hurting herself for my sake.”  

His wheelchair was being pushed by his son, who had just confessed that Marica intended to continue their testing, even though the Src unit had gone into septic shock. His brother-in-law, Karel, was also with them.  

When they arrived at the basement laboratory, Nalon looked through the doorway windows and saw Marcia and Cillian standing in front of a spinning centrifuge. His heart skipped as he saw the state of the Src unit behind them. 

If she does that to herself…Nalon refused to listen to the thought.  

Lucas wheeled his father through the doorway. 

Marcia turned around and asked with a startled voice, “Abba, what are you -”   

“Marcia, I want you to stop this at once!” Nalon said as firmly as his weakened state allowed and then continued in a more composed tone, “I’ve already told you; I don’t need you to be my doctor…just be my daughter.”   

“I know Abba,” she said as her eyes darted towards the centrifuge, then back at him.

As Nalon reached his hands outward, Lucas pushed him closer. 

“Please, Marcia, come with me.” 

Marcia’s mind spiralled downward in frustration. There was nothing she could do now. Her father was here to stop her research. There was no more magic pig flesh, no lab mice for her to test her magic-disabling bullet on. There was no one willing to –

The centrifuge stopped spinning just as her thoughts did. 

That familiar steely look came over Marcia’s face as she announced, “I know I don’t have to heal you, but I won’t forgive myself if I don’t.”  

She then snatched up one of the tubes and made a dash for the emergency shower stall in the corner of the lab.  

Nalon watched helplessly as his daughter knocked over several chairs with her free hand, slowing the pursuing Lucas just enough so that she reached the stall first and locked the door behind her. 

“Marcia! We haven’t tested it yet!” Cillian shouted. 

“I can cure you, Abba! This will work!” Marcia said from behind the glass door.

She glanced over at the bruised and sickly arm of her brother’s Src unit, the one she’d ruined. Then she looked down on her own. 

She took a deep breath to steady her hand and focus her mind:  If that happens, so be it.  

Nalon mustered what strength he had left to plead with her to stop. But it was in vain. He could only watch through the glass as his daughter drew up the pale-yellow solution into a needle and then plunged it into her arm. The solution disappeared as she pushed down on the plunger. 

When Marcia unlocked the door, her brother pulled her from the stall. She didn’t resist as the test was done. If it disabled her transposition ability, it would reduce her father’s tumour. That was all she cared about. 

Nobody spoke as Marica was taken to the emergency room. Most of her vitals were normal, except for a still-elevated heart rate. Afterwards, they gave her a room and an IV drip. She tried to transpose a current to interfere with the heart monitor next to her bed. It was a feeble attempt to see if her ability had truly disappeared, but the doctors were having none of it and scolded her to stop. She had to lie there and wait. 

But soon a fever started to brew, and by the end of the day her temperature had risen to 39 degrees and bruising had spread along her arm. Marica felt as if she were teetering on the edge of an abyss, one she had brought herself to. Her mind went round and round but instead of arguing, all her thoughts were condemning her. 

She fought to stay awake, now anxious about what might lie beyond her sleep, but the weight of her eyelids was too strong. They closed and darkness swept over her. 

The next time they opened it was her father’s eyes that they looked into. He was sitting next to her in a wheelchair and seemed a lot less angry than the last time she had seen him. 

He even smiled as he motioned to the hospital room that they were now both occupying and said, “Looks like your elaborate plan to avoid me has backfired beautifully.” 

She could only smile silently as whatever drugs the doctors had given her were in full effect.  Then she remembered, “The cure? Did it work?”

Lucas emerged into her view and said that the doctors had determined the bullet had triggered an immune response in her body, followed by subsequent sepsis-like shock. 

If that’s what it can do to me, what would it have done to Abba? She thought with closed eyes. Stupid girl. 

After Nalon was alone with his daughter, his face turned deadly serious. 

“I don’t want you to do something like that ever again, do you hear me?” 

Marcia nodded and braced for the next barrage. But her father simply took her hand and requested softly, “I want you to promise me. You won’t do that again. When they found my tumour, I panicked at first. But I’ve gotten used to the face of death; I’ve seen it before; He does not scare me now, but seeing you lie here -”   

Marcia listened as his words were choked off by raw emotions. The pain of what she had put her father through was sinking in clearly as she confirmed, “I won’t try to test it on myself again, Abba.”  

“Thank you. My heart has been weakening each day. The doctor says I have maybe a week left at most.” He embraced her as he continued, “I don’t want your attempts at a cure. I just want my daughter here. That is all I ask for.” 

Moved to near tears herself, Marcia started her explanation which turned into a confession.

 “I’m so sorry, Abbah. I heard your words before, it’s just that… I have this voice in my head.  I don’t actually hear it, but it’s like my mind is accusing me, ridiculing me, watching my every move, and criticizing it. I know it sounds strange, but it is truly awful, and I can’t seem to fix it.”  

That was the first time she’d ever spoken of her dark inner thoughts to anyone; She lowered her head and braced herself for his reaction.   

“It is not strange, and you are not your thoughts, Marcie,” he reassured with such conviction that compelled Marcia to meet her father’s eyes again as he continued, “We all have thoughts we can’t control. When I came back from the war, I had a similar voice haunt me.” 

Marcia smiled at her father’s words and at how relieved she felt at sharing this burden.  

Her father explained further, “This inner voice will always be lingering and will speak up at the worst times. Remember that a little boat can’t fight against great waves, but it can ride them out. So, accept this voice for what it is, mere thoughts, nothing more, and certainly not your reality. And when you see each thought as it rises for what it truly is, just ride it out till it washes away.

And while there is no absolute cure for this, trust me when I say that over time, the waves will get smaller, and the ride easier.”   

Marcia’s mind began to worry again about the million ways this approach could go wrong.  But then seeing what her tricky thoughts were doing, she flashed a smile and nodded. 

After a few days, Marcia was strong enough to walk again and to push her father’s wheelchair.  They visited some places Abba wanted to see. One was an upcoming festival in the park celebrating a special plant, the starflower, that only bloomed over a three-night period each year. Nalon felt pure joy at being there with his two children, even though the flowers were still buds and he would not see their full bloom.

Soon after, Nalon’s health took a critical turn. With his voice nearly gone, it was time for Marcia to help him say his goodbyes. But in his usual old-fashioned way, he wanted his last expressions of love etched into something deeper than sound.  So, she helped him compose and write – by hand – a few goodbye letters to far-away family. His daughter’s silent but steady tears must have spoiled a half stack of fine parchment as she wrote, but she wouldn’t have traded this bittersweet task – this last most intimate of moments with her father – with anyone.  She was right where she needed to be.  The dark inner voice had gone quiet.   

In a room full of flowers, and with Marcie and Lulu by his side reminiscing over family stories, Colonel Nalon Arman passed quietly into the night.  

Songs for a fallen comrade were played by brothers in arms, the priest did his duty, and an honour guard stood with rifles at the ready for a final salute. When they lowered Nalon to rest, their first volley cracked through the late afternoon air. 

The rifles’ first report forced Marcia’s black-veiled eyes shut as a flash of flowers appeared behind them.  

The second volley opened her eyes again to face the brutal finality of this burial.  

The third round of shots shuttered her eyes again as the voice returned: You failed him.

As they drove back to the base, she cradled a folded flag and applied her father’s wise words to her persistent tormentor: These hateful internal thoughts are not me. They are not mine. 

She replaced them with vivid images, memories of her father and what he would want her to do next. 

It was then that her uncle Karel, seated next to her, placed something in her hand. It was a thick paper card with her name and personal details printed on it. Below was an identification number different from her current one. She nearly crushed the card as her eyes went to the line below.  

Position: Project Manager’s Apprentice. 

“Your dad said you would cure thousands. We decided you ought to end your not-so-secret work in your brother’s lab and take on a more official station,” Uncle Karel said. 

She began to cry as she hugged her uncle hard in gratitude for this opportunity that she knew threaded back to her father. But for the first time in a long time, they were not tears of sadness. Marcia cried, smiling.  

Noah Sadie

About the Author
Noah, a recent graduate of Poly’s Biotechnology program, was born in the Philippines and raised in Hong Kong. In addition to his degree, other influences on his storytelling include aerospace, military history, and all the books, video games, and documentaries that go with them. His goal as an author is to weave his biotech research into his stories in an entertaining and relatable way for all readers.

Author’s Reflection
I wrote “The Magic Bullet” for a course titled ELC1A04 From the Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter: Fantasy, Reality and Humanity. However, my ventures into writing began long ago when I was a kid. Most of those early stories were for school assignments, or fictional backstories for toy soldiers and model planes I used to play with. A few times I even made submissions to the Hong Kong Young Writer’s Award, one of which was shortlisted in 2013.

The world of “The Magic Bullet” has its roots in a Minecraft world from my final year of high school. After years of academic hardship doing a biotech degree and a global pandemic, the story has mutated from its early experimental trials. This evolution is no doubt due to stories existing as reflections of ourselves, our emotions, our feelings, and our experiences. And this one is no exception. I think good writing contains messages you can take from the author’s fictional world and apply to this chaotic, sometimes scary, yet beautiful real world. While “The Magic Bullet” may not rank with the likes of Nolan’s Interstellar or Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, I hope that you can find something valuable in this little 12-page adventure that you can take home with you. 

Before you begin, I would like to thank my parents who continue to help foster my love for writing. I’m also grateful for my friend Leon, who was willing to listen to my rambles about this fictional world and brainstorm the story’s primordial forms. I would also thank John, an editor from the ELC, who helped me to hone my writing into something I’m proud of. Finally, I would like to thank Ms. Sannie Tang and Dr. Andy Morrall, who taught my ELC1A04 course, as well as the good friends I made during the class, all of whom helped to cure my writer’s block.

Thanks, again, to the Inscribe team for helping me to craft and share my stories with the world.