The Iggy Project by Phoenix Fanatic

Category:Maximum Ride
Genre:Humor, Romance
Characters:Fang, Max
Published:2012-08-20 14:42:21
Updated:2013-08-24 12:56:51
Packaged:2021-05-07 01:24:52
Summary:Iggy has a master plan: to get Max and Fang together. It's just slightly annoying that the world is scheduled to end in a few months. Sucks to be him. Fax.

Table of Contents

1. One
2. Two
3. Three
4. Four
5. Five
6. Six
7. Seven
8. Eight
9. Nine
10. Ten
11. Eleven
12. Twelve
13. Thirteen
14. Fourteen

1. One

A/N- Hey guys, you are all awesome.

I think Iggy sees the most out of all the characters, while being totally fabulous.

This story takes place after book 3 and ignores everything afterwards. It is a total coincidence if an original character named Dylan is violently killed off.

A massive thank you to Caz and BrokenSky49. Also, reviews are loved and printed out and put on my fridge.

Disclaimer: I am not James Patterson, unless James Patterson has boobs and enjoys Say Yes to the Dress marathons on Friday nights.

August 20th, 2012

Hey Internet,

You! Yes, you, the one reading this. Do me a favor and tear yourself away from pictures of funny cats and your Tumblr blogs full of a shirtless Ryan Gosling.

Just give me a second.

I'm going to take a moment and guess that there's a total of zero people reading this, but that's fine, since my spelling abilities are equivalent to that of a cactus. I'll probably have Gazzy edit this later since I once spelt "me" as "xkyz3m".

I'm basically just sitting at my laptop bashing out words where I think each key is. Just opening Word took me a freaking hour until Angel took pity on me.

I started this "blog" (is that what you kids call it nowadays?) just to be able to write things down. I just need to record this project somewhere, because if it's not written down, can you prove it ever happened?

I guess I should explain what I'm doing so I don't just sound like another crazy person on the Internet. (Trust me, there are a lot of them. I once stumbled onto a forum where a bunch of people were really into Photoshopping Mitt Romney's face onto various fruit objects.)

Well, Gazzy's the one who stumbled onto the site and I was just with him. Obviously the whole hey-I-can't-see-'cause-I'm-blind-but-don't-worry-I-make-an-awesome-lasagne takes away from the whole life experience thing, but Gazzy's really good at describing things for me. Props to him.

So anyways, the point of all this is to make sure that I can record The Project. It's a fairly badass name, I know. I feel like Project X or Project Crimson Alpha Shadow might be cooler, but a guy can only use so many adjectives in a day.

And here's the mission statement of The Project: To get Max and Fang together.

Internet, I can hear all of your collective "awwws". Cute. I know, right?

But I'm not doing it to make them happy. No, of course not. It's to help me. Do you understand how frustrating it is to have two sweaty hormonal teenagers who are clearly attracted to each other in the same room?

It's like holding back a girl from chocolate: if you get in the way, you're gonnna get steamrolled into a pulp and mistaken for a piece of gum that was squished into a dark spot on the ground.

Of course, I have my evidence for wanting to get them together. I am a true scientist at heart. A mad scientist, but whatever.

In the past three days, the following has happened:

1: Max asked, "What's brown and sticky?" We just stared until she added, "A stick." Fang actually laughed. Not one of his I-am-a-child-of the-night creepy laughs, but a full on "ha ha". For Fang that's like dying his hair pink and threading feathers through it. Which gives me ideas…

2: Did you know that, when you don't have one of your senses, your other ones become stronger? Basically it means that all of my other senses are constantly hyped up, which sucks when you have to go into the bathroom after Gazzy's been in it. Anyways, I had the unfortunate occurrence of sitting between Max and Fang on the couch. You could have filled a pool with the amount of pheromones that were dripping off them.

3: Fang casually mentioned that Max's hair looked good, and she blushed. It was Nudge who pointed it out. And I mean, this is Max who we're talking about, who can kill you with a Kleenex and a few rubber bands. She doesn't blush. She's not really a girl. She's just Max.

You see, we've been staying with Ella and her Mom for the past while – they've been really good about taking six half-starved and fashion-challenged kids into the house, plus a talking dog who won't shut up ever.

But just the other day, Ella walked up to me while I was sitting on the couch. I could tell it was her because she's the only one in the house who smells like something other than dirt.

See, at any moment, I like to categorize each sense. If my life was an episode of Sherlock then the camera would zoom all around me and point out all these nifty things…but sadly, Steven Moffat has yet to discover my awesomeness. He's missing out. But really, categorizing each sense keeps me sane. So at that moment I was aware of:

Sound: Ella's heavy breathing. My own breathing. (Confirmed: we are both alive.) Blinds in kitchen banging against window. Katy Perry from Nudge's room. Ella's snap of her gum. Dog barking outside. Distant lawnmower. Car honk from nearby. Could probably hear Bill Gates' plans to take over the world.

Taste: Leftover chocolate bar stuck in teeth from a few hours ago. Was delicious. Still is delicious.

Smell: Febreeze. Lots of Febreeze. Fake vanilla-cinnamon smell. Wet dog. Last night's dinner. Very stale. Old and rotten and bad to the core. Reminds me of Fred Phelps.

Touch: Jeans rough against legs. Soft leather against hands. Hair against back of neck. Injury on arm since Gazzy was a dumbass and bit me the other day. Don't ask.

Sight: Three guesses.

When Ella walked up to me, I could tell she had just come from outside – the heavy breathing and the fact that her shoes were squeaking with water from the recent rain told me that. But she hadn't been outside for long, since she still had her gum. (People wonder why I know things that I shouldn't be able to know. You just have to pay attention.)

I like Ella because a) she has never tried to kill me, unlike a majority of the American population and b) she isn't a girl who only cares about her appearance. Nudge once described Ella as "Hermione with worse hair and a better smile". Not like I even know what Hermione looks like, but at least she tried.

Ella didn't say anything. "'Sup?" I asked, trying to open the conversation. See? Guys can communicate.

"Do you ever get the feeling," she said slowly, pacing out each word, "That Max and Fang are…eh?" The last word was high-pitched and accompanied by swooshing hand movements.

"That they're Canadian? I knew they had a terrible secret."

I could feel her roll her eyes. "You know what I mean."

"That Fang doth want to court his fair lover? Yeah, I'm getting that vibe. " There was a sudden weight at the end of the couch and the squeaking of leather; Ella had sat down. "Did you see something? Don't tell me they're doing anything on my bed. I would have to bleach it and then burn it and mail the ashes to someone in Arkansas."

Ella tapped her feet against the floor in a tap-tap-tippitty-tap pattern. Clearly she was nervous, anxious, or had to pee. "Kinda. The three of us were outside by The Hole. Fang totally zoned out and was staring at Max and it was super awkward."

Ah. Of course. The classic zone out, where a guy is so infatuated with a girl that he just stares at her without realizing that society frowns on that type of creepy behavior. "What were you doing at The Hole?"

I should explain, Internet, before you think that The Hole is some euphemism for something nasty. You see, you would be surprised by how easy it is to get napalm online. Mix it with some gasoline, white phosphorous, and Jello, and you've got a hell of an explosive device. Gazzy and I tried experimenting with it one day in the back yard.

This was a bad idea.

The explosion resulted in a five-foot-deep hole with a ten-foot diameter, plus three fire trucks and one FBI agent. Gazzy and I spent four months mowing lawns around Mesa in order to pay for all the tickets we got. Whoops. However, a plus was that we now had a giant freaking hole in the backyard, which can be used for all sorts of shenanigans.

Ella leaned back into the couch. "Max wanted to see how far I could bury her in The Hole before she couldn't break through the weight of the dirt. She said it was 'in the name of science'. But Fang came storming out of the house, yelling something about how I was going to kill her."

Fang? Yelling? It's like seeing the Queen rap.

And that's my weird mental image for the day right there.

"So yeah," she continued, "I left right as they started to really get into each other's faces. I thought they were going to start making out, which would have been really hot."

Okay, that was sort of a weird comment. Watching Max and Fang get hot and heavy is a little too voyeuristic for my taste. I was about to comment as such when I heard the back screen door slam open with a rattle. "-and that doesn't mean you can control my life!" Max finished. She stamped into the kitchen and threw open various cupboards, clearly in the mood for some pity food. Since the couch that I was sitting in bordered right on the kitchen, I had a front seat for this drama.

Fang followed in shortly after her. "I'm trying to save your life! We have enough people trying to kill us without you trying to kill yourself in the name of experimenting."

Huh. Fang said more than three words. I'll be damned. I bet Fang will write this down as a momentous occasion in his diary. (Haha, Fang having a diary…just the thought makes me snort.)

"It's called training, Fang. You never know when something crazy will happen." From the crinkle of plastic I could tell Max had opted for Doritos from the cupboard. The Lays chips have a slightly lower ripping sound when opened. Yeah, can I list that as a special ability? I can tell what brand of chips anyone is eating. I should put that on a resumé.

"Whatever." Fang stamped back through the door into our room. Mr. Grouchy-Pants needed a time out.

Max's crunching slowed, and then stopped, apparently realizing Ella and I were sitting right there. "Oh," she said. Her voice screamed well-I-want-to-die-now. "Hey guys."

"Lovers' spat?" I offered. Making Max uncomfortable is in my job description.

Judging from the whoosh of air, she flipped me the bird. "You're hilarious. Go jump off a cliff."

I shot her my award-winning I'm-not-worry grin. "Wow. I'll go get ice for that burn."

Max huffed out a breath of air. The buttons in the back of her jeans clicked as she leaned against the counter. "I just don't get it. Normally he's never this…angsty. And that's saying something, considering this is Fang, and if you squeezed him, I bet he would drip angst."

I shrugged. "Don't worry about it. He's just a guy. I bet he's writing poetry about you this very second."

"Definitely!" Ella agreed. She put a hand on my shoulder. I twitched; unexpected physical contact with me is way uncool. I'd have to remember to chat with her about that.

"Fang is not writing poetry about me." But Max's voice was easily a few decibels higher when she said this.

"Nuh-uh, girlfriend. That boy luurves you. He's already picking out curtains." I could feel the heat from Max's patented glare. I got up and stretched obnoxiously loudly. "You know what? I'll go check up on him. Help him rhyme his poetry."

I walked down the hallway to our room. It was a squishy fit, with eight people living in a one-floor house. Gazzy, Fang and I ended up bro'ing it up in a tiny bedroom that even eleven-year-old Harry Potter would have thought small. "Honey, I'm home," I said, opening the door to the room without knocking. Because really, what's the worst I could see? Privacy schmivacy.

I had to help Fang, though. See, I know the guy is kind of rough on the outside (as in, if you run into him in an alley you would think he was an angel of Satan) but on the inside…he's sort of a great guy. He'd rather broadcast his love to Max on the speakers at the Superbowl than admit he's kind of a softie.

I mean, every morning he lays out clothes for me so that I don't have to worry about my clothes matching or anything. I mean, none of us in the Flock would pass a What Not to Wear intervention, but Fang keeps me at an acceptable standard.

So I try and help Fang when I can.

"Go away." The voice was relatively far away; Fang was sitting on the top of the bunk bed. I knew from experience that the rest of the room was an Ikea designer's worst nightmare; there was just one other cot, a desk, and a chair that decorated the room. I can't tell you how many freaking times I've stubbed my toe on that chair, since Gazzy keeps moving it. Vengeance will be mine…

I closed the door behind me. I don't like beating around the bush; we don't have time for that crap. I went for the direct line. "Do you like Max?"

No response.

"Max is really pretty, you know."


"I think she wants to bang you."

It's like talking to a rock.

I sat down on the edge of Gazzy's cot. The springs protested my weight with an ugly screeching sound. "Okay, Fang. Can we have a Bro Talk?"

For a second I thought I must've been in the room alone. Only Fang's shallow breathing tipped me off to the fact that he was still alive and hadn't dropped dead in the past ten seconds. I continued talking. "Fine. I'll just talk, since you're being a dick. " Fang huffed out a breath of air through his nose as a response. I looked vaguely towards where he was sitting. I was probably way off and talking to the wall, but whatever.

"Fang. Look. Everyone knows that you and Max like each other." My hands started to gesture wildly. They were just doing their own thing. "A lot. And this isn't grade six – just tell the girl! What's the worst that can happen? You get rejected and she tears out your heart and you spend the rest of your days in a northern Siberian village sobbing as each snowflake is a reflection of memories past?"

I'm really good at speeches.

Fang just sat there, clearly not as impressed as I was. I had a mental picture of him in my head, with that angsty hair falling over his angsty face with his angsty posture and his angsty way of living. Although really, I can't blame the poor guy. We've all dealt with what we've seen in life in different ways.

Back at the School, Fang saw the most.

I got up to leave. The relieved springs in the cot groaned again. I just made it to the door (without stubbing my toe!) when I heard Fang whisper, "Thanks". And coming from Fang, that's basically him throwing himself at my feet and proclaiming happiness and joy.

It was then that I decided to start The Project.

I definitely considered locking the two lovebirds in a room with candles and flowers and the Twilight soundtrack, but I figure tact might be required in this situation. As for the actual main goals of The Project, I have a few:

1. To get Max and Fang together

2. Ensure that the Flock doesn't, you know, die any time soon

3. To spread the glory of bacon around the world

Max and Fang deserve each other. I'm sure I could pick their suitors Hunger Games-style and have people kill each other until one final boyfriend or girlfriend is left, but honestly, it's just easiest on my schedule if they get together themselves.

Just remember, I'm not doing this to be nice. And of course, props to Gazzy who can actually spellcheck this for me and put it online.

Have a good night, Internet.

-The Iggster

(Gazzy's note: I don't know why Ig is doing this. It's weird. Whatever. But he said he would tell Max that he caught me doing weird things to Ella's dog if I didn't do this. I swear I didn't do it, Max!)

2. Two

A/N- My backyard has a hammock, and somehow while I was lying down my bra got hooked into the ropes. I had to take off my tank top, and then my bra, in order to get free before sprinting into my house. The boys next door certainly got a view of a lifetime.

Reviewer of the Week:

I. Am. Sorta. Normal. - Wow... You really must know me. I have boobs, like Say Yes to the Dress marathons on Fridays (Bridedays... hahaha) and I will kill anyone who keeps me from my chocolate.

Comment of the Week:

Kid who I tutor – You boyfriend lives in a village of 60 people? What was his first girlfriend, a goat?

August 27th, 2012

Hey Internet,

Here is a list of things I've accomplished in the past three months:

1. Eat





I haven't really been at my peak performance.

Max noticed this when she aimed a mock punch at my head a few days ago in the kitchen. A few months ago I would have been able to sense the swish of air and the creak of the floorboards under her as she shifted her weight. But nowadays….nope.

She ended up giving me a black eye and my face bruised her hand. Although really I think it's an accomplishment that my face can bruise people. Oh yeah. Good job, face.

"You asshat, why'd you do that?" I was holding ice up to my poor, poor eye.

"Asshat? That's a new one." There was a sudden gush of running water; Max had turned on the tap and was probably washing her hand. "I thought you were going to dodge it."

I got her point; it was sort of like how the average greeting habits of the male specimen of North America required the two males to whack each other upon seeing the other. It was jut a mock punch…that decided to acquaint itself with my face.

"You're not sorry, are you?" I asked.


After that little debacle (vocab points, Internet?), we all noticed that Max would sneak up on each member of the Flock. I think she was trying to get us to snap into fight mode, but honestly it just scared the beejeezus out of us.

It was clear she was getting frustrated. Recently she had just walked up to Gazzy and put him in a headlock, and throughout the entire time, his eyes never drifted from Skyrim. "You're in the way," he said, clearly engaged in an epic battle slaying dragons.

"If I had been evil, I could've killed you!" Little wafts of air brushed my face as Max gestured wildly; she even stomped her foot against the linoleum floor. Someone was having a hissy fit.

"You're evil if you stay in the way."

So yeah, that went on for a few days. Max would walk up, put us in an I-can-tear-out-your-throat-with-my-teeth position, berate us, and then stomp away.

It was super.

And I get her point, I really do. We'd become lax and lazy because we wanted to be lax and lazy. For the first time in our lives were weren't freaking expecting to die or be tortured or chopped into little pieces and put in a stir fry. So yeah, it was nice not constantly being on edge. Was it stupid? Yeah. We were putting off the inevitable. Because one day, when the safety walls crashed, we'd be thrown back into our old lives.

I think Max almost wanted to email the whitecoats and ask for help.

Dear Evil Scientists of the World Who Have Serious Megalomaniac Complexes and Just Need a Hug,

Hey guys, we're losing our edge since we're not constantly being attacked. Wanna try and decapitate us? Points if it involves fire.


The Flock

But since that plan would involve the potential permanent loss of life and limb (uncool), Max had to settle for the next best thing.

Fast-forward to three o'clock on Saturday morning.

I was dreaming. See, I like dreaming. And not, like, Inception dreaming where everyone is running around wondering where the hell is Leonardo DiCaprio.

I've heard that people who were born blind experience dreams as they experience life – in sounds and textures and smells and taste, like a symphony of every other sense. But since I wasn't born blind, I can still "see" things in my mind's eye.

And since I'm your average teenage guy, my dreams rock. I can see the woman named Roxi Cherrykiss leaning over me. I can see her rubbing bacon grease over me. And I can see as she smiles and her eyes light up and she's laughing and she starts to say -


"Jesus!" was the first thing I said, followed by "doIhavepantson?"

Someone had burst open the door, causing it to slam against the wall - "someone" being the she-devil who will now be referred to as "Max". Her voice was the I-am-leader voice that she uses only when we're fighting bad guys or she wants to get first dibs on food.


Oh hell no.

"What are you doooooing?" The warmth of my blanket was suddenly ripped away. Oh, she was going to pay for this in blood. I could hear yelps from Gazzy and Fang as she tore away their blankets as well. "Go awaaaaaay."

Oh, Roxi, how I missed you.

"You are all invited to the first annual Maxocracy Bootcamp! Attendance is mandatory and no refreshments are provided. As well – oh come on Gazzy, do you seriously sleep naked? – make sure you're prepared to meet your doom."

Uh, Max needs to grow a 'stache and start wearing capes in order to be a true villain. Clearly she never got the memo.

"The seventh circle of hell is reserved for you," I said, not moving. The sheets were all cool and soft beneath me, and if I tried hard, I was sure I could slip back into sleep and into Roxi's weirdly-muscled arms…

"I am the seventh circle of hell, boy," Max whispered, getting so close to my face that her hair brushed lightly against my nose. Her breath smelled freaking terrible – like rotten fish mixed with the fumes coming from Dick Cheney's heart. The sheets rustled as she pulled back. "I'll see you guys soon!" she said cheerfully, slamming the door again as she left.

The silence was deafening.

"They're not family until you've contemplated homicide," Gazzy muttered from his cot. His voice was heavy with sleep.

"It's only homicide if you're caught," Fang added with a manly huff of air.

Six minutes later - to the disgust of Max - the Flock was gathered around The Hole. Dr. Martinez had the overnight shift at the vet's and Ella was at some sort of sleepover, so Max had picked a good day to bash around the house and waking the dead with so much noise. (Side note: if I could bring one person back from the dead it would be Abraham Lincoln. I feel like he would be awesome to party with since he has a top hat and then afterwards we could go hunt vampires.)

"Max, it's so early," Gazzy said from beside me. We were gathered in a semi-circle around The Hole, with Max standing on the other side. "Or late. I don't even know."

I'd been out here enough to know the landscape well: The Hole was in a small clearing of the forest surrounded by parched trees and dying shrubs. The soil beneath my feet was stale and dusty, causing Total to sneeze as we walked out there. (Dear Mother Nature: we need rain, yo.) The house was about a hundred meters behind us, so it was close enough so that when one of us was inevitably killed out here we would have someplace to hide the body.

"What if the Erasers decide to kidnap you at three in the morning? Are you just going to ask them to take a number and wait for your beauty rest?" Max was scraping her feet against the dirt. She reminded me of a racehorse, raring to get going.

"But we can't even see! It's so dark," Nudge said.

"Thanks," I drawled.

"You're never going to be able to fight in perfect conditions," Fang added. Crap! That boy had been standing behind me and I hadn't even sensed him. Saying he's quiet is like saying Toddlers and Tiaras is only a little bit morally wrong. "I agree with Max. We've become lazy."

"Thank you, Fang." Max said that in a strange tone, as if she wanted to say, "Thank you Fang, now let's go have a hot make-out session that will make everyone else uncomfortable" or "let's go be a Nicholas Sparks novel that teenage girls will squeal over as they bawl their eyes out over our star-crossed love".

"So what's the point of us being out here then? Some people enjoy beauty sleep," Total said, passed out at my feet. He was like a furry little foot warmer. "It adds to my already-perfect complexion."

"Good question," Max said; with a rustle of clothes she crossed her arms. Her wings were wafting small currents of air. "Since we're already off our game, I wanted to get us back into shape. You know, spar and stuff. "

I would like to take this moment to say that Max is a pretty gosh darn good leader. It wasn't "since you're off your game" or "get you back in shape". She took responsibility and included herself. And while I would never, ever forgive her for voluntarily waking me up at three in the morning, I had to admit it was for a good reason. But I'd rather eat Total than tell her that. (Eat Total? That was a weird example. Whatever. You get what I mean, Internet. Deal with it.)

"So," Max said, "let's pair off!"

I would've put Max and Fang together for the sake of The Project, since having them fight and then make out would have been totally hot, but sadly it was not yet to be.

I was paired with Angel – Fang was with Nudge and Gazzy with Max. The Gasman was clearly not okay with the arrangement. "If I die, you get my supply of napalm," he whispered to me. He's a good kid.

We spaced out around the clearing. It was nice having an advantage – while Angel's eyes had adjusted to the dark by now, she would still rely too much on her sight. Her eyes were her handicap. "But I don't want to fight," Angel said from across from me. I could hear her frown.

"It's not fighting, it's sparring," I said. She was just the sweetest. Well, the sweetest girl who would decapitate you with a spoon if she wanted to. "Don't worry, you'll kick my butt." Her soft laugh made me smile… and that made it worth it.

"And go!" Max called from the other side of the clearing.


Everything at once.

Slow down.

Leaves rustle. Angel moving. Air whistling. Beside me. Throw out arm. Feel impact. Shiver crawls up back. Grab her with other arm. Feel burn of buttons on jacket rake against skin. Ignore. She slips out of grip. Fingers burn. Wheel around. Can't sense her.


Hear so much. Fang grunting. Max's punches missing the mark. Nudge hitting the ground. Gazzy swearing. Someone's watch ticks. Leaves whisper in trees. Distant sounds of cars – focus! Skin hitting skin. Squirrel nearby. Trees cracking. No sense of Angel. Snap-pop-crack! - so much noise.

Angel is smarter than most people. By being completely still, she was effectively invisible to me.

Sometimes I wish I could be like Toph from Avatar, who can slam her foot and get an echo-location of where is everything and everybody. While that was sadly not possible (dammit, universe) I could maybe do the next best thing.

If there was sound all around me, then Angel would be in the place where there was no noise.

You know, Sun Tzu really had it going on when he said "know your enemy". Angel wouldn't want to get in the way of the other sparring matches, so she would stay away from those.

I pictured a clock surrounding the Hole. I was standing where the six o'clock would have been.

I could hear Fang and Nudge fighting somewhere between the seven and nine, while Max and Gazzy had spread out and were between the ten and one. So since that was where that was the most space, Angel would be attacking to my right.

"Angel is to your left," Total suddenly said.

Well, shit.

I stepped out of the way only just in time for an Angel-sized object to go hurling past me. I would have to remember to toss Total some Doritos.

Angel didn't wait again; I was only just able to prep for impact as she tackled. Nasty grime and soil was raked under my fingernails as my fingers were dragged along the ground. It would take me forever to get my wings clean –the same wings which were now pinched to my back my Angel's knees. My head landed right in a pile of small twigs and pebbles. Hello, dirt, we meet again.

"Ugghhhhhh." The breath was knocked right out of me, and the only thing I could think of, was I just wish I was playing lingerie football right now.

I locked my legs and arms around Angel as she pounded her arms into my chest. With our size difference (me = giraffe) it would be hard to put the other person in a "kill" position, but since we were both on the ground, it made the task easier. She tried so slip her hands to my neck, but I just rolled over. The dust that ended up in my mouth tasted dry and rough.

Since I was like, three times bigger than her, I had her effectively trapped. She stopped thrashing. "Good one," she said. "Thought I had you beat."

"Not quite, you vixen," I said, rolling off her and offering her a hand up. She took it as we tried to get a sense of what the other pairs had accomplished. Max and Gazzy had finished, since I could hear them talking quietly. Fang and Nudge were both grunting and gasping for breath, so I was pretty sure they both had their hands around the other person's neck.

We walked over to Max and the Gasman, the twigs cracking underneath us. We sat beside them on a fallen tree that had been converted into a rather convenient bench. It just kind of sucked that ants had taken over it, so we constantly had to brush them off our pants. Stupid nature.

"Well, isn't this relaxing – watching Fang and Nudge trying to rip each other's throats out under the summer stars. So poetic," Gazzy said. He leaned into my shoulder, his head heavy. I ruffled his hair. The stolen moments like these – well, they were the ones that made the whole birdkid thing kinda cool.

We only had to wait a few more minutes before Fang finally pinned Nudge up against a tree and forced her to concede to him. (And, taken in a different light, that sentence could be really nasty. Ugh. I need to stop listening to the audio version Fifty Shades of Grey.)

The two of them came over to join our little meeting. "So, Ms. Max, I feel like we all learned our lesson today: Don't expect a good night's sleep living with you," I said. She gave me a soft punch on the arm.

"Can we go to bed now?" Angel asked. She was lying on the ground. Her voice was muffled, so she must have her face buried between her arms.

"Yeah," Max said, "But a heads up- if we keep on slacking, these bootcamps will have a nasty reoccurrence rate."

"Joy," Gazzy murmured. "Will sleep here."

"Don't think so, bud," I said, gently pushing him upright. He swayed back and forth before lurching to his feet.

"G'night everyone," he said, starting to trudge towards the house. Dead leaves started to crunch under footsteps; evidently we had been dismissed. It would be nice to drift back off into La-La Land, where everything was shiny and golden and perfect. I started to follow - but someone latched onto my arm.

"Can you stay a second?" It was Max.

"Of course."

We waited for the footsteps to recede and for the sound of the screen door slamming in the distance. We were left sitting beside each other, with only the ants for company. I could feel a few climbing over my ankles but didn't have the heart to brush them off.

I waited for Max to speak first. I find that when someone wants to talk, they'll open up eventually. You just have to wait for them to be ready. Max could only ever last a few seconds.

"Iggy, am I okay?"

Last time I checked I wasn't moonlighting as Sigmund Freud, but whatever. "What do you mean?" I asked in the friendliest tone I could manage. Ever notice how when you're tired, you just want to chomp everyone's head off? Yeah.

She kicked at the dirt. The little particles of dust tickled my nose. "Like, as a leader. Did I do the right thing? I feel bad for waking everyone up so early, but things could change so quickly… God, I mean, do I let them finally think we're anything close to normal? Or should I keep them locked in reality? Does that make me a bad person? Should I ma-

"Max, stop." I held up a hand. "Just stop thinking. Stop breathing. No, scratch that last one, keep breathing. If you died, who would make sure I don't kill myself when doing laundry?"

She must've thrown her head back as she laughed, since some of her hair brushed my shoulder and her wings grazed my own. "I still don't know how you confused magnesium chloride with laundry detergent."

"One cannot be a genius 24/7," I said, putting on a British accent. I dropped it for my next sentence. "Why do you ask though? Did…something happen?"

Max wouldn't have let something sit and brew if it bothered her. She was a act-now-apologize-later type of girl. If the whole laziness thing had been a problem at the end of spring, right after Itex fell, then she would've commented on it then.

"Do you know what emoticons are?"

Let me just say that I freaking hate it when people answer my own question with another question. I get that it's all mysterious and whatever, but please.

It was a weird question, too. It was like the time when Fang asked me if we had a shovel and we spent the night burying dead cats. There's no such thing as a random question. "Uh, yeah, I guess – in theory. I've never actually, well, seen one, but I know of them."

"So you don't know what they actually look like?" she asked. I had no idea where she was going with this.


"Give me a second." Max stood up and started to tramp around the clearing. Little branches and stones scattered from around her, so I assumed she was looking for something on the ground. She sat down beside me a few moments later. More objects were being moved; Max had wiped the space at our feet clear of the forest-y debris. "Give me your hand."

It sounded like something out of a Disney movie, but I did so without any snarky comment. Her hand was heavily calloused and rough – just like her soul. (Kidding, kidding.)

She placed something coarse and jagged into my hand. "Wow, Max, a stick. That's so thoughtful. Santa was extra nice this year."

Max clearly did not think I was as witty as I clearly am, since she just ignored the jab. She wrapped her hand around my own hand – with the stick still in it - so that she was guiding it.

She placed my hand on the ground, where she had brushed all the twigs and little rocks away. It had become a blank canvas.

"Dr. Martinez got me a cell phone back in May," Max said. I was aware of this; the Flock had all memorized the number a while ago. Gazzy had once called an "Adult Services" agency on the phone and the phone bill had been for a few hundred dollars. "You know, for emergencies. She's the only one with the number. And you guys."

"Yeah, I know. What about it?"

"Well," she said, "I got a text message a few days ago. From a blocked number. It didn't say anything. The only message was this."

With her hand guiding mine, she drew a series of shapes. With the action of my hand moving, I could trace the motion into my head. "That's what the text message said," Max said. "That's it."

I could picture it easily in my mind.


"A smiley face?"

"Yeah. That's it."

So Max had received a creepy-ass text message from a creep-ass blocked number "Okay, I get how that's just a little bit spooky."

"It doesn't feel right, Iggy. We're being taunted. And I know the past few months have been great and all with Dr. Martinez and Ella, but I think it's time we prepare for the next chapter." Her voice broke on the last word. I slung my arm around her shoulders.

Internet, I know you really don't care about my life (because really, when there are naked pictures of Prince Harry floating around, I wouldn't care about some kid in Arizona either) but it always interested me that Max never referred to Dr. Martinez as "Mom". I guess Dr. Martinez was Max's mother, but not her Mom. Kinda sad when you think about it.

"Who else knows?" I asked. Since my arm was already around her I started twirling her hair around my finger. It wasn't anything provocative; more like an act of sibling comfort. Just to clear things up, ya know. I know the Internet likes to pair up every single possible thing in the history of ever, but Max and I together will simply never happen. We're bros.

"Fang. That's it. I wanted to keep it from the younger kids for as long as possible."

"Of course." There went Max, being all wise-like and kind. "But we can't do anything about it right now. We can just be prepared, and deal with it later."

Max let a deep breath in and out. "Yeah." Another breath. "Thanks, Ig."

"No problem." I slapped my hand against her back. "Now, can we sleep? Interrupt my sleep again and I will stick knives in unfriendly places."

We walked back to the house together, only tripping over large rocks a few times. After saying goodnight we went back to our respective rooms. Gazzy and Fang were already knocked out by the time I came in.

I don't know what the text message means. And at the moment, I don't really care. It could just be some new viral advertisement for a new pizza place or something.

And I totally get that I'm deluding myself right now, but let a kid dream, 'kay? And without further ado, I need to get back to Roxi Cherrikiss.

Goodnight, Internet.


(Gazzy's note: You know, I don't think Iggy is the sharpest tool in the shed. Since he's making me put this online, I just read his conversation with Max. Smooth, Iggy, smooth.)

3. Three

A/N- I should tell the awkward story of how I got my boyfriend.

My residence in first year is shaped like a T…and as a result, the day after I move in, I notice that I can see directly into a guy's room. So I'm thinking, "Score! This is awesome." I can usually only see the back of him, but whatever, I can go with it.

Anyways I spend about four months being able to look into his room. Then, in January, my friend introduces me to his roommates for the following year… and he introduces me to a guy who was going to be in one of my classes. Then, that night, I happened to glance at the boy in the window, and I notice that HE'S WEARING THE SAME SHIRT AS THE GUY WHO I WAS INTRODUCED TO. After freaking the hell out I confirmed my hypothesis and we eventually started dating. So yeah, close your blinds at night.

Reviewer of the Week:

Katie Nadine – Don't we all wish we were playing lingerie football constantly?

Comment of the Week:

Friend's Facebook status: I'm sleeping in a car with my foot out the window in a parking lot and an old lady just came and tickled my feet asking if I'm ticklish. What in the actual hell…

September 4th, 2012

Dearest Internet,

"Iggy, why aren't you wearing any pants?"

I'm proud to say that this question has been asked of me multiple times in my life.

My shoulders hunched up in a shrug. "I don't like pants. Who likes pants? They constrict your movement and they're all scratchy and stiff and just aren't worth it. So I've started the Free the Pants movement."

Nudge and I were sitting at the breakfast table scarfing down some 2000-calorie (no regrets) pastry that Dr. Martinez had purchased for us the day before. Nudge paused before her next word was slowly drawn out. "What?"

My knife scraped against the plate with a horrible shriek. "Maybe pants don't want to be worn. Maybe they just want to be free. No one ever asks them, do they? So yeah. It's my new philosophy in life."

"…to not wear pants." Each word was carefully enunciated.

I shrugged. "Yeah."

"I think you just made up a new philosophy to justify your laziness."


Okay, can I be honest for a second here? The reason why I wasn't wearing pants is because I didn't have any. Last night Gazzy and I read on the Internet that if you pour ethanol on denim and mix it with pentaerythritol tetranitrate and set it on fire, then the flames will be green and nothing will burn.

This is not true.

So anyways, I accidentally burnt all my pants into a crisp. If you picked them up out of The Hole, little embers of fabric would drift away. Lesson learned of the day: don't follow instructions off of a website you had to translate from Korean to English.

"Iggy, where are your pants?" Angel had stumbled into the kitchen. It was an early morning…eleven o'clock. Ugh.

"Enjoying their newfound freedom." I stuffed more delicious, delicious calories into my face. "And anyways, I'm having fun."


Wait a second.

Rule #1 of Life: When your pants are off, you know you're going to have a good time. So, logically, I just needed to get Max and Fang out of their pants, and they'd have a great time!

Oh, I love Iggy Logic.

It would be the start of The Project. Like, they wouldn't have to do anything together or anything… but with pants out of the picture, people tend to be more open and honest and all sorts of good things. All I had to do is set the mood.

But how do you get people out of their pants in a socially acceptable way? Where it would be normal to ditch the pants at the door and just be free? How could I - oh.

"Speaking of no pants," I said, looking up at Nudge and Angel, "How would you guys like to host a party?"

Do you like how I put a fancy line break there, Internet? I wanted it to be dramatic, because honestly, the reactions were just that.

Angel, Nudge, and Gazzy were all for us hosting a party – during another one of Dr. Martinez's overnight shifts in nearby Phoenix, of course. Max and Fang were basically under the impression that I had asked to host the devil to a tea party.

"Of course not!" Max said, stabbing a little too enthusiastically at her pizza during lunch. We had all gathered at the old kitchen table to discuss my brilliant, fantastical idea. "Are you serious? Having normal, non-bird kids in the house? And besides, who would show up? It's not like we know anyone here."

Oh. I hadn't thought of that.

"Actually," Ella added from beside me, "I know people."

Even though I couldn't see it, I could tell six heads pivoted towards her. "Who would that be?" Max asked delicately, clearly not impressed.

"My environmental club. Remember that sleepover I went to a few days ago? They're really good people, very low-key…it wouldn't really be a party. More like a get-together of friends." Ella's soft tone could convince you to sell your own mother.

"See?" I said, throwing a hand out. "The woman speaks the truth."

I knew Max would have trouble saying no to Ella. On one hand, a party is totally unfamiliar territory for us all, but on the other, Max has always tried to give us a normal life experience as possible. This is hard sometimes in that no one really knows what 'normal' is, and sometimes 'normal' really sucks. (Leggings are not pants, ladies.)

"Who wears windbreakers to a party?" Fang asked in a drawl. "Last time I checked it's not exactly in style."

Did Fang just make a somewhat-sarcastic joke? Man, Max is a good influence on him. "We can just tell people that it's the newest Italian fashion. They can deal with it." If only Fang knew that I wanted to host this party for his own benefit! Pssh.

I wouldn't blame Max if she said no. Considering that creepy-ass text message and the way we hadn't been on our game lately, she probably wasn't too happy inviting a bunch of strangers into the house who would probably steal the cutlery. My thighs were clenched and my hands were digging into the table until Max spit out, "Fine. But there are rules!"

Turns out, "the rules" were actually "The Rules". She kept repeating them throughout the week, but the most important ones were:

Rule 1. No drinking, drugs, or douchebaggery.

Rule 2. No more than twenty people, or anyone over the age of twenty.

Rule 3. No One Direction songs being played. (Nudge cried at this one.)

Due to my undying commitment to The Project, I even chipped in my own money (which was pickpocketed a few months ago but whatever, semantics) for pizza and chips. But of course, I kept the bulk of my money for the extra weapon that would guarantee the best party of our lives -


It would certainly liven up the party and make everyone loosen up. But, let me just say that the only reason I joke about sex and strippers and whatever so much…well, it's because we joke about what makes us most uncomfortable, right?

So you can read into that as much as you want, Internet.

But I figured, hey, I might as well live up to the image I present myself as. So a few nights before the party, I enlisted Gazzy's help (Gaz, you're a star) and we called up the "Adult Personals" section of the newspaper. I ordered three "friends" to come over at about nine o'clock.

Flash-forward to Friday night, and my master plan of doom was set to unfold.

"I feel like you're planning something," Angel said right as the doorbell rang. I ruffled her hair. It was cute because I had to bend down just to do that. "Am I right?"

"Of course, my little minion, of course."

A lot of Ella's friends had shown up early, and they were an "interesting" bunch. Ever notice how "interesting" or "unique" is only ever used to describe something that deserves a much more negative adjective? Like if you're reading the realty section of the newspaper and they describe the "interesting" kitchen then the rats have probably started a mafia in there. The first one who arrived, named "Jazzers" (...why?) had hair down to his waist, according to Gazzy. He arrived with some girl who started every sentence with "hey man".

A few more people trickled in until there were about ten of us (which is sad considering that the Flock and Ella makes seven) sitting around looking at each other until the doorbell rang with a sharp ding-dong.

"That must be Jessica!" Ella yelled, with that girly I-haven't-seen-you-in-two-whole-hours shriek. The couch rose up as she launched herself towards to the door to open it. "Hey Jessi- oh. Good evening, officers."


"Are you here to arrest us?" I said, standing up. It was all an act, but no one had to know that. I walked over to the door and put my hand on one of the stripper's shoulders. Luckily I actually hit the shoulder and not, say, the face. "'Cause I'm a bad, bad boy."

But instead of a husky female voice saying, "I'll have to frisk you to see if you have any weapons," a rough hand grabbed my arm and shoved it away.

"Sir, please don't touch me," a deep – and male – voice said. "We're here to inquire about a complaint that was recently issued against this house."


It suddenly clicked in my head. These weren't strippers dressed as cops – these were real cops. And I had just hit on one of them.


Look at that.

The other police officer jumped in. "An elderly couple next door was visited an hour ago, by, um, some lady friends. These, uh, girls, were dressed as police officers, and gave that couple a bit of a fright when they started to, uh, perform their act. Especially since the couple thought they were real officers."

The lightbulb went off in my head.


It's not like I'd ever had to memorize an address before – with all the running around, saving lives here, crashing corporations there, we've rarely spent more than a few weeks in the same spot. So we weren't 7998 South Brighton Road… we were 2800. Whoops.

The cop kept talking. His belt jangled as he moved his arm - did he have a gun? "This couple knew that there were…adolescents in the area and wondered if the escorts were supposed to be sent over here for a party – which, may I add, is mighty suspicious considering that no one here is 21."

"With all due respect, we're just hanging out, officer – it's not a party." Bless Ella and her sweetness. "But if the girls came over here, I'm sure we could figure out where they are supposed to be."

There was a pause, and I guess the cops were shooting their partner a look. They probably had a lot of other places to be, since it was a Friday night. "Look," the first one said. Clearly he had spent a lot of time dealing with stupid teens. "Just don't show up on our radar, and we won't do anything. Okay? Okay. Have a good night."

Ella shut the door quietly behind them, and then the world exploded.

"IGGY, DID YOU ORDER STRIPPERS?" Max's shriek broke on the last word.

"YOU COULD HAVE GOTTEN US ARRESTED." I don't think so, Fang, I don't think so.


And just when it couldn't get worse, it did. There were three short raps on the door, and before Ella could even open it, three strawberry-scented shapes hurtled into the room.

There were actual strippers in my living room.

Oh. My. God.

There's something different about joking about things and actually seeing them happen. It's like when you joke about "haha yeah during the zombie apocalypse I'd eat your brains" and next thing you know you're chowing down on your best friend.

"Hey everyone!" a high-pitched voice shouted. "How're y'all tonight?"


Then chaos, panic, and destruction.

Turns out Ella's friends did bring alcohol with them in their backpacks, and before Max could say "get the hello out of my house and my life," drinks were being poured, the music being turned up, and a continuous stream of people walking in the door. I haven't been this surprised since I found out Carly Rae Jepsen is older than Lady Gaga.

Nudge gave me the low-down on the three girls. "One's a blonde, one's a brunette, and one looks like a stoned raccoon. They're all sucking on lollipops which is just super awks. One of them has three inch heals and man, I don't know how she can even walk. Everyone else at the party is eyeing them up like a free dinner."

It was hard being around so many people. My senses were basically blanked out – between the constant buzzing of noise and bodies crushing in to me, I had to hold on to the couch just to stay centered. From the amount of times the door opened and shut, I'd say there were about fifty people in a house meant for five.

I've never been to a party before, so I had no idea to expect. In the space of an hour, the kitchen table had been hi-jacked into a beer-pong table; King's Cup was in the living room; a horrible rendition of karaoke near the TV; a Gangnam Style dance-off in the hallway (Wup! Wup! Wup! Wup!) and more than one makeout session going on. The average age was definitely higher than fourteen.

A hand was placed on my shoulder; I jumped up at least a foot and resisted the urge to knock their head off. "What?" I yelled over the bass of the music.

The voice that answered was pressed right up against my ear. "I wanted to know if you're having a good time." And then, a something wet and textured against me – EW THIS PERSON HAD JUST LICKED MY EAR. THAT IS SO SICK AND WRONG.

"Are you, um, one of the girls?" I yelled. I could feel her nod her head from against me.

What do you say to a stripper? She was pressing her clearly-fake boobs against me. And sure, the teenage guy part of me had died and gone to heaven, but I was also flipping out. It's sort of like a dog chasing a squirrel: he spends his whole life chasing one, but when he actually catches it, he has no idea what to do with it.

Okay. Suitable conversation topics for strippers. Go.

The weather. What did the hurricane say to the palm tree? Better hold on to your nuts!

Politics. Wow, can you believe Ann Coulter saying that women shouldn't vote? The 1850's called, they want their views on women's rights back.

Something non-stripping related. Uhhhhh…

This is going to be a disaster.

I'm the one who is supposed to be good with words, too. See, if this had happened to Fang, he would have blinked, flashed his my-soul-is-of-the-ebony-night mystery glare, and then disappeared into the shadows. I'm the one who is supposed to be able to talk myself out of any situation.

"So," I said. "Your face is very…face."

Shoot me.

"Um, thaaanks," she said, drawing out the word. Her valley girl accent was as grating as sandpaper. It was only then that I realized that I didn't even know her name. "So do you want to go? Like, to another room?"

"Why would we go to another room?" My voice was deadpan, a realization starting to creep up on me.

"You mean you want to do it here? Well, whatever. Your tip better be good."


Hold the phone.


The sound that came out of my throat was akin to "wat". I'm quite loquacious when I try, thank you. Suddenly her nails were drawing light designs on my forearm, causing a shiver to start at my feet and roll up to my head.

"Um, I think…I think…" I think that there's been a massive, earth-shattering mistake. I think you should leave. I think you should re-think your life decisions. "I think going to another room is a great idea."


It just slipped out of my mouth! I didn't want to shoot her down publically with so many people around. I figured it would just be easier to turn her down alone. This, of course, was a terrible idea.

She grabbed my arm a little too tightly and together we skirted around the edge of the room in order to get to the hallway with all of the rooms. There were a few "heys!" as she pushed people out of the way..

I couldn't even focus in on my senses – there was just too much. The screaming music – the chanting crowd singing along to the pop song of the day - people crushed up against me – my feet sticking in spilled beer – the acrid smell of sweat – voices – heat – scream - push – yell – snap!

I couldn't focus back in until a door slammed shut, causing the noise to significantly dim. From the way the back of my legs were hitting a bed, we must have been in the master bedroom. I didn't know the layout nearly as well as I knew my own room, but I knew that the bed was in one corner, and a separate bathroom was on the other side of the room. A desk, last time I checked, had been in the furthest corner of the room. From the lack of movement in the room, we were alone.

"That's better," she said.

The words tumbled out of my mouth in a good impression of a waterfall of verbal garbage. "Look, I'm so sorry, that's not what I meant, I just want to say that clearly you're very pretty but I really don't think we're on the same page, I'll give you your money, but I don't want anything to happen here-"

I never thought I'd ever say that.

A rustle of clothing, and all of a sudden cold flesh was pressed up against me, since her shirt was off-

"I NEED TO GO, BYE," I made a lunge for where I thought the door was, but her hand was still clenched on my arm.

"Are you sure?" I think she was aiming for her voice to sound husky but she just sounded like she need cough drops. "I'm… good."

Clearly this girl didn't know I was fourteen, so this would be illegal in every state. Even Alabama. It was understandable that she'd think I was older – with all the hormones and crazy stuff that Itex pumped through us, the Flock looked a lot older than we were. I could pass for eighteen if I tried.

"What are you thinking?" she whispered.

"I think you fell out of the slut tree and banged every branch on the way down."

It was harsh, and she felt the cut. "Excuse me?"

"I've been trying to tell you, I don't want to do anything with you right now! Like, no offense, but seriously, just stop! I want you to leave." The words left my mouth before I could think them through.

For a few moments the only noise was the sound of the bass playing from family room. "Seriously? Oh, thank God." Her accent had suddenly disappeared, and her grip on my arm was released.

Wait, what?

"Sorry, I don't think I understand." She had stepped away from me; I appreciated the personal space. "You were just…you were…"

She snorted a small laugh, followed by a sigh. "Trying to get money to pay the rent. Do you really think I'd do this for kicks?" Embarrassment leaked into her tone. "It's not like I like it."


My stomach dropped. I felt more than a little sad.

"Oh." What was I supposed to say to that? "I'm really sorry to hear that." I reached out and took her hand. It was tiny and cold – and not nearly as vicious as before.

"Thanks. It's hard to get sympathy out here. I really appreciate you saying that." She squeezed my hand. I was conscious of how close she was, as if she was crawling under my skin. "You're a nice guy."

And the next thing I knew, her lips were on mine.


It was kinda nice - and warm. Of course I've heard all the stories about first kisses, but it wasn't really that special - no fireworks or violins or exploding roses. The worst part was the regret that was bubbling at the bottom of my stomach, even as our lips were pressed together - I hadn't known her, and she was my first kiss. No Taylor Swift song here.

But let's snap back to my life. Have you ever heard of Murphy's Law, Internet? It says that what can go wrong, will go wrong. I'd really like to go back in time and slap this Murphy guy, just 'cause he was so freaking accurate. So of course, when the girl leaned in to kiss me, Nudge opened the door.


This is why I hate my life sometimes.

It was perfect timing – I thought that type of thing never happened. Then again, birdkids never happen. Either way, there was about five seconds where no one spoke until all hell broke loose.

"Iggy?" It was Max. Nudge's yell had inevitable brought some attention. From the sudden sound of footsteps racing towards the door and the quick rush of sounds, it seemed that we had an audience.

"Hey Max." I gently plucked the girl's hands from my waist, where they had naturally gravitated towards. "This is pleasantly uncomfortable."


When I woke up this morning I did not imagine this situation.

Max had evidently locked eyes with the girl. "I want you and all of your friends out of the house. Now." Her feet scuffed the floor as she turned around to face all the people crowding at the door. "That means you guys as well!"

Her voice was blink-and-I'll-shoot you one. The tramping of feet and opening of the front door indicated that Max's warning had sort of killed the party mood. Either way, this would totally be trending on Twitter in a few hours. What would the hashtag be? Something like #ain't a party if it ain't an Iggy party.

Warm breath (ewww?) was suddenly at my ear as the girl leaned close. I could feel her smile against my neck. "Thank you for listening. My name is-" She started to say something, but was suddenly wrenched away – probably by one of her friends. I could hear her shout "bye!" from the hallway.

I knew I'd never see her again, which is sort of poetic but sort of sad as well. She was my first kiss, and I don't even know her name.

It took about five minutes for all of Ella's friends to clear out the house – it was really awkward fishing out the people who had paired off and had managed to stumble into our rooms. (Note to self: burn your mattress and scatter the ashes to the wind.)

One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing that you disappointed someone. No, that's not true; the worst feeling in the world is when you're cozy and perfect in bed but really have to pee. Although the screwing up badly is pretty high up there.

The point is, I knew Max wasn't angry or frustrated or furious…just disappointed.

The Flock and Ella gathered in what was once the family room. I only say that since it had been utterly trashed – Gazzy had given me a detailed description of it later that night. The couch had been upended and barricaded the window; pizza boxes were stacked on some drunk guy who was still lying on the floor; knives were sticking out of the walls.

I just wanted to do something nice.

"I wasn't going to do anything with her," I said, to start off the debriefing session. "She was nice. She kissed me because she wanted to, not because she was paid to. It was just bad timing on everyone's part. Anyways, I understand that this party wasn't the best idea I've had in all my life-"

"Why is there a thong in the sink?" Total asked from the kitchen.

"-so I'm sorry," I said, to conclude my monologue. A hand was placed on my shoulder; from the size of it I could tell it was Max.

"I know," she said. "I know."

And that was it.

We stayed up until three in the morning cleaning, but I honestly don't think that the mysterious Mexico-shaped stain on the carpet will ever go away. Worse, everyone was too tired to be angry at me.

And there we have it. My first shot at The Project was an abysmal failure. I'm a failure. It was all my fault and now everyone is so tired and mad and –

Ugh. Nudge calls this stinkin' thinkin' - when one negative thought leads to another and you just feel terrible by the end of your rant. I think I'll spend the night with my two best bros – Ben and Jerry. But don't you worry, Internet, you can't count me out just yet. Max and Fang will get together, and I will be the scheming mastermind behind this brilliant plan. Just…no more strippers.

Except maybe one.

Have a good night, Internet.


(Gazzy's note - I just want to say that I had such a great time at the party! Hahahaha it was great because we convinced this one girl that Total was a stuffed animal and she was holding him and he suddenly said "Hi!" and she just freaked out and ran outside and I haven't seen her since. I hope Max doesn't find out! Peace – OPPA GANGNAM STYLE hahahaha.)

4. Four

A/N- I should feel regret after eating pizza for six meals in a row…but nope.

By the way, feel free to add me on my (real) Facebook account. The link is on my profile. Also, if anyone is going to the Ontario Universities Fair in Toronto on the 29th, give me a shout since I'm reppin' my university and would kill to meet people who have actually read my stuff.

Comment of the Week:

Adam Young: Why doesn't someone just tell Dora about Google Maps so we can all live in a normal world.

Reviewer of the Week

Katie Nadine: Ahahaha of course you won't ever see her again Iggy. You're blind.

September 17th, 2012

Hello Internet,

I like to think that being an asshole is one of my better traits.

See, the deeper in trouble I am in, the sassier I get. It's like Insta-Sass. It just happens. I think this is a result of the School, where I developed my kick-ass sense of humor after being kicked in the head a few dozen times. (Which would explain a few things.)

Anyways, Dr. Martinez was not impressed with our party. By "not impressed" I mean "we are so grounded we are the ground and the dirt and the floor and anything else that gets trampled on".

We cleaned up, of course, but when we finished in the morning, it was that three o'clock in the morning feeling where anything looks good 'cause you just want to sleep so freaking badly. When we woke up in the morning, we realized:

1. We are terrible human beings.

2. The drunk guy was still on the floor since we forgot to kick him out.

3. Dr. Martinez was channeling her inner diva.

"Why is someone passed out on the floor?" The words were tight and terse. After getting home at six in the morning after her shift, she had promptly woken us all up for the impromptu family meeting session. We were gathered around the kitchen table – the same table that was now leaning to the right since someone had taken a knife and chopped off a good portion of one of the legs.

I don't know if drunk people are idiots or awesome.

Apparently Gazzy didn't realize it was a rhetorical question, since after a painful silence, he said, "We don't really know. But he looks nice."

The drunk guy coughed, then puked a little onto the carpet.

"Or not."

There was a thump – Dr. Martinez had smacked down her elbow on the table and probably had her head in her hand. The added weight caused the table to shift.

"Guys," she said, the words creaking out. "I got home five minutes ago. I've been up all night working, and then I get home, and…this. Someone's puking on my carpet. The house smells like beer. The front windows are cracked. The garden is trampled. I think I found a tooth in my mug. Iggy, someone drew a penis on your face." DAMMIT WHY DO PEOPLE NOT TELL ME THESE THINGS.

Really, though, we all felt terrible – me, worst of all, since it was my genius idea to host the party. I've gotta say, it was a sick party, but it just wasn't worth the cost to Dr. Martinez. – or the couch. Too many mystery stains.

I could feel Max's anger radiating off of her. She was sitting right beside me, with Fang on the other. Between them, it was like a sandwich of hate. "We'll clean the rest of the house," Max said. "You won't even know people were ever here."

We could all hear the unsaid words: I bet you wish we weren't here, either.

"I'm going to bed," Dr. Martinez said. Her chair scraped against the linoleum with a harsh creak. Her footsteps were heavy until she paused at the hallway. "When I wake up, I'd better be able to see myself in the reflection off the counters."

I barely bit back my "sir, yes, sir."

Don't you wish sometimes that life had background music? Like when you're walking to school and the epic orchestral music comes on, with the crashing symbols and thundering bass? It makes everything sick.

But in this point in time, A Hard Knock Life montage would be appropriate. Our cleaning last night really had been half-assed, as we discovered. Max pulled out buckets and even poured bleach in them. See, if there's one smell the six of us hate, it's the bitterness of bleach. There's nothing quite like the smell of fourteen years of Hell. Admittedly, Hell with good food.

We wiped down all the surfaces, (which smelled like strawberry daiquiri) took out the trash (Nudge screamed, "EWW THERE ARE MAGGOTS BURN EVERYTHING") and Febreezed everything (even the drunk guy). By nine in the morning, the place could have been used as one of those model homes for real estate agencies.

"Not gonna lie, that was worse than Max's little workout session a few nights ago," Gazzy said. The leather chair squeaked as he sat down. He yawned.

With a soft plump I fell onto the couch. "I love you, couch. You understand me," I murmured, caressing its soft rolls of fabric. (Aaaaand the winner of the most disturbed sentence goes to-)

The six of us - why didn't Ella have to clean up? Damn girl and her damn dimples can get out of anything - just sat in the family room, not moving. "Tired" was inadequate. My legs kept twitching from running around everywhere. Stop it, leg. Stop being such a leg.

I could have fallen asleep there. Why is it so easy to sleep when you're not supposed to? Really, Universe, you've got to solve that. My head sank deep into the armrest of the couch, and I felt that strange sensation when you know you're about to fall off the edge of consciousness. Sleep was so close…so, so close… so warm–



Limbs flailed everywhere as we all shot out of our seats. But they weren't shots being fired; just overly aggressive knocks on the door. Something told me it was not those Welcome Wagon people. I could feel glances being passed on through all the members of the Flock. It was sort of like a Spidey sense, but with less arachnids.

Judging from the weight of the footsteps that hit the floor, it was Max who got open to answer the door. A deep voice said, "Good morning, m'am. We have a warrant for an arrest."


"Why? Who? What?" Max sputtered. "You can't just come in here and – "

Max was cut off by two sets of footprints forcing their way into the house. What could the cops possibly want? Both men were clearly overweight and had confidence issues, since they sounded like some sort of giant jacked up on steroids.

I expected them to ask for Dr. Martinez, or maybe even to ask for coffee. Maybe they just wanted to chat? Cops always get such a bad rap, but they're just looking out for the city, and they're people too, the guardians of the city of fears, the light to the shadows, the saviors and the soldiers-

Haha no.

A rough hand grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet. The momentum was too much; I lost my balance and my knees slammed into the floor. The fake wood flooring groaned underneath. It took me all the willpower I ever had (WHICH IS NOT MUCH) to resist going full badass on them.

Another hand jerked me upwards for a second time. I was numb to everything except my hands being shoved behind my back, and a cold circular bracelet locked my wrists together. They came together with a rather ominous click.

Wait – they weren't bracelets – they were handcuffs!

Okay, maybe these were the strippers.

Right? Right? This could be their thing. Maybe they wanted to initiate me or something? So instead of Magic Mike it would be Magic Iggy. I would be so down for that.

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you by the state."

Or maybe not.

Why was he reading me my Miranda rights? They only do that if they're going to-

"-ARREST IGGY ARE YOU SERIOUS?" I suddenly snapped back to my other senses. Dr. Martinez was clearly having a rough day, since she was now screaming at the other cop. Meanwhile, Gazzy was whispering something to me about being in trouble and going to die in a rotten old prison cell.

Okay. Okay. I could deal with this. What were the facts?

A. I was being arrested.

B. This was the night after a really good or bad party, depending on your perspective.

C. Oh God I hope I didn't strip last night.

"He has the right to know why he's being arrested." I nearly jumped out of my skin; Fang had spoken from just beside me. The kid clearly does not understand the concept of personal space.

"We're getting there," the officer said. "We've received word that this young man here is expected of trafficking young women for the purpose of monetary gain."



They think I'm a pimp?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA- Now that's a new one.

"Iggy? A pimp? He couldn't get a girl if he tried." Thanks, Gazzy, you're a great friend. The Flock was collectively losing their shit, but at least Gazzy could keep it realistic. The likelihood of me getting a girl is about the same chance as Chris Brown ever gaining a soul.

"We'll be taking you down to the Phoenix station. You will be able to speak to a lawyer then." Wait, they were taking me to Phoenix? Was that even allowed? Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, but I still should have been taken to the local station. Only the big cases go straight to the capital.

Looks like I was in a bit of a pickle.

"Iggy!" someone yelled - Gazzy?

Before I could even say a word, they marched me through the front door, down the decrepit porch steps, and into the police car. It smelled like lemon and cat litter. I could hear Max yelling something, but it was lost from the buzzing in my head. It felt like someone had clamped their hands over my ears.

The car jolted forwards. I was completely trapped in a foreign space. On Iggy's Scale of Uncoolness, this hit a solid 11. There was a minute of silence as we started driving. Only the disembodied voice from the police radio came through. It was just formal talking and reporting incidents around the city, so it wasn't even like I could jam to some tunes.

"Have you guys ever played the whisper game?" Oh crap, my Insta-Sass was kicking in. "It's when you try to find things that are appropriate to say in a normal tone of voice but not in a whisper."

I could tell they were listening, even if they didn't want to. "I'll go first." I dropped my voice to a whisper. "I like children."

Maybe this wasn't the best game to play with police officers. Whatever. "Can you butter my bread roll? Come on, guys, this game is a riot."

"Didn't your mother ever tell you to shut up?" one of them snapped. Ooh. Low blow, dude. "Please. Just stay quiet. It won't take more than an hour to get to Phoenix, and then we'll want you to talk. Capisce?"

You know, some people deserved to be high-fived. In the face. With a brick. I mean, I totally get that as police officers they had dealt with some pretty nasty people over the years, but come on. As a skinny fourteen-year-old blind kid, my main defense is the ability to make a mean omelet in under seven minutes. Fortunately I had my wind-breaker on, so they hadn't discovered the whole wing thing yet.

We rode on in silence for a few more minutes. I had a mental map of Mesa in my head, but after a few quick turns, I was lost. For all I knew we were headed to the grocery store – but I seriously doubted we'd be stocking up on salsa. (Nobody ever remembers salsa.)

After another ten minutes, The Greater Powers That Be clearly decided that my life was too dull. Clearly, being mistaken for a pimp was passé these days. Oh, just wait for it, Internet. It got interesting, fast.


We had been cruising along on what I assumed was a main freeway, since we were travelling fast and uninterrupted by traffic lights. With a sudden jerk and a hideous crunch, we all slammed forwards into our seatbelts.

"Some jackass rear-ended us!" Wow, thanks for the totally unnecessary explanation, Watson. I rubbed my shoulder where the seatbelt had cut into me. At least it would leave a cool-looking bruise.

See, at this point, the cops should have just pulled over the guy that hit us and give him a ticket for dangerous driving. This is what happens to normal people, but nooooo, not for Iggy. Sometimes, I don't get the universe. Like, this would be my conversation:

Me: Hey, I really want to chill tonight. Can you do something about that?

Universe: here have a puppy

Me: Wow, a puppy, thanks!

Universe: lol jk I stepped on your puppy

So instead of exchanging insurance information or whatever, another force slammed into the side of the car on the side opposite of where I was sitting. I really wish I said something like, "Oh that's unfortunate" but I think what came out of my mouth was more along the lines of "OH MY GOOOD."

The sound of the crunching metal was the worst; it was like aluminum had been put into a blender and then blasted through speakers. Tires shrieked against the pavement as the cop who was driving veered into the lane to our left. I slammed into the car door, my head smacking against the window. Hello, pain. I missed you.

If Gazzy were here, he would have been so excited to be in a legitimate car chase. Well, more like a car search-and-destroy. I certainly wasn't having much fun, considering there was a chance that I would die without ever realizing my goal of one day fist-pumping with Neil Patrick Harris.

"Go! Go! Go!" one of the cops shouted. More crunching and crashing and mayhem; something sharp pierced my arm. Ew, ew, there was no way I was dying of tetanus. One more terrifying smash caused a high-pitched shriek from the side of the car, and with a painful jerk, we came to a halt. We had been pinned to the concrete median separating the two directions of the highway. Cars honked loudly as they roared past.

Then, things got creepy, because of course they would.

The police radio had been reporting your average police information; but suddenly, it clicked over to commercial radio.

"This is The Goldmine 90.7 FM, the valley's only commercial-free hit music! Coming up next, the newest hit from some Autotuned pop star you don't care about. But first! Stay tuned for more information regarding the inevitable fall of our finest force." Static crunched through the radio until a quick click brought the radio back to the police channel. Officers from around the city were all apparently in similar situations of being totally cornered.

Alrighty. So this was a new one.

"Are you okay?" I asked. I tasted something metallic in my mouth; it took me a moment to realize it was my own blood. Was I like a self-vampire? Drinking my own blood? Dat's nasty yo.

No one answered. I pounded on the bars that separated my section of the car from theirs. "Guys! Guys! Answer me."

Nothing. I was going to work on the assumption that they were passed out, and not dead, because I just couldn't deal with that. They were good guys and for some reason they're the ones who die young.

I needed to get out of the car. Hmm. Problem: The door on my left was pinned tightly against the media. The door to my right had been smashed in so badly that I couldn't find the handle; I could only feel the sharp contorted mess of plastic and metal. The bars prevented me from getting out of the front.

I was trapped, and for the first time in a very long time, I felt helpless.

For some reason, I was strangely conscious of the leather seats. Blood from my arm dripped irregularly down with soft splatters. I shivered.

But did I really need to worry about getting out? Wouldn't whoever ran into us come and get me? Just as the thought ran through my head, I could hear footsteps come crunching up to the car on the right side.

A door creaked open; it was the door to the passenger side of the car, up where one of the cops was sitting. There was a moan and some sounds of a few twangs of something I didn't recognize. With the door open, I could hear all the other cars rushing past. Would no one help? Any would this person attack me? "Not yet," a voice whispered. Okay, he wins the whisper game.

The door slammed shut again. All of the possibilities ran through my head – rogue cops? Domestic terrorists? People who were angry that the fifth Harry Potter book was the longest one yet the shortest movie?

But dying could wait.

"Iggy! Iggy!" There was a rap on the window; my limbs flailed around until I realized that it had been Nudge's voice. Oh, bless her soul. It was hard to tell how much time had passed since the super-uncomfortable whisper, but I guessed about five minutes. "Iggy, are you okay? Move away, I'm going to smash the window."

I scooted as far as I could over to the left and ducked my head under my arm. It only took a few moments before she wrenched off the bars that covered the window. Damn, I always underestimated her strength. Any one of us could win an arm-wrestling tournament with, well, anyone.

The glass shattered loudly into fiery and sharp snowflakes that littered the car floor. More cracking sounds erupted as Nudge brushed away the leftover pieces of glass that surrounded the frame.

"Thanks," I said as she helped me climb through the window. We were evidently standing on the side of the highway, since cars still rushed by. It was kind of sad that no one bothered to pull over and see if we were okay. "Why are you here? Where are the guys who hit us?"

It was ridiculously hot out. I could feel the sweat that was dripping down my neck mingle with the blood from the cuts that were laced all over me. It was a really badass look.

I jumped a foot when Max answered my question from directly behind me. "We decided to follow you since we weren't sure where you were being taken. We watched the whole thing happen – from a few hundred feet in the air, yes, but whatever. Two black cars orchestrated the whole thing. They drove off after they crashed the cop car. Fang, Gazzy and Angel are flying after them right now to see where they go."

Can I just take a moment to say that I have awesome friends? Then again, truly awesome friends would have been arrested with me. Well, we can't have everything. Not everyone can be a pimp.

"We need to help the officers." I gestured towards the car. "They need help. I think they've passed out." Please. Please.

Max jogged over to the right side of the car. Her sneakers crunched little pieces of glass. "Iggy? Did anyone – did anyone, like, open the door or anything? Nudge and I missed a bit when we landed."

That made sense – they couldn't have just landed right on a busy highway. "Actually, yeah, someone did. Only a few minutes before you came. Why?"

"No reason."

With Max's cell phone, we called 911; fortunately, ambulances were available. We made sure the officers were breathing before sprinting across the highway (I felt like I was playing that Frogger game) and hiding behind a low-lying warehouse building. From there we shot up into the sky, our windbreakers tied around our waist. We looked like a bunch of rich, yuppie tennis players.

But at the house, everything moved fast. Fang and the rest of the Flock reported that they lost the cars when they headed into downtown Phoenix. Flying over a major city is just a nightmare, so they had to turn back. Fang even slapped my shoulder affectionately in greeting. The sound you just heard was Hell freezing over.

We told Dr. Martinez that I had been cleared of the charges of being a pimp, but "unfortunately", I had tripped down the stairs at the police station and banged myself up. She didn't believe it for a second, but she still disinfected my wounds. I think she believed that I was a pimp more than the tripping story.

Things felt wrong. Why had the car been randomly targeted? Why didn't they kill the police officers? Was it me they were after? Who was on the radio, and why did they do it? Why did Gazzy give me an extra slice of lasagna at dinner?

I was sitting outside on the porch when I heard the screen door bang shut behind me. Even though I couldn't see it, I knew the stars were bright tonight. It had cooled off, too, but still warm. It was one of those nights where you could wear a T-shirt and shorts and be perfectly comfortable. The nights are one of the perks of living in the South. "It's a nice night," I said in greeting.

"Are you okay?" It was Max. She stood right behind me. I didn't bother looking up at her. Her presence was comforting.

"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" She put a hand on my shoulder, which was way disconcerting. What was up with the whole touchy-feely thing lately? "I'm totally fine."

"You just had a tough day." She stood up. "Goodnight, Iggy." The screen door opened and shut for a second time. I was alone again with the night. Why was everyone so concerned? I'm fine. I've always been fine.

Only later did Max tell me that, carved into the police officer's arm in his own blood, was a small ;)

Sometimes I don't like humans.


(Gazzy's note: I don't get why Iggy isn't telling the rest of us about the emoticon thing. I get that he wants to shelter us and everything, but I want to help him. Sort of like the time he burned off his eyebrows and I drew them on with Ella's eyeliner for a month. Everyone needs help sometimes. It's not a weakness, it's a necessity, and even I know that.)

5. Five

A/N- My housemates were very drunk before going to see a movie; I was the sober person designated to take care of them. Anyways, my friend puked on the guy sitting in the row ahead of us, and that guy was so disgusted that he puked on the person sitting in front of him. It was like this circle of puke and terror.

Reviewer of the Week:

Mbali97: I am so glad I'm not the only one annoyed about The Order of the Phoenix. That is a totally legitimate reason to run into a police car.

Comment of the Week:

Horse_ebooks: BUSINESS EDUCATION SALESHAN SHIP gzggigg gggggggggg is valuable training because in selling you learn how to handle prople. This is basic

Dearest Internet,

This is it. Life has become a dull, pointless existence that only mirrors the blackness of Max's soul when she's hungry.

Why would you do this, cruel world? Doth the universe hateth me so? Why would you take out the only happiness, the only source of true love and desire and fate, and leave us plebeians rolling in the dirt at your feet? Can we ever truly live again?

"Hey, Iggy," Gazzy said, crashing onto my bed, "Have you heard about the inevitable bacon shortage that's going to happen next year?"

"I DON'T KNOW MAYBE." I pulled the covers of my bed up over my face and turned to face the wall. I like you, wall. You won't leave me.

"It's supposed to be a worldwide thing."


"Are you upset?"


It was true, though. Because of the drought last year, pig populations have plummeted and the cost of feeding them has risen…so as a result, the world is going to implode next year. This was the first sign of the Apocalypse. And I thought it had been Sarah Palin.

You see, Internet, bacon is a bit more an experience for me. I can pick up on the tangy overtones of salt, the crunchiness of the edges, and that sweet, sweet taste of approval. So taking bacon away from me was like taking away a five-year-old's security blanket.

"I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with my life." The future stretched on before me like an endless desert without any mirages or scantily-clad women in bikinis. "I feel so…empty."

That much was true, though. I hate to get all deep and serious on you, Internet (because I know you have Facebook and a Youtube video of Joseph Gordon-Levitt strip-teasing on SNL in another tab) but the last few weeks have been sort of sucko.

After that whole my-life-is-a-cheap-action-movie scene with the cop car being pinned to the median of the highway a while ago, things have been… off. Turns out, cops all over the city were somehow harassed or trapped. What had gone on? There had been no robberies, no attacks, no demands that the election be called off in favor of a dance-off to determine the best candidate.

The city's police had been paralyzed, but they hadn't been taken advantage of.

(Oh, crap - I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Oh well. Can't be tamed.)

Of course we – along with the rest of Arizona - had all been on alert. Max's training sessions had ramped up so that we were officially back in top shape – she nodded in approval when she tried to stab me with a fork and I shoved a knife against her head. Oh, family.

But yeah. When you're constantly living in fear that some crazy-ass murderer is going to carve a ;) into your flesh, it kinda messes with your head.

And with the news about this bacon disaster, it just pushed me over the edge.

"I was thinking though," Gazzy suddenly said. He was tapping his fingers against the sheets that still covered my leg. "What if we, like, just went out and bought all the bacon now? Then we could save some for later."




"That's brilliant!" I tried high-fiving him but ended up slapping him in the face. "I'll get the rest of the Flock."

I threw off the covers and flew out the door to the hallway. My wings brushed against the frame of Max's room as I barged in without knocking. "Ladies!" I shouted over their protests and squeals of being interrupted in whatever they were doing. Maybe painting their nails? Reading magazines and doing quizzes on why they're still single? Joining a Satanic cult? "We're going shopping."

It didn't take long to convince everyone else to join us. Since Ella was at a friend's house and Dr. Martinez was at work, we waited until night (since carting a few bags of bacon away is sadly not socially acceptable) to fly to the nearby 24/hour grocery store and landed in the back parking lot. The asphalt crunched as we landed down. It was chilly, too – we needed our windbreakers not only to hide the wings, but for their actual purpose.

I felt like a Jedi as the automatic doors swooshed open with a rush of cold air. As we walked in, all of the smells – the lemon-scented floor, the citrusy oranges and lemons on a nearby stand, the ready-made pizzas – hit me at once. Combined with the disembodied voices on the radio and the whir of the fan overhead, it was a lot to handle at once. It must have been around three in the morning – we've turned into night owls – so the place felt empty.

"I'm just so excited," Gazzy said. We all made a beeline to the deli section at the back. Somewhere along the line, in the produce section, my hand brushed against some apples. One or two fell to the ground with a thump and rolled away.

"Hey, man," a jagged voice said behind me, "pick those up".

I turned and shrugged. "I would, I swear, but I don't know where they are. It's a thing."

Later that evening as we flew into the desert (it's called foreshadowing, I'll get there, Internet) we had a lot of time, so Fang described the guy to me: tall build, skinny, pale complexion with tattoo sleeves that were revealed by his uniform. He had been flanked by three other employees, all who looked as not family-friendly as him.

"Pick it up," the guy said. I shall name him Chad, because I dislike the name Chad.

"It's not a big deal," Max said. Oooh, she was pissed at his attitude. Someone – Angel – brushed against me as she picked up the apples and put them back on the stand.

"See?" she said, in that high-pitched voice that you would think belonged to a puppy. It was her conflict resolution voice, the same one she used to talk me out of slitting Gazzy's throat when he once ate my piece of chocolate cake. "No problem." She retreated back behind me. Somehow, subconsciously, we had ended up in a 'fight' formation mode. Max was at the front, and we fanned out in a V formation.

"You kids are always trying to give us a harder time than what we've got," one of Chad's friends (bros?) said. "I'm sick of it."

"'Us kids'? Are you kidding me?" The words came flying out of my mouth. I really need a filter. "You sound like you're four years older than me. Just 'cause you're stuck in a dead-end job doesn't mean you have to be a dick about it."


A sharp, sudden pain erupted in stomach – Chad had whipped an apple at me.


Before Max or Fang could hold me back, I lunged for where I thought the apple stand was, and grabbed a handful of apples and began chucking them as hard as I could towards the sound of the guys' voices. Judging from their yelps, I got a few hits. They reacted fast, and I had to dodge a few bananas and kiwis.

"This is every dream come true!" Gazzy shouted. He ran beside me and grabbed something – oranges, I learned later on – and began throwing things as well.

They were on one side of an aisle, and we were on another. Max and Fang were throwing themselves at myself, Gazzy, and Nudge, who had joined us in our quest against the guys. Angel was standing behind us all eating some strawberries.

"What-are-you-doing?" Max said between gasps for air. She had wrenched my arm away from more apples. I twisted out of her grip. "They-are-just-teenagers!"

"So are we," I said. I threw another apple. "You have to admit, this is sort of cool."

With that, Max herself picked up an orange and continued the fight with us.

Honestly, it turned into a bit of a joke. The release of emotions was cathartic. A few minutes in, everyone was giggling and laughing and our aim had gotten progressively worse. There was a rhythm, a pattern to our madness. Throw, pick up, throw. Rinse and repeat.

We felt alive.

When do you get the chance to pelt food at other people? It was definitely a "dear diary" moment. Luckily I only suffered a package of raspberries to the head and a pomegranate to the arm by the time that most of our ammunition had run out. And by that point, everyone was suddenly wondering what in the actual hell we were doing.

"Oh, shit," Chad said. I could hear the plops of fruits hitting the floor as he dropped them. "We are so getting fired for this."

Game over. It was like a roller coaster – you just built up so much energy, and then you crashed. Things sure had escalated quickly. "Sorry, man."

"It's cool." See, this is how things work as a guy – you get pissed off, you let off some steam, and then things are fine. Had we been girls we would have been smiling as we plotted each other's deaths. "It's quite the mess."

Again, Angel filled me in later on everything: squashed and bruised fruit littered the floor. Fruit guts were splattered against the walls. There wasn't a single untouched piece of fruit left in that aisle. "At least the boss doesn't get here until seven in the morning. We have time to clean up."

"Do you need help?" Angel asked. With a sucking sound she chomped off the end of her strawberry. "We don't have anywhere to be."

I shot a glare at her. I don't like cleaning when I have to, so being told to do it – just, ugh.

Either way, we ended up staying a few hours to clean the place up. A lot of the fruit was still decent – we just placed the bruises on the bottom – and we swept the floor of all the remaining bits and pieces of our fight. We were just lucky that no one else decided to go grocery shopping at three in the morning.

The worst was finding the smaller fruits that had rolled away to weird parts of the store (how does a cherry end up in the fish department?) but fortunately our killer senses of smell tracked them all down relatively soon.

Chad, as it turns out, goes to the University of Arizona and works part-time to finance his education. His other friends were in other various stages of education and needed money as well. So yeah, I guess I was kind of an idiot in that situation as well. Man, I feel like I'm the protagonist in a Disney film where I'm learning morals and everything.

"So what were you guys here for, anyways?" Chad asked once the last pear was in place. "Kind of a weird time to go grocery shopping. The manager puts us on night shifts but we rarely see anyone."

How do you explain to someone that you want to take all of their bacon? I tried to explain as best as I could. "We, um, want bacon. All of it. As much as you have."

There was a pause. Some pop song on the radio was the only thing filling in the silence. Chad chuckled. "Are you serious? That's a coincidence. If you're willing to pay for it all, we just got a shipment of bacon today."


Using money that we had received through not-so-legal methods (seriously, could they make ATM machines more easy to break into?) we paid for fifty pounds of bacon.

Yes, that's right Internet, fifty pounds of glorious, glorious bacon.

I love life.

This also proves why you shouldn't judge people and everyone can help you and yada-yada-yada anyways, we could freeze this bacon for a long time and ride out the Great Bacon Depression of 2013 in style.

The only problem was transporting it back.

Have you ever carried fifty pounds of any type of food, Internet? If you said yes, I would be slightly concerned, yet insanely impressed. Anyone who can eat fifty pounds of food is my friend.

"We didn't think this through, did we," Fang said ('"Fang said"? Fang said something?) once we outside. We were standing in the back parkling lot again. We had fifteen grocery bags in total; the environmentalists of the world just had a hemorrhage.

"Well, no one expected this," Max said in an amused tone. She hit my arm slightly as she gestured to the bags. "Otherwise we would've brought backpacks."

"We should have been prepared, Max!" He snapped. There was a thump – Fang had punched Max, and not in the friendly way. The tension in the air could have been cut with a chainsaw.

Woah. Woah.

"What the hell was that?" Oh, man, this was not a planned part of The Project. The stereotypical fight wasn't supposed to happen until later! The two of them always mess everything up.

"Max, have you even been paying attention? We're having food fights while the newspapers are all wondering about what the hell is going on in this city. Shouldn't we be as well? Shouldn't we be doing something?" Fang's voice shot up a few decibels on the last two words. Clearly Fang had been thinking about this for a while, and it was his time to go over the edge.

Everyone has to snap at some point.

A car honked in the background. A plane was flying overhead. Drunken voices carried over to us from the street. And none of those people were aware of the crisis right near them. With Max and Fang's relationship so unsteady as it always is, something like this fight could hurt them both.

"You're right, Fang." Max's voice was calm, cool, controlled. Her anger was reined in deep inside. "We should be doing something. We're leaving. Let's go."

The plastic bags crinkled as she grabbed some and shot into the air. Her wings had a frantic rhythm as she flew faster than normal. In silence, the rest of us grabbed a few bags each and flew off. Fang was the last.

Our fingers were all burning by the time we arrived back at the house – the weight of the packages was leaving deep read lines on our fingertips. It was only a five-minute flight, but once we landed in the forest, I dropped the bags as soon as I could. I massaged my fingers.

It certainly hadn't been one of the best flights I've had. Sure, flying is freeing and whatnot and it gives me an identity, but barrelling headfirst into blackness is petrifying at best. When I'm flying, the rushing of the wind whites out my hearing, and the numbness of being so high means I can't feel anything. When I fly, I feel nothing.

Obviously I haven't mentioned this to anyone else. Flying is their escape, their release. For me, it's a love-hate relationship. I just want to feel comfortable with who I am. Man, I'm just a bag of teenage hormones and problems.

Soft thumps came from all around me as the Flock landed. We were in the outskirts of the forest – the house was only a few dozen feet away but there were still trees around us. The atmosphere was still poisonous from Max and Fang's fight.

"Well," Nudge said, "I guess we sh- woah, what's that?"

Her voice had dropped to a whisper. "What is it?" I asked softly.

No one spoke. At times like these, I wanted to strangle all of them – they were taking in the situation, but they weren't updating me on it. As usual, Gazzy came to the rescue.

"Iggy," he said, "This is bad. All the lights in the house are on. There are a bunch of cars parked along the road. They're all black SUVs. People are walking all around it. They're dressed in uniforms, and not cops ones. They have that sketchy vibe."

Our luck would have to run out sometime.

"Don't move," Max whispered. "Let me think."

I half-expected her to say "Don't blink" and have The Doctor come and save us, but no such luck. We were completely still and silent with only the night and the shadows as our companions. (I was trying to be poetic. It didn't work.)

"We don't know if they're good or bad. For safety's sake, let's say bad. That means we have to leave. If they're good, Dr. Martinez will get in contact with us. She has my phone number. If they're bad – then we need to get as far away from here as possible." Max was efficient, all right. "We have to go. Now."

I didn't expect the pang in my gut.

This is the feeling of sadness.

We had been at this house for a long time – longer than any other place with a secure setting. It was home. Thursdays were pizza night and on Saturday we always slept in until two or three in the afternoon. In the backyard Gazzy and I could just do whatever we wanted to without anyone caring. I sat with Angel on the front porch sometimes eating vanilla ice cream. And we were supposed to do so much more in the years to come.

I was nostalgic for memories I'd never had.

"Can we keep the bacon?" Gazzy asked quietly. "It's such a waste."

"Let's bring as much as we can," Fang said, somehow even softer. From the sound of movement I could tell he placed his hand on Gazzy's shoulder. "The animals will eat the rest."

I had a sudden thought – if a pig eats bacon, is that cannibalism? – but other than that I realized that if we hadn't had that food fight with Chad and his friends, we might have been in the house when the "visitors" had arrived.

Maybe bacon had saved our lives. Who would have thunk?

Max, bless her, had buried a few backpacks full of supplies in the woods a few weeks ago. It was stashed with the basic flints, knives, power bars - the usual. She, Fang, and I wore the backpacks, while the younger kids held bags of bacon.

We flew off towards the edge of Mesa, towards the vast expanse of nothingness. Down here it goes from city to desert pretty quickly. We would stay nearby, in case this had all been a colossal mix-up, but for now we would be sleeping outside. Hey, I heard it's good for your skin.

I have no idea when Gazzy will be able to post this. He'll probably have to go to a public library. Either way, things are going to get interesting really quickly.

Have a good night, Internet. Eat bacon while you can.



Gazzy's Note: Did you know that Google has a new feature called the "Bacon Number"? Search for an actor's name, followed by Bacon Number. So for example, try Googling "Anne Hathaway Bacon Number" or "Tom Cruise Bacon Number".

I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords.

6. Six

A/N – Due to a series of bizarre events, I'm in a bunch of videos, posters, and books that my university sends out to high schools in Canada. So anyways, every first year student had to watch a video about my life, meaning that the faculty and the President saw it as well.

Flash forward to a lunch break, and I'm sitting in an office waiting for academic counseling. Some celery got caught in the back of my tooth and I was trying to pick it out when the Dean walks by. He recognizes me and says "Nash? I saw you in some videos. Good job." He holds out his hand to shake it, and my hand is still in my mouth, picking at celery. I take it out and just before I shake his hand we both go "ewww" and awkwardly laugh. And now I have his number in my phone. I'm worried about pocket-dialing him.

Reviewer of the Week

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Dear Internets,

You know what I had for breakfast today?


You know what I puked up today?


This is what happens when you let Gazzy cook; he underdoes it and suddenly the six of us have a good 'ole case of food poisoning. Let me tell you, having your intestines feel like they want to crawl out of your stomach is not a good feeling. I want to massage Gazzy's face with a knife.

We had camped out in the outskirts of town for a day and a half. Our floors were dirt and sand, and our roofs were the stubbly branches of low-lying shrubs. We had managed to find a natural rocky outcrop and used that as our home base. The highway was about four hundred feet to our west, if I could judge by the roaring of the cars.

Max and Fang weren't speaking. I kept trying to get them to chat, talk, have an incredibly hot make-out session – anything, really.

There was, however, one good thing that happened.

Remember all that bacon we got from that grocery store? It was basically our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not that I'm complaining, of course. (Although I can hear the cries of the vegetarians.)

Anyways, it was around midnight, and Angel and Nudge had managed to get a fire going. Out here there wasn't really any chance of the cops finding us, since the smoke dissipated quickly into the sky. We were having midnight bacon, which is the best bacon.

We were in surprisingly high spirits. Despite not hearing anything from Dr. Martinez about, say, if we were being hunted by government-trained super assassins, it was still nice to get outside and be with each other. Aww.

Angel was the most upset, considering Total had been left behind in the house. She alternated between thinking he was dead (not good) to trying to find us (sort of cute, but come on, this is Total, he would just end up in some sort of dog spa). Despite that, she still tried to be cheery with everyone else.

"Okay," Nudge asked us, "Mitt Romney is actually an alien disguised as a human being to highlight the cultural differences in America. This explains his awkwardly-sized jaw. Fact or fiction?"

"Fact!" All of us shouted. It's weird what the night will do to you. You can feel the energy humming around you. We were the young and the crazy.

Who needs alcohol when you can have bacon? We got progressively stupider as time went on. Now I understand why all those college frat kids seem to have so much fun.

"Morgan Freeman is a god – fact or fiction?" Gazzy shouted. We were divided on that one. I, for one, think that his voice is descended directly from the angels. I wish he could narrate me brushing my teeth.

We kept that up for at least an hour. It was sort of beautiful.

Of course, things eventually ended up getting kind of weird. Somehow, our conversation morphed into us daring other people to do stupid things, which is why I ate a mouthful of dirt and why Gazzy no longer has any underwear. The thing is, I thought this would be the perfect time to move The Project into place.

"Mmkay," I said, "I dare Fang to dangle piece of bacon from his mouth…and have Max eat it."

I am going to Hell.

It was kind of a weird image, if you think about it. It was like Lady and the Tramp, just with bacon instead of spaghetti, and two kids who hadn't showered for a socially unacceptable amount of time instead of dogs.

"I'm not doing that!" Max yelled. She was clearly trying to laugh it off, but nope, it just wasn't going to happen.

Fang punched my shoulder – a little too roughly – as he reached for another slice. It had been left near the fire for so long that it was burnt into what Angel called carbon bacon.

"Fine," he said. "Let's just get this over with."

He chomped down on one piece of the bacon. Angel and Nudge did this high-pitched "eeeee!" thing as Max came closer to Fang.

Oh, what I would have given to see Fang's face.

The Gasman told me later that Fang and Max had made eye contact while they were each biting down on the bacon. They were still mad at each other from the fight from a few nights ago – but eye contact was a start.

Everyone clapped when Fang let go and Max swallowed the last of the bacon, hands-free. Her fingers brushed my shoulder as she gave a mock bow to her captive audience.

It wasn't much, but it was a start.

For some reason, we thought it would be a great idea to pull an all-nighter. (A word to the wise: all-nighters sound like a great idea until the next morning. Sort of like hiring prostitutes.) Angel, Nudge, and Gazzy passed out around five.

"Do you guys want to head out for some food? There's got to be some small animals around here." Max was throwing twigs into the embers of the fire. "I'll stay here and watch over everyone else."

Fang and I glanced at each other. Well, I tried to glance at him, anyways. I could feel his assent. Both of us were still pretty wired. "Sounds like a plan. I should be shot for saying this, but I just don't know if I can eat any more bacon."

The warmth of the fire was left behind as we started to walk away. We were supposed to stick to the rocky regions around the desert, but instead we decided to skirt the suburbs for leftover trash instead. Half-frozen microwavable meals in a dumpster behind Walmart are a hell of a lot better than burnt chipmunk.

"So tonight was fun," I said, knee-deep in trash. I focused on not thinking about what was touching me. Anything in a Walmart dumpster is the scum of the universe. The smell was even worse – rotting apple cores, stale pizza crusts, pungent plastic bags of dog poop. "But why don't you talk to Max alone any more?"

"Ask her yourself." Each word was painfully extracted. If you gave me a nickel for every word Fang says in a day, I'd have, like, ten nickels. Or fifty cents. Is that math right? Dunno. Natural Einstein right here.

"Mhhmph." I made a non-committed sound. Man, Fang could be so thick sometimes. And they call me the blind one.

We sorted through the dumpster efficiently. I would pick out things that seemed half-decent, and Fang would confirm. (I once tried eating Play-Doh because I thought they were funky mashed potatoes. That was a bad day.)

"Can I ask you a question?" This was the first time I had been alone with Fang in a while. I couldn't let me chance get away.

"You just did."

"Haha, you slay me." Both sarcasm and sweat were dripping off me, despite it being cool in the shadows where we were. It was only five – maybe six now? - in the morning, so the heat wasn't too intense. I waited for a few seconds to let the dramatic effect kick in. "Do you love Max?"

My tone had been casual, in a hey-look-Justin-Bieber-threw-up-on-stage-and-no-one-noticed-lol kind of way.

"Why would you ask that?" Fang's voice was perfectly even, but he had stopped moving. I could only hear the cars and the buzzing from the security lights above us. We had to get moving soon, since the building opened at seven.

I hate when people ask questions in response to your question! "Don't you dare go all Freudian on me," I said in my sassiest voice. (What do you call someone who is sassy? A Sass-quatch. Hahahaha – I'm going to die alone.) "You know why I'm asking."

Fang caught my meaning.

Okay, Internet. Confession time. And I'm not talking about peeing in the shower – this is a legit confession.

Just don't tell anyone.

I am seven years old.

I live in a cage in a School in a complex twenty miles from the middle of nowhere. There is another boy with wings who shares my cage. We aren't allowed to talk to each other so I don't know his name. There is a girl across the hallway in a cage by herself. I am jealous. She doesn't have to scrunch up her wings in order to fit.

Every two hours one of us is taken away.

There are tests. There are treadmills and weights and water and pumps. After a while you forget to breathe and you don't care.

Until then.

That day – when the whitecoats drag out the girl from her cage. A female whitecoat slaps her once, twice – the sound is sharp from the skin-on-skin contact. The girl screams.

The whitecoat is wearing a bow in her hair. She is pretty.

She had a ruby ring on her left hand. In the middle of a punch, the ring slices up the girl's cheek, and there is red, red, red running-more screams-the blood stains the shining floors, an alarm starts to shriek, footsteps running-

The boy next me to yells.

I didn't know he was capable of it, but he suddenly reaches out, grabs the metal bars, and bends them far enough so that he can slip through. I blink, and he tackles the whitecoat who was holding the girl. They hit the floor with a loud bang. He punches, rips, tears – he wants to break her ideals as well as her body, it's hard to watch - he just keeps going - there's a metallic tint to the air -

She tells him to stop, and he doesn't. It takes the whitecoats three minutes to tear the boy away from her. Only later do I learn the whitecoat died from her injuries.

As a result of "the incident", security measures were tripled. Metal bars were replaced with platinum. Each whitecoat worked in pairs. In a way, it was a good thing, since I had my own cage. I could sit without touching arms with the boy. It was better.

I ask the boy later on why he did it, and he is very serious when he tells me, "Because I love her, and I love you, and I won't let go."

Three weeks later and my colors fade and the lights go out and I'm in the dark – and the boy cries for the last time.

So yeah.

Fang, in a fit of fury and adrenaline and the power of hate, killed the woman who harassed Max in front of him. We never talked about it. I named him Fang because watching him kill her was like a wolf tearing out its predator's throat. Vicious, yet efficient.

I don't think Fang ever stopped being angry.

He told me then that he loved her. Maybe not in a romantic way, but that wasn't the case any more. Max and Fang need each other, like peanut butter needs jelly and Ash needs Pikachu. They just…fit.

"Ig? Iggy?"

I snapped back into the present. A shiver ran down my spine. I wasn't in the School. I wasn't in the School. I wasn't in the School.

"Sorry." I could still taste squirrel in the back of my throat. Uncool. My stomach curdled at the thought. "Anyways, we should probably head back. We've got a lot of stuff here." I gestured to our bag of scraps and leftovers. There was enough to last us for a few days, but hopefully we wouldn't be our here that long.

"Sure." There was a gust as Fang's wings spread out – he was rocking the Angel of Death look. The tips of them brushed against my hand. "And Iggy?"


"The answer to your question is yes."

And with that, he launched himself into the air, because if Fang has one thing, it's style.

Anywho, I was in a fan-freaking-tastic mood flying back to our hideout, since I had confirmed that Fang liked Max. It took him long enough to admit it. But hey, they both hate that Honey Boo Boo show, and I believe that that is a solid base for any relationship.

And for Fang to admit that he cares for Max? Unbelievable. I was beyond impressed. He could be a regular Casanova with a bit of practice.

It was only a ten-minute flight out to where we were staying. We flew low, since we didn't want to end up on the Phoenix airport's radar. It's always fun when you fly just low enough for your feet to skim the top of buildings, and then use the rooftops to push off. Max never let us do it, for obvious reasons – had anyone looked up, we'd be on the six o'clock news – but Max doesn't know that people just don't look up. It's kinda sad, in a poetic way.

For the first time in a while, I got lost on the rhythm of my own wings. With each downbeat, I thought Fang loves Max. Fang loves Max. Fang loves Max.

If they had Facebook, they could probably change their status to "It's complicated", which is totally a step up from anything they had before.

The cool breeze was a nice change from the constant sun. I closed my eyes, and just concentrated on the feeling of floating. I was more than nice, it was perfect, it was -

"Wait a second," Fang yelled from beside me. I could barely hear him over the air turbulence. We both slowed down to hover. From the relative silence around us and my own internal compass, we were about a hundred feet away from the hideout. "Let's land."

He sounded – nervous? A nervous Fang equals a nervous Iggy.

"What's wrong?" I whispered, poking him in the arm. Dammit, they never fill me in on anything. Gazzy's the only one who thinks twice about me. Nope, Iggy doesn't need to know about the monster chasing us. Nope, Iggy doesn't need to know about the guy aiming a machete at him. Nope, Iggy doesn't need to know why Fang, Mr. I Eat Emotions for Dessert, is currently freaking out.

"They're not there." The words were shockingly calm.

"What do you mean?" Under my feet, the dirt shifted and little clouds of dust trickled up. A weight in the bottom of my stomach was growing heavier.

"They're not there."

I rolled my eyes. "Wow, thanks Nancy Drew, you're a real sleuth. Can you elaborate?"

He didn't respond – instead, we carefully walked the rest of the way to the hideout. Each heavy step was ominous. Overhead, a plane rumbled.

"It's like they just stood up and flew off," Fang said from right beside me. "There aren't any car tracks or footsteps leading away from here. It looks like they left on their own accord. But why didn't they wait for us? Or leave us a message? The food is all gone and so are our bags."


Well, this sucks.

"I…I don't know." I plopped down on the ground. A small sharp stick jabbed into my leg. I picked it up and whipped it away. "Let's just wait. That's all we can do. We'll see what happens."

"Yeah. I guess." Fang was just as happy (sarcasm) as I was about this whole scenario. It was just him, me, and the stars – man, this could be a hot date.

Neither of us wanted to be the person to say that maybe the Flock wanted to leave us – especially since Max had been the one to suggest that we leave for food. No - I refuse to believe that they left us behind. There had to be a reason. And it wasn't as if we could just chase them down - we had absolutely nothing to go on.

So instead, we waited.

Whenever I see Gazzy again, (hopefully soon) I'll give this to him. For now, I am totally calling dibs on all the food. I swear I smell some PopTarts. Those strawberry ones are the best.

With love,


7. Seven

A/N- If you head over to my profile, there's a video of of me and my roommates trying to shatter my brick of horribly-burnt brownies. I am now the standard for failure in my house. (As in, no one has yet to mess up more than me.)

Also, this story won't be accurate to the current real-world time since it's sorta awkward when two weeks goes by in the real world and only a few days for the Iggman. I should be able to do two chapters a month.

Comment of the Week:

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Reviewer of the Week:

Googlefish: "Man, this could be a date." Right then is when Marry Me by Bruno Mars came on the radio. Coincidence? I think not.

Dearest Internet,

You know how when you're home alone, and you hear a small noise, and then you're convinced there's a murderer in the house and he's going to chop you up and sprinkle some teriyaki sauce on you and eat you for brunch?


Take that feeling, and multiply it times infinity, and that's what it's like sleeping outdoors.

It's better when it's the entire Flock sleeping– there's always someone awake and on guard for whatever is being thrown at us. There is seriously nothing we can't handle as a team. Megalomaniac genius wants to unleash hordes of radioactive bunnies for an Easter-themed Apocalypse? No problem. Giant Japanese robots with lasers for hands trying to zap you in your sleep? Please. Gazzy eats beans before sleep? Well, then there's an issue.

Really, though, it sucks when there are only one or two people. For the first day of being totally ditched by the Flock (is this how people who are stood up on prom night feel?) Fang and I just sat around, seeing if they would return. If there was a serious problem, and they were captured, we didn't want to walk right into their captor's hands. And if they needed to find us, they knew where to come.

I wish I could say that Fang and I hunted bears and carved rocks with our bare hands and other manly stuff, but honestly we just sat on pointy and dusty rocks and talked about everything from if it's physically possible to eat three bags of Cheetos without puking to why girls are idiots.

That night, though, was majorly sucko. I decided to take the first shift. I got to sit and watch and wait.

Yay, sitting.

The first hour was super cool. Like, I heard a bird. Wow. Spectacular. I could barely contain my excitement. In hour two, a roach climbed over my arms and I woke up Fang with my awkward flailing and general freaking out. And in hour three – well.

I don't know what time it was. Maybe around midnight – hell, it's always around midnight. Things never happen at, like, one in the afternoon.

Putting a blind kid on watch is never a good idea. Every twig snapping (it's a squirrel) or thump in the distance (maybe it's the murderer) was either totally pointless or the beginning of my painful and torturous death.

Either or.

It started with what sounded like someone breathing, from behind my left shoulder. I whirled around, but of course that didn't really help.

"Is anyone there?" I asked, trying to sound tough, but actually sounding like a six-year-old who enjoys lollipops and rainbows. "I will kick your ass if you even come near me. Like, kick-your-ass-so-hard my shoe will be stuck up your a-"

A cold hand was suddenly clamped over my mouth.

"I need you to do me a favor, sweetie," a voice whispered. It was low and gravelly and sounded like it had been dragged through sandpaper. "I want you to be a good boy. You're my darling." The person trailed their fingertips down my arm, causing little waves of shivers to ripple down my spine.

Wow, okay, super creepy. I had to get out of the situation and wake up Fang, who was only a few feet away from me. Why hadn't he woken up already? We were all really that out of tune with our natural instincts?

I did the first thing that came to mind: I licked the inside of the hand.


Five voices broke out into hysterical laughter, and I realized what had happened: the Flock had decided to be idiots and sneak up on me and scare ten years off my life. It certainly explained why Fang hadn't woken up; he'd been awake the whole time, watching the Flock sneak up on me. Oh, vengeance will be mine…

"You have to work on your scare tactics, Nudge," I said, which is a total lie, because I was two seconds away from peeing my pants. I would have punched her, but after licking her hand, she had jumped out of my reach.

"Sorry, Ig," she said, hysteria still lacing her voice. She sniffed. I'm glad my pain and terror made her cry with laughter. "But it was just the perfect opportunity. We couldn't let it pass by."

"Mmhmm," was the only answer I gave, because had I been in her position, I would have done the same thing. Hell, I would have been disappointed if she hadn't.

"Sorry for ditching you guys," Max said. There was the scratching of dirt as she sat down beside me. "We tried to get back as soon as we could. There was…an unfortunate incident."

Hmm. Max has only used the term "unfortunate incident" three times before:

1. I once tried writing a love letter with Gazzy to some girl sitting in McDonalds, but we misspelled "cutie-pie" as "cute pie", which is a really weird compliment. "Hey, you're my cute pie" isn't exactly in all of the rap lyrics. Anyways she came over to Gazzy and actually slapped him, which is really weird, because she was like, seven.

2. A guy on the street sold me a pound of sugar but it turns out it was cocaine. That was a bad day.

3. Nudge burnt off her eyebrows because her nacho-making skills are less than stellar.

"We got arrested!" Gazzy said, enthusiastically punching the air. His fist came a little too close to my ear. "It was so cool. They said we were trespassing and stuff. They wanted to send us to juvie but we broke out."

"And how'd you do that?" I was a little disappointed. They got arrested without me?

I was expecting an answer like "we just wham-bamed them here" and "used the grace and glory of lock-picking tools" but instead, no one replied. I could sense them looking at each other, deciding who would talk.

"I think we should just focus on the fact that we got out," Angel said delicately. "Because that's good, right? Anyways, um, sorry for scaring you Iggy."

Her attempt at changing the weather was lackluster at best, but I let her get away with it (I totally just sounded like a Scooby-Doo villain). I would find out eventually – probably once I talked to the Gasman alone.

"So do you have any details on what's going on at the house?" Fang asked. He was still lying down. Laying down? Ugh, grammar. Anyways, we were both tired, but he'd at least had a few hours of sleep. I was running off of an expired Red Bull and some green leafy thing that I found nearby that I really hoped was edible. "You must have been doing something useful."

The word was pointed, but went ignored. Had they gotten over their little tiff? "Actually, yes. Dr. Martinez texted me," Max said. Her jacket made crinkling sounds as she dug around for her phone. There was a tiny beep as she turned it on. Max read out the following message:

Dn't cme hme. Wll leave stuff 4 Flock in sth mntn prk on east side. Instrctons there. Dn't txt bck. Luv u.

"Can we take a moment to discuss how terrible her texting etiquette is?" Gazzy deadpanned. "Seriously. The adults are trying to be so hip, but it just makes them look so bad."

"Maybe she was rushed when she wrote it," Fang said, which actually made a lot of sense. Silly Fang and his logic and reasoning.

"At least we know what to do now," Max said in her I-Am-Leader-Obey-Me voice. It almost gave me a sense of nostalgia to hear it. "I'm guessing that she meant South Mountain Park. Do you guys agree?"

It was the only possible answer. South Mountain Park was the city park just south of Phoenix. It was basically a huge area full of trails, paths, and craggy outcrops of rocks and shrubs – with plenty of places to hide. Basically, Internet, it's like Central Park but without the Starbucks or joggers or ponds or – you know what, screw it, that's a terrible analogy. It's not like Central Park at all. It's just a barren and desolate area that America forgot about.

We left right away, since it was dark and we could still fly without taking too many precautions. It should have only been a ten-minute flight, but Gazzy's shoe fell off mid-flight, and it took us a solid half-hour to find it.

It was a fairly warm flight – points for living in Arizona, and not, say being slammed by hurricane Sandy – and we eventually landed on a high outcrop of rocks.

"Wow," Nudge said, "You can see the whole city from here. It's so pretty."

"Yeah, it looks fantastic," I said, my voice full of awe.

"I know, right – oh." She punched me. "Jerk."

It didn't take any time to find our bags whatsoever, considering one thing had been given back to us as well –

"Total!" Angel shouted. All of us had heard his barking, but it was Angel, of course, who flipped. She rushed forwards, jumping off of the outcrop of rocks, and ran down a slope. "Guys, all our stuff is here!" she yelled back.

We followed at a slower speed – hell, I'm surprised she didn't kill herself jumping off the rocks. Total was not impressed when the five of us arrived.

"What did you guys do, stop to go shopping? I've been here for hours. Val said you wouldn't take long at all to find me, but noooo, you needed to go shopping for hipster plaid shirts and cool shoes and – "

"It's nice seeing you, Total," I said, reaching forward to shake a furry paw. He licked my finger. Being nice to him is a good way to shut him up, because he never expects it.

The seven of us managed to make enough room to sit down in an awkwardly squished and poorly-made circle. Because of how the rocks jagged upwards, some of us were sitting on the dirt, some on the rocks, and at various elevations. It was a great place to hide the bags, but not one for a meeting. Either way, we were too lazy to find a better spot.

"So what's been going on?" Fang asked. "You know more than we do."

Total did a weird huff with his nose. "Ugh. It's been terrible. So, you guys are out doing whatever without me, and that's, like, totally fine. I'm strong enough to be alone. I can be an individual. I'm not dependent on you guys. It's not like it hurt or anything – "

"Total," Max drawled.

"-fine. Moving on. Anyways, the doorbell rings, we think it's pizza. You know what was at the door? Not pizza. It was a bunch of people all dressed in suits and stuff who barged right in, saying they were "scientists" and "government workers" and had to "investigate" something. Val tried to call the police but the land lines had been cut and her cell phone was jammed. Uncool, right?"

Very uncool. Like, so uncool it was the Sahara Desert. (Get it? Because it's not cool, it's hot, and deserts are hot? ...I need a social life.)

"So anyways, they discover your rooms, but we tell them that you left two weeks ago. They didn't believe it but they left, which is the scariest part of all, because we don't know why they came or if they did anything. Both Val and Ella say that they've noticed people following them. Val had to sneak out of work during the middle of the day in a friend's car just so she could bring all of your stuff here."

There was a soft sound from across the circle – it was a quiet one, but I'd heard it so often I could recognize it easily. It was Max turning her head, and her hair brushing against her jacket. That comment had caught her off-guard.

It proved how much Dr. Valencia Martinez loved her daughter.

"I don't think anyone followed her out here. Then again, I wouldn't know. I'm just a lonely dog in a lonely world in a lonely universe – "

"Oh, Total," Angel said. He yelped as she pulled him into her lap. From the contended sigh he gave, I guessed that she had started to pet him. "Oh, right. Didn't Dr. Martinez say she had instructions?"

"Right!" Total said. "I almost forgot. They're in the backpack that was left for Max."

Max unzipped it quickly; with Total's speech, we had completely forgotten to look at what Dr. Martinez had packed for each of us. Each of us had been given our backpacks - I would have been way upset if I had had to steal a new one. My backpack and I have been through a lot together. Besties for life.

Max uncrumpled a piece of paper that had been buried in the bottom of the deepest part of her her bag. She smoothed it out and read,

"Dear Max and the rest of the Flock,

I love you all so much, don't forget that, please don't blame her, just go, NOW, the lights will go out, talk to Mark at the grand canyon, KEEP GOING I love you – "

Max cut herself off with a sharp intake of air.

"What's wrong?" Gazzy asked. He jumped up from his position and leaped behind Max, evidently to read over her shoulder. A few moments passed before he quietly said, "oh". He explained the problem.

Written at the bottom of the letter was:


"Why do villains have to be so fricking mysterious? Why can't they just sign their name?" I said, trying to break the tension. "Like, 'I want to hunt you down and kill you because I have self-confidence issues. Sincerely, Vladimir.' Is that really such a problem?"

"Did you really just name your villain Vladmir?" Gazzy asked. I could tell what that amazing kid was doing: he was going with my humor tactic to make the rest of the Flock feel better. To be honest with ourselves, the emoticon meant one thing: whoever was following us had seen and intercepted the note and knew we were headed to the Grand Canyon. Had our bags been tagged with GPS systems? Bombs? Stale brownies?

"The Russians are watching," I said in a dark voice, causing Nudge and Angel to snigger. Goal, achieved.

"So does this mean we're going to the Grand Canyon? I've always wanted to go there," Gazzy said. "Think about the radical flying you could do around there." I think the eighties wanted to give him a high-five for the use of "radical".

"I guess so. It's just frustrating that they – whoever they are – know that we're going there. But it can't be helped. We should spend the rest of the night here and catch a few hours of rest." Max's voice broke on the last word. We all ignored it.

Back to our real lives.

It was nice pretending to be normal. Nice being able to walk down the street and not have to worry about being abducted, nice being able to smile at the bus driver, nice having pizza every Thursday without fail.

This isn't a nice life we live.

In a spontaneous burst of recklessness, we decided to sleep out on the plateau where we had landed – it was higher up and more exposed than what we would normally go for, but apparently it offered a killer view of the sleeping city.

"It really is pretty," Gazzy whispered. The seven of us were in a row, leaning on one another, with our legs dangling off the edge of the plateau. Gazzy was on my left, Fang on my right. A picture taken from behind us totally would have been a killer desktop picture. "It's like a blanket of lights was spread out over the city. You can see our house from here. There are low mountains on the horizon. It's nice because there are a few stars. There's this – "

There was this low, whining sound. "What's wrong?" I asked. The rest of the Flock was completely silent. The whining sound was punctuated by intervals of clicks.




Nobody answered. I balled up my fingers into a fist. It was so frustrating sometimes. "What's wrong?"

"The lights went out," Max said. Each word was slow and deliberate.

"All of them," Nudge added.

"All of them," Angel echoed. She sounded so empty, like the essence of her had been scooped out and replaced and no one had even noticed. "Each section of the city just…went dark. One by one. There's not a single light. Where are the backup generators? There should be emergency lights-"

"The lights will go out," Fang said. We all turned to him. "That's what Dr. Martinez's note said."

Huh. And I just thought she'd been trying to be poetic.

"We're leaving." That was Max – she was way down at the opposite end of the line from me. "I don't know how big the area is that this blackout has affected, but it means we have to get moving. They've started." I didn't want to know what they had started. I just wanted to be in bed. Maybe I had been dreaming all of this? Who could prove I hadn't? Man. Deep stuff doesn't sit well with me.

"But what if Dr. Martinez never sent that note? What if it was the emoticon guy? What if Dr. Martinez is dead?" Nudge was flailing her arms around.

Max didn't respond.

Instead, we shoved our backpacks on and flew north as fast as we could. Luckily Fang's laptop was in his backpack that Dr. Martinez gave us, so Gazzy can upload this at least.

I'll see you soon, Internet. And if I don't – well, I want orchids at my funeral.



Gazzy's note: I guess I should explain how we broke out of the police station.

See, the four of us were in this waiting area in the police station that was basically a room with a bunch of really uncomfortable plastic chairs and bare walls. A police officer sat at a desk nearby. Apparently we were waiting for some high-up cop to arrive so that we could be interrogated. It was early in the morning, so we were the only people around.

Anyways, Max was super pissed, of course, so she unbuttoned her shirt to a really uncomfortable level. This was her least favorite tactic of all time: get somebody distracted and then they'll give you what you want. She prefered a punch-people-apologize-later tactic, but the officer hadn't done anything wrong.

So she went over to the police officer's desk. She said something like, "I really don't understand why we're here" and leaned over the desk so far that she accidentally lost her balance and fell over, her legs caught up in the air in the most awkward position I've ever seen. The officer, out of instinct, threw out his hands.

Which landed on Max's boobs.

They were frozen in time like that, with the officer accidentally groping Max, who was beyond mortified.

Nudge suddenly yelled, "If you keep us here, we'll tell people you assaulted her". So anyways the officer blushed and got all embarrassed and told us not to camp out in the middle of freaking nowhere and told us that if he catches us again, he'd ship us to juvie.

And that's the story of how Max's boobs got us out of jail.

8. Eight

A/N- Due to a professor who is very into civil disobedience, I've been drafted into a "gang" that runs around at midnight dressed up in costumes and correcting grammatically incorrect signs around the city. The police are less than impressed. (There's something magical about waking up to texts from my parents asking if I'm in jail.)

Shoutout to Sam.

Comment of the Week:

George Takei: This just in: Apple Maps projects Obama to win Chile.

Reviewer of the Week, in response to me typing a wrong verb:

Never May I: Oh, God, Iggy saw a bird? I guess I can see how that's exciting for a blind guy.

Dearest Internet,

I wish that it was socially acceptable to kill at least one person in your life. Like, a freebie kill, with no police being involved and no morally questionable afterthoughts.

In such case, I would seriously consider shanking Fang in the middle of the night with a toothbrush.

He. Is. An. Idiot.

I get it. He's rocking the whole doom/death/despair look because that's what the ladies dig, right? I just wish girls knew how powerful they are at controlling how guys behave. If I was a girl I would definitely use my feminine wiles to manipulate the hell out of a boy. I would give Blair Waldorf a run for her money.

But seriously, if I was a girl, I would do the following:

1. Figure out how to walk in stilettos, because once you can do that, you can do anything.

2. Drink girly martinis with little umbrellas hanging out of the top of them.

3. Boobs. Enough said.

Sorry, Internet, I guess I'm getting a little ahead of myself. See, the worse situations we're in, the more I start to get sidetracked. Anyways, I'll catch you up to why I'm going to consider putting Fang's picture on Craigslist and telling the world that he was single and ready to mingle.

Last time I checked in with you, the Flock was flying off to the Grand Canyon after the lights shut of in Phoenix. We flew quickly, not even bothering to stop when Gazzy accidentally dropped a grocery bag of bacon somewhere over Flagstaff. I just want to say that if I was a person who was casually walking down the street, and then BAM, a bag full of bacon fell out of the sky and landed at my feet, I would consider becoming a priest and worshiping the bacon gods for the rest of my life.

All of us were tired, but I'd like to claim that I was the worst off, since I had been on watch the night before. Normally, if I'm talking to people, I keep my eyes open during conversations, because otherwise I look like Brock from Pokémon. Today, though, I just kept my eyelids closed because it's not as if it made a difference.

We were flying in the usual V-formation, with Max in the lead. It was freaking cold flying so high up, and the wind tore at my clothes like my imaginary girlfriend. (Oooh. Deep imagery.)

"What was the name of the guy who we have to talk to?" Nudge shouted. It was hard to hear her over the wind. "In the note that we got, wasn't there a name?"

Angel yelled a name that sounded like, "Bjorgolf," but I assumed that the wind had mangled her words rather than the person being a Norwegian Viking. Clearly she understood that none of us had any idea what she was saying, since she repeated louder, "Mark!"

I have no idea how by brain heard "Bjorgolf" instead of "Mark", but hey. That's my messed-up brain for you.

But seriously, Dr. Martinez was not good at dramatically-written notes. So we had to find a guy named Mark at the Grand Canyon – that's like looking for fake tans on the New Jersey coastline. Mark is a rather common name.

"We'll figure it out later," Max yelled back at us, which is code for I don't want to deal with this right now. It was only a few hours to fly to the Canyon, but it felt like a small piece of eternity. Flapping your wings and getting buffeting in the face with freezing winds is only cool for a little bit. With each passing hour, as the sun rose, we had to fly higher in order to not end up on the six o'clock news. Still, the Grand Canyon is freaking huge (as the name would imply) and we were nowhere near the crowds.

It was sometime around noon when Max yelled back, "Damn!"

I thought something had gone wrong, but when Nudge yelled back, "Yeah!" I realized that we were clearly flying above the Grand Canyon and looking at it in all of its sublime and majestic glory and blah blah blah I'm sure it's just so fantastic. None of us had seen it before – Dr. Martinez had planned taking us in the summer, but right before we were going to leave, Gazzy drank bleach instead of Kool-Aid. Naturally this prompted an emergency trip to the hospital and me being berated for accidentally putting bleach in the fridge. Blind kid problems.

I could practically hear Wikipedia in my head. The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado river in the United States in the state of Arizona. As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it is yet another thing that Iggy will never see.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Really, Iggy, you're missing out on this. Deep, jagged cliffs drop into steep chasms. Rugged maroon rocks and scattered and the horizon stretches past the rest of the world. The snaking river reminds the viewer of the persistence of nature in despite of obstacles.

This is why your teacher tells you to never quote Wikipedia.

Really, though, everyone was going "ooh" and "ahh" and "Grand Canyon have my babies". Even Fang said, "that's pretty cool" and he didn't even say that when Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up.

The six of us came to a full stop and hovered in a circle. My wings brushed up against Nudge and Fang, who were on each side of me. Judging from my internal altimeter, we were a few thousand feet in the air, but lower than normal for the daytime. We were far away from the touristy sections, so there was no point in staying up high.

"So," Max said, "What does everyone know about the Grand Canyon?"

"It's big," Gazzy deadpanned.

Max covered her laugh with a cough. "Thanks for your input, Gaz. But really, how can we find one guy who might not even be anywhere near here? Who the hell is Mark, and how does he know Dr. Martinez, and-"


I'm not quite sure how to describe the sound, Internet, but KABOOM hopefully sums up the sound of what could only be described as the explosion of a rocks and debris that started to tumble down far below us. It was like the Niagara Falls of falling rocks; the sharp crashing of boulders and distant echoes were not exactly the most melodious thing I've ever heard in my life.

"Now what in the hell was that?" Nudge asked. "Look at it!"

Gazzy, of course, was my translator. "There's a bunch of dust rising from one of the sides of the cliffs," he said. "Like, a lot. It's all brown and grey and misty. Something huge went shooting out and hit the side of the cliff."

"Meaning that we're not alone, guys," Max muttered. Clearly she had on her Captain Obvious underpants.

"And worse, we're exposed," Fang added. Gotta love the guy who always looks for the worst in the situation. But he was right: with the six of us (and Total, who was stuffed in Angel's backpack with his head poking out like a whack-a-mole) floating in mid-air, we were prime targets.

We were about to go shooting off in the opposite direction – you know, away from the potentially deadly situation – when a sudden ringing voice yelled out -



It felt like ice water had been spilled down the back of my shirt. It had been a man's voice, coming straight from where the explosion had sounded. The echo bounced off the sides of the canyon and seemed to wave away. We were literally floating above the most empty, barren, and desolate place in America – and someone was yoohooing at us. Yoohooing…new favorite verb of the day.

Max huffed. "Angel – are you picking up on any thoughts from other people?"

That's the advantage of having a mutant freak for a sister. "No," she said, "and that's really weird. Other than you guys, there's no one around for miles."

"We need Nancy Drew on this case, stat," I said, not really adding to the conversation other than by being my natural charming and obnoxious self. "So let's get this straight. There's any explosion, and now some guy is yelling at us? What if-"

"Max! Max! Down here!"

It was the yoohoo voice. He certainly knew how to project his words – we could hear him clearly from a few hundred feet away. Dude had skillz.

"Woah," Gazzy said, "is that a freaking cave?"

Gazzy described the scene to me later on: apparently the dust had settled, revealing a too-convenient entrance into the side of one of the cliff walls. The stratified layers of rock, rock, and more rock had created a layered effect that hid the entrance unless you were looking directly at it from the perfect angle. Otherwise, your eyes would slide right over it and blend the scenery together with colors of amber, ochre, and maroon.

"We need to leave," Fang interjected, in his fantastic impersonation of Grumpy Cat. "There are too many variables."

"Well, we haven't been blown to bits quite yet," I said, "so what do we have to lose?" Iggy Logic, once again.

"The tea is getting cold!"

The voice reverberated even louder this time. It mixed in with the sound of the wind whipping past us. I was suddenly aware of how tightly my clothes were pressed into me. "See?" I said. "He made us tea. Has someone evil ever offered you tea? No."

Max made a hmm sound and clucked her tongue. "I'm going to agree with Fang – let's stick to our original plan. Let's get back to the populated areas. We're far too alone out here. Creepy guy living in a cave telling us to drink tea with him? Sorta weird. Scratch that – very weird."

We would have left, too, if not for-

"My name is Mark!"


Now that is interesting.

Very interesting.

"Maybe we should say hi," Max said, the grin evident in her voice. We all agreed to fly down to one of the meandering ledges that led to the opening of the cave. If we came in from the side, on foot, there would be less opportunity for him to ambush us. The path was only a foot wide, with was way uncool. My feet kept slipping off, and I was forced to scratch my nails into the grimy and definitely not sanitary cliff wall in order to keep my balance. None of us had any problems with falling off – the whole wings thing is a built-in safety net – but it was just the idea of falling into the chasm that was a bit overwhelming.

So the six of us, pinned to the wall, with Max at the front, had absolutely no freaking idea what we were doing. I could hear her delicate footsteps as she stepped into the cave.

"Uh, my name's Max," she, her tone even. "Hi. This is, um, a really nice place you have here. I like the décor. Very modernist."

It was all too surreal.

"Tell the others to come in! The tea really is getting cold," the voice said again. "You could have just flown in. It would have saved you so much trouble."

We all entered the cave in one big rush. Judging from the wafts of air, the place was huge. Every sound – from water trickling down the sides of the walls to Total licking his lips – was magnified. The surface under my feet was smooth and clear of any small rocks.

"What type of tea would you like?" The voice – Mark – asked. He was shuffling around the cave, causing various clinks and clanks to bounce off the walls. "I have lovely Earl Grey around here…" He left out an exclamation. "Yes, I knew I kept is somewhere."

"Uh, I think we're okay," Max said. I knew she was thinking about the various ways one could be poisoned during teatime.

"Psh, Max, come on. Mr. Mark, I would love some tea," Nudge said. In response, Max nudged Nudge. Haha – cute.

I asked Fang later on what Mark looked like. I was really hoping for the Dumbledore/Gandalf vibe, with the lengthy white beard and crooked spine hidden among swathes of robes. But no – Mark was a clean-shaven brunette wearing jeans and a neat, red, polo shirt.

And it turns out, Max's comment about the décor hadn't been a joke. Past the entrance of the cave, the whole place was decked out like a Manhattan apartment. White leather couches lined the wall, while beanbag chairs surrounded a metal fire pit. There wasn't any bed – at least, not in this part of the cave – but a few sleek cabinets and cupboards were tucked away in a crevasse.

"Come closer," Mark said happily; judging from his voice and the creak in it, he seemed to be about sixty. We were ushered further into the cave, and crashed in the beanbag chairs. That was way too comfortable; hell, I'd marry the chair if I could. "I've been waiting for you for a while now. I'm so glad you could join me. I just wish the circumstances could be different. Val wouldn't have sent you here otherwise."

"I think you have us at an advantage," Fang said tactfully.

"He means that we have no idea who you are, and whether or not you're going to murder us," Total pitched in helpfully. He was leaning against my crossed legs. I absently rubbed his back.

Mark's laugh was downright contagious. It seemed to bubble up from underneath his skin and burst out. "I could have killed you a while ago, love. You have bigger worries right now. But first, I'm sure you have a lot of questions."

Now that's the understatement of the year, right beside someone saying that the "It's Thanksgiving" song is a bit not good.

"Well, to start, who are you, and how do you know us?" Max asked.

Mark slurped back his tea. Other than Nudge, he was the only one drinking anything. He tapped on the edge of his cup with his fingernails, causing the click-click-click to bounce around the cave. "Val – your mother – she's a good friend of mine. I met her once, a long time ago. She knew I preferred to keep to myself and helped set up this place here. Lovely woman." Another sip of tea. "Lovely."

He continued on, only pausing to cough or scratch his foot or drink more. "I bet you kids would call me a hobo. I prefer the term, 'temporarily culturally misappropriated'. It's hard being around society when you things, these days." Okay, finally, some foreshadowing. "It's sheer luck that you kids happened to stop right in front of me. I thought I would have to phone you and get you to find me through GPS."

"You have a phone?" Gazzy suddenly spat out.

Mark snorted. "Please. This is the 21st century. I have wi-fi." You've gotta love modern-day hobos. "Anyways, Val stocked me up with enough materials for homemade explosives. Napalm, gunpowder, the usual. I kept it in case I was ever caved in and had to blast my way out. But in order to get your attention, I had to be a little creative. Sorry about that."

No, man, it's totally cool to freaking launch explosives.

Mark set his teacup on the ground with a clatter. "I knew you were coming. I felt it. It's changing. It's ending." Woah, okay, that escalated quickly.

"What do you mean?" Fang asked, clearly intrigued.

"Have you looked at the news lately?" There was a rush of air; Mark was gesturing wildly with his arms. "The bombings. The attacks. Climate change. Some say it's a conspiracy, some say it's science. You know what it is? It's life, and it's ending."

Okay, cool. Thanks for your input, bro.

Mark continued talking. His voice was channeling the whole sage-and-smart thing. "I know why you're here. You're running. The spirits told me so." He paused before bursting out in that contagious laugh. "Oh, God, I'm just joking. Val texted me. No spirits involved."

And I officially love hobos.

"But there's a reason she sent you to me," Mark said, becoming serious again. "I was telling the truth before. The world is messed up, you're messed up, and I'm messed up. Once we realize that, things get a lot easier." He took a deep breath. "Have you heard of The Project?"


My stomach dropped, my eyes burst open, and my hands clenched before realizing that my Project (i.e. Max and Fang having hot times together) was different than from the one he was talking about. Crisis averted.

"Can't say I have," Max said.

"It's not very well known, but it will be in about," he paused, "three hours. The Project is about love." He stopped there. We all thought he was going to continue on some epic speech, but there was nothing.

"O….kay?" Total drawled.

"His name is Cupid."

Ugh, damn it all, I hate it when people get cryptic. "Whose name is Cupid?" I asked, not bothering to mask my irritation.

Mark either didn't notice or didn't comment on my annoyance. "The man who's organizing this Project. He believes in world harmony, which is great – it's just that his methods are a little…off. He thinks that police, for example, are just the dogs of the corrupt government. Teachers? They propagate the beliefs of the upper class. It's like taking Marx and Engels and putting them on crack. He's already blacked out half of Arizona to show just how much power he has. The electricity still isn't on."

I had no idea who Marx and Engels were (some sort of actors?), so I glossed over that part. "Why do we come into this? He seems like your average megalomaniac who wants to destroy government, assassinate Presidents, shoplift bagels from Walmart, and so on. It's nothing we haven't seen before. A few explosions here, a few well-placed punches there, and we can all go home and catch up on Breaking Bad."

"Cupid wants love, yes – but the love of death is included." None of us interrupted Mark. "Cupid wants to wipe the face of the planet clean. No humans, no structures, no nothing. He has the technology. He has the power. He just needs you."

Nothing echoed in the cave.

"You, with the wings – he wants you to be the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Think of what you would represent."



So that just happened.

I don't want to be a harbinger of doom. It doesn't work with my complexion. And besides, this seemed all sort of random. "How do you know all of this?"

Mark laugh wasn't contagious this time. It was a slow, deep rumble. "We can talk about that later." Oh, okay, mystery time. "But for now – you need to sleep. I know you haven't rested in a while."

Oh, bless the man. I couldn't remember the last time I slept for more than three hours, or without Gazzy waking me up in the middle of the night with his flailing limbs sprawled over me. Mark led us further into the cave, where he rolled out mattresses (what doesn't this guy have?) and told us that he'd wake us up in a few hours. We were in a "room" of our own – basically, just a smaller cave that was attached to the main reception area. This one hadn't been furnished at all. The ceiling was uncomfortably low. If I didn't hunch over a bit, I'd whack my head.

This, Internet, is where things get uncomfortable. Remember how I started out this blog entry hating on Fang? Wait for it.

"Oh, guys, there's only five sleeping bags," I said, sorting out a pile of them. This was a complete and utter lie, since I was the one who had left several spare ones in one of the many sleek metal cabinets that seemed so out of place. I could feel Fang glaring lasers at my back. "Looks like someone will have to share. I think you should take one for the team, Max."

My subtlety has always been a strength.

"That's not a problem," she said, rolling out one of the sleeping bags. It hit the floor with a poof of air. "Wanna share, Angel?"

I shot a look at where I was pretty sure Angel was sitting. Either way, she could read my thoughts, and knew that I was basically the most evil person ever.

"I dunno, Max," she said slowly. I shot her a thumbs up that, from where she was standing, only she could see. Nudge and Gazzy nodded in agreement, since Max laughed.

"Aw, guys, do I smell bad or something? It seems like no one wants to get cozy," she joked. She patted the bag.

"Well, to be fair, I don't know why anyone would want to sleep next to you," Fang from beside me. He was being perfectly casual and added, "Like, ever."




"Excuse me?" Max said loudly; my ears smarted from the loud echo. "What the hell was that?"

Fang shrugged. "The truth."

I want to murder that boy. I want to subject him to sticking pins under his fingernails and then strip him down and have horses drag his body around New York at rush hour. With a few words, he had destroyed my Project. Why would he be so petty, so mean? Whoever said "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" has never been a teenager.

Even worse, Max didn't fight back.

Max always fights back. She's the last one down and the first one up. The girl with the bloody knuckles and a fast smile. It's just who she is, and I hated seeing her so destroyed by one idiot boy. He shouldn't have that power over her. Max was stronger than him, and I have never, ever been so disappointed or angry with Fang. He hurt my sister.

Max just dragged her sleeping bag near the wall, climbed in in, rolled to face the wall, and closed her eyes. The awkward tension was unbearable; everyone grabbed their sleeping bags and scattered around the cave. It was the first time we didn't sleep near each other. Fang slept on the ground. I didn't tell him about the extra sleeping bags.

Stupid hormones, making everything so fricking complicated.

So yeah. I don't know what we're doing, or where we're going, or when is the next time that I can get a Big Mac at McDonald's. All I know is that I've always had the Flock, but I don't even know if I have them anymore.


Goodnight, Internet.


Gazzy's editing note: Speaking of Big Macs, I once ate eleven of them in one sitting and I ended up puking all over Total, who then was so mad he jumped all over me and then we were rolling around covered in puke and it was actually such a great moment, hahaha.

(Max was not impressed.)

(But Iggy was.)

(Although I like to think that Max was, deep down inside.)

(I know it!)

9. Nine

A/N- Bill Nye came and gave a speech at my school. Watching a few thousand twenty-year-olds go nuts for a person from our childhood was downright marvelous. (Chanting "BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL! in sync with all of them felt so weird.)

Reviewer of the Week

darknite47: My day was made when I opened up to my social studies textbook and I read the title of the section: Bacon's Rebellion.

Comment of the Week:

Random person's Facebook status: You're the one who wore a red and yellow scarf to class. So don't look at me weird for shouting "10 points for Gryffindor" when you answer questions cause I know you wanted this.

Dear Internet,

Okay, seriously, screw pants.

Camping out in a cave is nothing new to us. There's nothing quite like the charming atmosphere of the cold, damp, and creeptastic cavern that really helps to match the color scheme of the place. An interior decorator would have dropped dead just by glancing at it.

Sure, like I mentioned before, Mark - remember, Internet, he's the sketchy guy who lives here - had done his best with modern furniture and decorations, but there's nothing to hide the fact that he was living in, you know, the side of a freaking cliff.

Anyways, back to the pants.

I woke up to the weird-ass feeling of something on my leg. That something was a tickling sensation that gradually started to crawl down my leg. I'll admit my first thought was, Did I piss myself?

I was wrapped like a burrito in my sleeping bag, with my legs zippered inside and my arms hanging outside. It was a tight squeeze; my legs were pinned together. I tried ignoring the feeling, but as I started waking up more, I was conscious of a few more tickling spots on my legs. Then another, another, another –


I'm not proud of the following few seconds, Internet. The best thing I could have done was say, "Carry on, arachnid friends," and calmly pluck them out of my sleeping bags and place them gently in their little crevasses. Or maybe I could have slipped out of the sleeping bag, shook out all of the spiders, and then crawl back to bed.

But no.


I started flopping like a fish. The thought of unzipping the sleeping bag was too much for my brain. Instead I rolled over and over (crushing Nudge in the process) and screaming bloody murder. The echo bounced back on the walls, magnifying my hysterical screams.


I managed to wiggle out of the sleeping bag. I threw it as far as I could before launching backwards. Without thinking, I stripped off my jeans and started swatting off the miniature demons of Satan. There were just so many.


It was a statement, not a question. I kept bouncing up and now, trying everything to get those freaking spiders off of me. Even when I knew they were all gone, I kept brushing off phantom spiders. I could feel them.

"Jesus Iggy what was that?" Max yelled.

I would like to take a moment to say that Max needs to work on her enunciation; I think she meant to say "Jesus, Iggy, what was that?" Because without the commas she's implying that I'm Jesus. And Jesus had much better hair than me.

Anyways, I'm getting distracted. I just hate even thinking about that morning.

"Spiders. There were spiders. Everywhere, Max." I don't like spiders. Spiders don't like me. It's a mutual hate-hate relationship and I thought I had reached a deal with the spiders in that if they never bothered me, I wouldn't bother them. They broke the treaty.

"You didn't have to wake the rest of us up," Fang said from his Corner of Shame. I still hadn't forgiven him for what he said to Max; if I had to pick between squashing spiders or Fang into a gritty pulp, I would choose Fang in a split second. His guts would be a good topping to some ice cream.

"Yeah, well, whatever," I said, with the best comeback ever.

Since I had taken the liberty of waking everyone up, it was only moments before everyone was ready to face whatever the day would throw at us. We rolled up the sleeping bags and tossed them near one side of the cliff wall when the sound of footsteps reverberated towards us. I assumed it was Mark judging by how no one went into a frenzy of kickass fighting.

"I either heard Iggy yelling or a cat being strangled," he drawled. "Either or."

Mark gathered us all around his campfire again. I crashed in a beanbag chair that engulfed me with its comfortableness. Total jumped up onto my lap and nestled his head in the crook of my arm. We were each forcefully given tea (I felt like Harry Potter) and surprisingly fresh lemon poppy seed muffins. I don't know how he does it, but the dude's got swag.

"Did you all have a nice night?" Mark asked conversationally. I could feel the temperature drop as icy glares were likely exchanged between Max and Fang. At the silence, Mark went, "Ah".

We all sat there sipping our tea, wondering what the hell we were doing. Here we were, running from some guy named Cupid who wanted to destroy the world just like every other bad guy out there. I mean, come on. Villains need to get their shit together and do something original. Destroying the world? So nineteenth century. Turning every human being into a giant ravaging lizard who likes to munch on cute British guys? That's what I'm talking about.

"Well," Mark said, setting down his cup with a clatter, "I think it's time I showed you all the truth. I must apologize for waiting for so long. I just wanted to make sure that you were who you said you were."

Well, that certainly was mysterious. "You weren't telling the truth?" Max asked with a steely tone. I could feel her tense from beside me. Not telling Max the truth was a one-way ticket to Max's Do Not Like zone.

"I guess it was more withholding information." Mark lost the creak to his voice. He sounded ten years younger. "I want to introduce you to the last chance we have."

I could hear Mark dusting off his pants as he stood up and walked towards the far wall of the cave. "I want to you remember this moment," he said. "Savor it as the last time you understand everything before it all changes."

And he was right.

I really hate to get all deep and metaphorical on you, Internet (since I know your attention span is like a goldfish) but sometimes I wish I could go back to when I didn't know anything. But standing there, not knowing what was next – it was the last time we felt like we had some idea of what we were doing.

There was a sharp, mechanical hiss before the clunk of metallic gears started to churn. A heavy thump pounded our ears before a swish of something opening. A cool breeze – in the middle of Arizona? – hit us. It smelled like vanilla.

Just like that, the noises stopped.

"Dude," Gazzy said, grabbing my hand. "The cliff wall. He just, like, opened a door into the wall. Dude." So it turns out a metal door had been disguised as part of the cliff wall. Hmm. The plot thickens.

I feared that Gazzy was turning into a stoner from his complete lack of vocabulary, but I'm sure I would have been just as surprised to watch part of the wall being opened up. It's not every day that it turns out your friendly neighborhood creeper IS A FREAKING WIZARD.

"I do apologize; this is the back way in," Mark said. "Most people come in near the South Rim."

"The back way into where?" Nudge asked. She didn't get an answer.

Mark shepherded us all into the pathway that had been opened up. Claustrophobia clamped its arms around me; my head brushed the ceiling, and if I reached out with my hands, I would whack both sides of the wall. Sharp, jagged edges jutted out in the most inconvenient places. Rocks are stupid like that.

I don't know for how long we walked, but we were definitely headed downwards. After at least twenty minutes, our steps blended together and felt like we were on our way to Hades or something. Heck, maybe we were going to Hell. Is there bacon in hell? Probably not. Damn.

As we walked, I was conscious of a few things:

1) The sound of voices started to reach us

2) The pathway started to open up and give us more space


I had totally forgotten to put my pants back on! I was wearing my boxers, sure, but nothing nosedives a guy's confidence quite like chilling publically in his grey and holey boxers. Why do these things happen to me?

As I was still flipping my shit, I bumped into Fang, who had been walking in front of me. In a glorious showcase of my grace, my chin collided with his shoulder. I had totally missed the fact that everyone had stopped walking. Whoops.

"Well, we're here," Mark said, with a grin in his voice. He sounded like a kid who was ready to show off to his mom the dead frog he found. (And that was a weird analogy. Sorry Internet.)

Silence. "That's a wall," Max said.

"Fantastic deduction, Max," I drawled, because the day I stop being an ass is the day Twinkies stop being manufactured.

As far as I could tell, we were at the end of the long passageway. Little droplets of water dripped down the walls somewhere near my left. Behind me, Nudge coughed from all the dust we'd kicked up. The sounds of the voices had increased; it felt as if they were just beyond the rock wall. Snippets of conversation floated through.

"Well," Mark said, "here we are."

Another swooshing sound, and then –


There's no point in me even trying to describe it directly. Everything you're about to read, Internet, is what I figured out later from having conversations with the Flock. Some things can only be seen.

We were standing on what only could be described as a balcony overlooking a massive atrium. And by "massive" I don't mean "big", I mean this-room-is-so-large-you-could-fit-Pluto-and-Bill-O'Reilly's-ego-in-here. The atrium was circular, so there was the peculiar sensation that you were looking at a really huge tube. There were at least ten floors, so you had to crane your neck to see to the top. Each floor looked down on this atrium and had glass railings and barriers so you didn't, say, fall to the bottom and have your brain matter clash with the color scheme.

Speaking of color – apparently there wasn't much. Everything was shiny, white, and gave the appearance that this was an Apple store. The only exception was the people bustling all over the place. They were dressed in all black (channeling their inner ninja diva?) and managed to pull off the look without looking like an emotionally constipated teenager.

"What is this place? Max asked softly. I grabbed onto her hand and started to absently rub it. Neither of us had any idea what was going on, which was seriously uncomfortable. The warmth of her hand kept me grounded as the conversations from the people below floated over us.

"Headquarters," Mark said, placing a hand on my shoulder. "Don't worry; you'll love it here. The tea is excellent."

The main floor was set out in a bullpen style. There were a bunch of desks and people furiously bashing away at their keyboards as if someone had insulted their favorite fictional couple. They all faced towards a massive screen that was pinned against the far wall. The world map was being shown, with bright red dots on certain countries.

"Iggy." Gazzy tugged at the hem of my shirt. "You're not wearing any pants."


You know what?

Screw it.

I'm going to rock the pantless look. It'll be a thing. We all know fetch isn't happening, but going without pants is the newest fashion trend to hit North America. No one can make fun of you if you're proud of it.

"I know," I said to Gazzy, "It's okay if you can't avert your eyes. I know it's tempting." He groaned and punched on the arm.

We took a moment to let everything sink in. So apparently have an undercover agency hidden within the Grand Canyon is a thing. And a well-funded one, too; everything looked as if it had just come out of a box. People brushed past us, on their way to probably stop a nuclear war or another equally catastrophic event, like stopping the President from wearing two different colored socks.

"We're on the second floor right now," Mark said. "The first floor –what you're looking at right now - is what we call the SNAFU floor. Before you ask what SNAFU stands for, just Google it. It's where we do general crises management and give an overall survey on how each country is doing. If you follow the corridors, they'll take you to general meeting rooms and whatnot."

The corridors he was referring to led off from the main atrium. Mark continued, "This floor and the third floor are all Research and Development. Crazy stuff here. Makes James Bond look like a third grader. The fourth floor is full of PR people who make fake passports, IDs, and all that fun stuff. They can make you a new identity in four minutes flat. Don't piss them off. Once an employee named Sarah Baker woke up in Kosovo with the name Szabó Erzsébet because she drank someone's coffee. That was a bad day.

"Floors five, six and seven deal with analyzing data and predicting information. They're boring people. You can fall asleep talking to them and they won't notice. The rest of the floors are labs, training simulation rooms, and dormitories. The overall capacity is around two thousand, but it fluctuates, depending on which country is blowing up another country."

"Fun times," I said, because there was nothing else to say.

"Very fun times," Mark repeated. "Now, if you follow me, we can brief you on your roles here."

We started to obediently follow Mark, but Max (literally) put her foot down. "Wait a minute, Mark. We're not partnering ourselves with anyone. We work for ourselves. Just who the hell are you?"

"A magical hobo," Gazzy whispered, and I didn't bother covering up my snort. I totally accidentally shot a booger out of my nose at the same time. Whatever. I didn't choose the thug life, the thug life chose me.

Mark tactfully ignored the two of us. "I understand your concern, Max. We – as in, the group of people here – aren't affiliated with any government. There are people working here from all over the map. It made communication hell at first, but we've dealt with that issue by now."

He paused. "In sum, we're a group of people who understand that there is a very, very distinct possibility that the world will face terrifying consequences if things don't change quickly. This program was started by FDR in the thirties as a facility to combat the rising Nazi forces of the time. Most technologies that won the war were developed here. Over time, it's evolved into a more…peaceful state, with only a small focus on building weapons and ammunition. Most of it's scientific and technological."

"So where do we come into this?" Fang asked. We could all hear what he truly meant – did they want to experiment on us?

"Max's mother is a good friend of mine. She helped me out once. And of course, we've always known about the six of you. You can't just fly around metropolitan areas without setting off a few radars, you know."

Now that was a shocker; we'd always been so careful to fly high above cities. "So you guys have always known about our existence?" I asked, with my first non-sarcastic remark of the week.

There was no hint of an apology as Mark said, "Yes. Of course we watched you. And if you work with us, we might be able to help a lot of people. I've already explained what Cupid wants to do. If he succeeds…"

He didn't have to finish the sentence.

"I'll take you to your rooms. Most people sleep with ten other people in the same room, but I've managed to get the six of you your own room. If you would follow me, please."Max and I were still holding hands as we followed after Mark. We entered into a slick elevator. A British female voice asked, "What floor?"

"Nine," Mark answered. The doors smoothly shut as we launched upwards. "That voice is the computer. We did a vote and everyone wanted a British voice."

"Ninth floor," the computer said, and I understood why everyone wanted it to be British. It challenged Morgan Freeman's voice as the sultriest and smoothest voice I'd ever heard. I could listen to that voice all day and not feel an ounce of shame.

We followed Mark as he made his way down a corridor. I tried keeping track of each time we turned or opened a door, but there were so many that I just held on tighter to Max's hand. From what I understood, each floor was made up of concentric circles, with the circle at the center overlooking the atrium. One really awesome thing was that all of the doors were all automatic, so I felt like a Jedi every single time it opened for me.

"So here we are," Mark said. "It's not much, but it's cleaned daily. Your clothes are in the labeled drawers. I'll leave you alone for a bit. Afterwards, we can talk." The door swooshed behind him as he left.

"This is 'not much'"? Angel asked in disbelief. She described the room to me: there were six Queen-sized beds, with three on each side of the room. Beside each bed was a desk on one side and a drawer on the other. And wait for it – the entire back wall was an aquarium.

A freaking aquarium.

It wasn't that there was a secret facility in the middle of the Grand Canyon that struck me, or the fact that the world was going to end, or that we had yet another evil villain guy to kill – but just the fact that there was an aquarium was too much to handle.

It started as a sniff that I couldn't control. Then, a snicker that quickly caused Gazzy to giggle. Nudge couldn't cover her laugh with a cough. And the next thing I knew, the six of us were laughing and holding on to each other because that's the only thing we've ever held onto. Even Fang smiled. We just laughed like we haven't laughed in a long time, and maybe we cried a bit, but being together after everything was…nice.

And I still wasn't wearing any pants.


Gazzy's note:







10. Ten

A/N- I want to take a moment to speak about the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut. If you haven't heard, a gunman opened fire on children and teachers while they were in school, killing at least 28.

As an American, as a Canadian, and as a citizen of the world, I am appalled. This should not have happened for reasons that the media will inevitably dissect.

We are living in a history book. By this, I mean that ten years down the road, there will be a sociology textbook using today as an example. There will be homework questions assigned on what happened today. Discuss the culture of violence in the early 2000's. What laws allowed this incident to happen? What social perspectives?

Do the questions of tomorrow give us the answers of today?

We are not perfect. But the beautiful thing about humanity is that we keep trying – we break, we fall, we burn… and we get back up. It hurts. God, it hurts so much you feel it beyond your soul and beyond every part of your being. And we keep going. We strive for the unattainable. We will hold together through these times of fear and sadness and grief and keep going.

Because that's what we've always done, and that's all we can do.

I've mentioned before that I write stories to make people forget and to remember. In that untouchable moment when you laugh, you forget about all of the problems in the world. You forget about you. But you remember, as well – you remember your own snapshot moments of the same perfect feeling.

There will be other tragedies, but there will be different miracles. Please, hold on.

Normally, I work current events into my stories and speak my opinions through the characters. In this case, I wanted to speak to you as Liz Nash, not as Phoenix Fanatic or Max or Fang or Iggy. I don't know if laughter is appropriate right now, but I think everyone is feeling like they want to be reminded that this too shall pass. The purpose of this chapter is to make you laugh and feel a little bit better.

Things are not okay, but they will be.



Reviewer of the Week:

MotherEarth02: Oh my god your author note at the start was so relatable. I am fourteen and I went to the Wiggles concert over the weekend. I was the oldest person there (besides the parents) by like ten years easy.

I could feel their two year old eyes judging me, but it's alright. My awesome hot potato moves showed them who was boss.

Comment of the Week:

My Dad to my Mom: Don't tell me if you have sex with strange men, but if you have sex with strange women, take pictures.

My dear Internet friends,

I just want a burrito.

You know that insatiable craving that you get, that haunts your every move and follows you around? That craving that sits behind your shoulder as you stare at the clock? That craving that whispers, "Are you coming, darling?" in your ear?

My burrito was haunting me.

My imaginary burrito, at least. I could picture the oozing waterfalls of cheese pouring freely overly the browned ground beef that brought together the subtle tanginess of the green peppers and white rice, all supported by the tortilla wrap. God. I just want a burrito.

The problem is, this "Headquarters" place (Headquarters of what?) is way into nutrition. As in, there isn't a single Cheeto in a forty-mile radius. Not going to lie, a single tear made its way down my cheek when I heard the news.

The last time I chatted with you, Random Citizens of the Internet, the Flock was checking out its new groovy new pad. (Woah, the seventies called, they want their really uncomfortable slang back.) We even found fresh (!) clothes in the drawers. Even when we were at Dr. Martinez's house, I don't think we washed our clothes even once, because the one time I tried I accidentally put in dish detergent instead of laundry detergent and flooded two streets of the neighborhood.

The one sucky thing is that all of the clothes here are the same.

Weird, right? The sound you just heard was Alexander McQueen rolling in his grave. It was that whole black pants, black shirt combo. It was a little too Child of Death for my taste, but hey, at least they were clean. The only thing mildly interesting about the clothes were the blue bands that circled each arm, near the shoulder. Not that it mattered for me. I like black. Obvs.

"How did you guys sleep?"

It was our friendly neighborhood no-longer-a-hobo Mark. We'd only arrived at Headquarters the day before, and still had no idea what type of rabbit hole we had fallen into.

The previous day Mark had shepherded us into a tiny and cramped room and given us a run-down on the facilities that had really told us nothing. I learned:

1. The building is big.

2. There are a lot of people here.

3. There are no burritos.

I guess I only wanted a burrito because I knew I couldn't have one. Then again, burritos that were available a few miles underneath the Grand Canyon might be a little sketchy, but whatevs.

"A real bed?" I said, answering Mark's question. I patted the bed I was sitting on. "It hugged my curves in all the right places."

Everyone laughed. If I had made the same joke yesterday I would have been punched in the teeth, so I assumed everyone no longer had their hate on.

Mark continued. "Anyways, I want to give you guys some time to explore before I give you the tour. I'm sure you're sick of me. Go wherever you like as long as there isn't a sign telling you not to. I'll be back here in around two hours. Do whatever you'd like."

Free reign? Sweet, I'd take it. The young kids all went off to try and find the dining hall or wherever there was food. I was about to follow them out of our room, when I heard Max speaking softly.

"Fang, can I talk to you for a second?"

Hold the phone, girlfriend, they were going to talk?


I don't get why communication is so damned hard for people. If you like someone, just say it and get it over with. If they say they like you too, whoop-de-do, go have babies. If they say you're a creeper and to go die in a hole, then you know you won't be wasting your time any more. Win-win situation.

But if I went with the rest of the Flock to the dining hall, I would miss the conversation! Just as the door closed behind the four of us, leaving Fang and Max alone in the room, I heard our resident goth kid reply, "yeah".

I had to act fast. I grabbed Gazzy's arm and said, "Yo, Nudge, Angel… Gazzy and I are going to go check out the gym. You know, see the weights and stuff. Man machines."

"We are?" Gazzy asked. I squeezed his arm and he added, "We are."

"But – it's food!" Nudge protested. And she had a point, but Max and Fang were acknowledging the other's existence. This was big.

"It won't take us long. We'll see you guys there." I turned down the opposite way of the hallway, half-dragging Gazzy with me. It wasn't until I was sure that Nudge and Angel had stepped into the elevator that I stopped walking turned quickly on the Gasman.

"Is there a vent in our room? Like, a ventilation shaft?" I asked, tapping my foot. How long would their conversation last?

Gazzy huffed. His breath was beyond putrid. That kid needed to be introduced to breath mints, stat. "Weird, man, how did you know that? It's in the ceiling."

Perfect! In our presentation yesterday, we'd been told that each room had a bunch of ancillary venting systems for oxygen and in case of a chemical attack. Gazzy had clearly fallen asleep for that part. The fact that the air duct ran over the ceiling sucked, but I could deal.

My hands flew all over the place in my desperation. I almost whacked myself in the head with an errant hand. "I need to get into that air duct right now. I'm guessing there will be a grate along the hallway so that mechanics can service it. I need you to tell me where that grate is."

"Why?" he asked.

I wanted to say, "GODDAMNIT GAZZY I WANT OUR FRIENDS TO HAVE A HOT MAKEOUT SESSION" but instead I said, "because I want to. It's my prerogative." (Hands up if "to have a little fun" automatically goes after the word "prerogative" in your head, Internet.)

We jogged down the hallway until Gazzy spotted the grate. We didn't have a screwdriver or anything, but please, screwdrivers are for the weaklings of the world. It took us only two minutes and a pencil in Gazzy's pocket for the grate to come seamlessly and quietly off the wall. Convenient, am I right?

"You're going in there?" Gazzy asked. "Weird, man, but go for it."

Man, I love Gazzy. Our bromance is more bromantic than anything at this point.

I started working my way into the duct. In the history of my life, I've had some pretty terrible ideas. I chugged three gallons of milk. I did the cinnamon challenge. I built a shrine to Nicolas Cage with Max's "feminine hygiene products." But what happened next – well, you'll see.

The crawlspace I entered into was shockingly spacious. I had room to stand up, with was weird, until I realized that mechanical consoles were beeping all around me. So people were supposed to be in here! At least, engineers and people who had to fix stuff and not, you know, creepers. At least I knew I wouldn't be electrocuted any second.

I walked forward a few steps before I bashed my hand against a cool metal ladder. This must be where the actual ducts began. I stepped quietly up the ladder and felt my way around once I reached the top. From what I could tell, it was a long and thin passageway of vents. If I slid on my stomach, I could fit. My wings were pinched tight to my side. It hurt, but it was a dull, manageable pain.

Channeling my inner Bond ("the name's Iggy, Iggy Ride") I slid towards the sound of voices. As long as I didn't twitch and hit the metal – sending a proportionally louder twang echoing through the vent – it was fairly silent. I only heard the voices once – why weren't they talking?

My hands grasped against the side of the vents as I kept sliding along. Where was I? There were slits in the bottom of the vent, but obviously I couldn't see through them. Was I even near our room? What if I was lying above someone else's room? What if-

"I don't understand why you said it."


I had planned on being near the edge of the room, not right on top of them! If I made a false move and bashed a limb or swore or something, I could never live it down. But now that I was here, I could finally listen.

"I'm sorry. It's just – well, we've all been under stress. We haven't been able to tell them." Fang was apologizing? And he wasn't telling us something? Was there any chance at all I could eat a burrito soon?

"I understand.' Max was maybe two feet below me. She smelled like coconut. Weird. Tasty, but weird. "This place is tripping me out. I don't know what to think."

From a different view, this was a fascinating conversation in terms of Flock dynamics. Max and Fang fell naturally into the leadership roles. I never really thought about the behind-the-scenes decision making stuff.

Let's not talk about the fact that if I had sight, I would be a leader, too.

"Are you thinking we should leave?" Fang asked so quietly that I had to strain against the grates to hear him. That boy needs to take a public speaking class.

"No. Where else would we go? What else would we do? It's just so frustrating." Max's voice broke on the last word, and so did a little piece of my heart.

Pssh, wait a second. I don't have a heart. I have bacon. Who needs a heart? Who needs a relationship?

Seriously, though. Bacon is better than a relationship any day of the week. Will bacon cheat on you? No. Will bacon stab you in the back and make you cry so hard you choke on your own breath? No. Will bacon run away to Argentina with its lover and start a successful car dealership business in the steamy jungles of passion? No. Bacon isn't a symbol of love. Bacon is love.

I… I don't know where that speech came from. Anyways.

"How often have you been getting the text messages?" Fang asked. He took a step, and judging from the location of the echo, he had stepped closer to Max. Eee!

"Maybe one per hour. It's always something like, I like your shirt, or say hi to Mark with one of those creepy emoticon faces. He knows we're here, Fang." Max sounded tired. A creek had slipped into her voice. When was the last time she'd slept for more than a few hours? Dr. Martinez's house seemed like someone else's memory.

"Just delete them," Fang said.

"I do."

Even I could feel the tension in the conversation at that point. Clearly they wanted to stay in each other's company (AND MAKE OUT?) since they didn't make excuses to leave. They couldn't do small talk, either, because please, they were so beyond that stage.

I wanted this scene to be like playing the Sims, and I could just be God and force them together and make them happy. Although I wouldn't trap them in a burning house and watch as they die in a fiery burning inferno, like most people do in Sims. Worse, I had to sneeze so badly. This place seriously needed to clean the ducts; the dust floated around my nose. Each little particle tickled so freaking much-

"Have you talked to Iggy about what Mark told you? About the experiment?" Fang asked.

Wait up; I didn't eavesdrop to hear about myself! That's the worst. I just wanted juicy gossip details. Oh man, I sound like such a valley girl.

"Not yet, but he has a right to know. This could change his life." Max huffed. "But the consequences – "

"-far outweigh any benefits," Fang finished. He was flapping his wings softly and the little wafts of air felt nice and cool. It was getting really hot and I could feel little beads of sweat start to drip down my forehead. Majorly uncool.

Max tapped her toes against the floor absently. I imagined she was tugging on and twirling her hair; she did that when she was thinking hard. Gazzy always made fun of her for it. "I'll try and talk with Iggy alone," she said.

"Sounds like a plan," Fang added.




It was beyond infuriating. They were getting me in the mood for dismemberment. I felt like Katniss, being all badass and sneaky, but it was so frustrating to be so close and not be able to change anything. Worse, I could feel claustrophobia starting to sink into my bones. It seemed the ventilation duct was closing in; I couldn't feel anything; there was pressure on each side; it was so freaking hot; everything was smooth; trapped; trapped; trapped; trap-

The quick swooshing sound of the door was the only warning before Angel said, "Max?" I could hear the two jump apart from below. Angel took a few steps into the room, stopping near her bed, which was the closest to the door.

"Hey, Angel, what's up?" Max asked, all traces of the insecurities gone.

"I'm looking for Iggy. The cafeteria is making burritos, but not for very long, so I wanted to find him and tell him."




I involuntarily kicked upwards in anger. My foot connected with the metal shaft and it sent a long and loud reverberating crack down into the room. I immediately clamped my hands over my mouth as Fang asked, "What was that?"

"Dunno," Angel said in a tone of voice that clearly indicated she knew. But, how could she know…?

I can read thoughts, Iggy.


Of course I would forget the fact that Angel is kind of a superfreak, and I say that in the nicest way possible. We're all freaks here.

Angel, I understand that this is the worst situation you've ever caught me in, including that one time with my, um, "alone time" and I beg of you not to tell anyone that I'm here. Please, have mercy.

I could sense her grin from a mile away; I'm sure it freaked the hell out of Max and Fang. Of course not, Iggy. Would you really think I would do something like that?

Let's not test any theories.

"Well, it's a shame that Iggy has to miss out on delicious, delicious burritos. Oh well. Anyways, I'll be in the cafeteria. Bye guys!" and with that chipper little voice, she skipped out of the room. She was a little ball of chaos packed in a bite-sized package. The door slid shut behind her.

"Huh," Max said. "Do you get the feeling you missed something?"

Fang's shirt rustled as he nodded. "Always."

The conversation came to its natural end, so of course the two of them would be so incompetent that they couldn't move onto a better topic, like their passionate feelings. Mmmhmm, Sassy Iggy just wants to get all up in this one.

"I really am sorry," Fang said. He sniffed. Probably a booger, not emotion. "About before. What I said. I just wanted to keep my distance."

"Why would you do that?" Max asked. I was pretty sure I could feel my own hopes rising with hers. Her wings matched Fang's; it was a slow but rhythmic beating.

Fang let out a sharp bark of laughter, shocking the hell out of me. I had to stop my legs from twitching in surprise. "It's why I'm the way I am, Max. Distance. Control. It's a very easy way of life."

Where the hell was this coming from?

"So you're saying, that whenever you get too close to someone, you pull back?" I've never heard Max be so politely disinterested. Underneath the words, I could feel the tidal waves of emotion.


"And you felt like you were getting too close to me."




My hands were clasped so tightly into fists that I was sure I'd leave a mark. My mouth was open in a permanent gape of astonishment. Feelings? Emotions? Truth? Bless their souls. Sure, Fang had mastered one-word reticence, but at least he was referencing the fact that he wasn't a cement block of feelings.

There were a few steps; I wasn't sure who walked towards whom (did you see me break out that proper form of whom, Internet? Iggy 1, Grammar Nazis 0), but they were definitely close to each other, and they were definitely right under me. For the first time, a pang of guilt struck me for intruding on their conversation.

"What do we do now?" Max whispered. Her wings started to beat faster.

"Have we ever known what we're doing?" Fang countered.

Some clothing shifted; a hand had been placed on a shoulder. Another step forward. They were so close to each other. My heart pounded. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, were they going to kiss? Oh my God oh my God oh my –


I don't know what caused it.

Maybe I shifted my weight. Maybe a support snapped. Maybe it was fate, but it was at that moment that the universe decided to serve me up a whole smoothie full of hell.

And, action.

I was lying in the shaft, and the next thing I know, the whole ventilation duct came crashing down in a cacophonous and grating mess of metal. The sound was the worst part – it was as if the sky itself had been torn in half. The entire duct had been clean ripped out of the ceiling. Everything smashed to the floor below, including me. I landed right on Max and Fang, bringing them to the floor with me in a massive heap of limbs and metal and wings.


"Jesus Christ!" Max yelled, followed by some inspired swearing by Fang. Something told me I wouldn't be living this one done for a while. "Iggy, what the hell?"

I was on the floor, facing upwards, and not wanting to move. Ugggh. Denial, sing me your sweet song. A piece of metal jabbed into my back, and my hands were sticky with blood. Ew.

"I took a wrong turn to the kitchen," I deadpanned, extracting myself from the pile of debris. I shook the dust off my arms; nothing hurt too badly, except, you know, my pride, dignity, and self-worth.

"Do you even want to try and explain?" Fang asked. He groaned as he stood up. His wings brushed mine as he shook them out. They would probably be stiff for a few days. Whoops.

"Not really," I answered.

"Were you spying on us?" Max suddenly spat out. Ooh, she's a smart one. She stamped her feet, probably to get all of the dust off. That, or she turned into a five-year old having a temper tantrum.

"Mmmm, no," I said, because what else was there to say? "Yeah, Max, I'm weirdly invested in this relationship and wanted to have you and Fang get together. And make out. Lots of make outs."

That would go over really well.

"I can't even handle this right now," Max said, clearly debating homicide. She coughed out more dust before adding, "I'll be in the dining hall."

She marched out of our room, muttering something about doing curious things to me while I slept. I only felt a little bit terrible, since falling out of a ventilation duct is just so classic. I was left alone with Fang, who just said, "Damn it, Iggy, I was so close," before following after Max.


Is that implying that he wants a relationship with Max? Does it mean they'll have some kissy-kissy action? Why do I even care?

But now I'm sad because it's going to be forever until I can have my burrito.


Gazzy's note: Iggy admitted that he has a bromance with me! Aww, he's just adorable. But he'd kill me if he knew I called him adorable. He probably wants something like "chiseled" or "godlike".

But you and me, Internet – we know he's adorable.

11. Eleven

My uncle is the head of surgery at the Texas Children's Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in North America. I was talking to him about all his cutting-edge life-saving surgeries, and he asks me what I've done recently, and all I could say was, "Well, I ate an entire package of bacon last night."

Reviewer of the Week:

Allie Knight: Oh, God. For a moment, I thought 'harbinger' said 'hamburger'. Like, that's delicious, Iggy. Hamburger of Doom. "Now with extra bacon and our signature Doom Sauce!"

Comment of the Week:

Local newspaper: In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, Congress was shown to have a lower approval rating than Genghis Khan, traffic jams, cockroaches and Canadian-based band Nickleback. Congress can take some solace with the fact that they achieved a better score than Lindsay Lohan, North Korea, and the Ebola virus.

To all of the random people reading this blog who probably have Facebook and Tumblr open in other tabs and who are wasting time before playing another round of Robot Unicorn Attack:

Have you ever told someone you love them, and really meant it?

Not, like, your family. But someone you truly care about. The whole thing with The Project and falling through the ventilation shaft and cockblocking Fang and his relationship with Max has really got me thinking about my own love life (or the lack of it).

I can't picture myself ever confessing my undying love to some random girl. I might be swayed to like a girl if she was wearing taco-scented perfume or something, but love? Please. I can picture it now:

"Oh, Iggy," Roxi Cherrykiss whispers, licking my ear. She's wearing a long, slinky red dress that would look even better on the floor… if you know what I mean. "You're just so manly. Your sculpted abs, your delicious jawline, your ability to reference things only a teenage girl should know… you make my womanhood weak."

I chuckle darkly, because chuckling darkly is totally possible and not at all macabre. I tip my fedora towards her and cross my arms over my perfectly-tailored Armani suit. Outside, the rain lashes against our mansion. "Thanks, sugarpie. I know it's hard to make time for you, considering my CEO position of a multi-billion dollar oil baron company. I do try."

Lightning flashes. What is the thunder trying to say? Roxi leans in and traces designs on my palm. "Darling… I love you."

Another shot of lightning strikes. "I love…"

Why can't I say it?

I can't look at her. I just can't. "I… I love yo… I love Youtube."

The rain suddenly stops. Roxi straightens and pulls up the straps on her dress. "What did you say?"

"I said I love you. That's exactly what I said."

"You said you love Youtube!" Roxi slaps me on the cheek, picks up her handbags, and marches out of the door and out of my life.

That's why I stay away from girls, Internet.

But still, there's that undeniable Disney thought of maybe there's more. But how would I know? Any girl who would marry a blind birdkid with more sass than brains would need psychiatric evaluation. It might happen, but for now, I'll live vicariously through celebrities who don't know I exist and through Max and Fang. But mainly the celebrities.

Anyways, it's been an interesting past few hours.

Max had stormed off to the dining hall after my rather unfortunate entrance into her and Fang's conversation, and Fang had (presumably) followed like the whipped boy that he is. I didn't exactly want to follow, since talking to a piss-offed Max is like poking at a nuclear bomb with a pointy stick. Instead, I crashed on my bed. I love you, bed.

"You hug me in all the right places, bed," I muttered, because of course I have a personal relationship with an inanimate object. "You'll always be here for me."

It probably wasn't even safe to be in the room, considering the ceiling was half-collapsed and electrical wires were exposed and crackling, but whatever. Living on the edge.

I hadn't meant to fall asleep, but it just sort of happened. I was thinking about my long-lost burrito goodness when my thoughts started to slowly come slower and slower, until it was more of a hazy feeling of nothingness. I still couldn't remember my lost solid night of sleep.

I have no idea how long I was out for. You know that feeling when you accidentally fall asleep in the middle of the day, and then you wake up, and you don't know what year it is? It's sort of like that. I was blissfully passed out, dreaming of Roxi putting bacon in interesting places, when suddenly-


"What the hell?" I shot out of bed, ending up on the other side of the room. A deafening siren blared from invisible speakers. I have no idea if "aie aie aie" accurately sounds like an earsplitting klaxon and blaring alarm, but work with me, Internet. I covered my ears with my hands, but nothing helped.


The blaring siren was more of a sight than a sound. It cut across my brain, my body, my thoughts, until I was left cowering on the floor. I curled up into the fetal position, my head blaring at the same time as the siren.




I would not wish this on my worst enemy.




Except for people who walk slowly in hallways.




They should be shot.

I have absolutely no idea for how long I was curled up. When I look back on it, I picture myself bravely making my way through the building, helping scared females survive the terrible situation, who are holding onto my arm as I courageously save them all.

When in actuality, I was weak.

Eventually, I felt someone grabbing at my face. I lashed out, kicking and flailing, until I recognized Gazzy's scent. I totally get that that sounds super weird, but everyone has a scent. Max is vanilla, Fang is cinnamon, Nudge is pomegranate, Angel is gingerbread, and Gazzy is like a gerbil.

I stopped resisting, and Gazzy clamped down something over my ears. The sounds were completely blocked out immediately, but the echo and ringing were still deafening. I guessed that they were some hyped-up noise cancelling headphones. A brief thought flashed through my head: Gazzy must have been on the opposite side of the building, realized I must have been in serious trouble, and had come rushing to help me. True friendship right there.

The Gasman grabbed my hand and pulled me to my feet. He started to tug me out of the room, so I figured I might as well go along with him. We sprinted through the hallways hand-in-hand.

Without any sound, I was blind in two senses. It was horrifying, disorienting, and über unfun. I couldn't use sound to judge distance from anything, so Gazzy was the only way I could even run in a straight line. We were sprinting down the hallway until we came to a dead stop.

"What's wrong?" I said, but Gazzy probably had the headphones on as well. At least he could read my lips. My hands flew out in the universal gesture of "wtf is this shit".

He grabbed my hand and placed it on his mouth. I felt totally violated and really uncomfortable until I realized that he was slowly and clearly mouthing words.

"No – power – no – elevator – we - stairs" was all I got, but it was enough. We were on the eighth floor, and we had to book it down to the first floor. This was my exercise for the year. Hell, for my life.

We burst through a side door and into a stairwell. I figured out the pattern fairly quickly: eight steps, then a platform, and eight more steps in the opposite direction, and so on. It would have been faster to fly, but the stairwell was so tight that our wings brushed against the sides of the wall.

We ran as fast as we could without tripping over our feet and killing ourselves on the stairs. I trip on air sometimes; adding stairs into the mix is a recipe for disaster. There was a solid three minutes of stairs until we made it to the first floor.

Gazzy yanked off my headphones; I panicked and tried to throw them back on, but the siren had stopped. It was just the ringing that pounded my head. "We're standing at the back of the atrium," Gazzy shouted into my ear. I could barely hear him above the echo. "The place is packed."

He described it to me later: basically, a few thousand people were crammed into the atrium, making it look like a free rave concert. Instead of drunken frat boys who wore their hats backwards, it was brilliant scientists who were shoved together. Everyone was facing the large screen that hung down from one of the balconies.

Apparently, this screen was counting down.

If action movies have taught me one thing, it's that counting down is never a good thing.

Everything was so overwhelming; I had to take a moment to focus in on each sense. Otherwise I'd be in gibbering blob of Iggyness. I clenched my fists and went through each sensation one at a time.

Touch: Clothes rubbing against skin. Hair brushing against ears. Gazzy's hand in mine. His palms are sweaty and calloused. That boy needs some hand moisturizer, stat.

Taste: Leftover tea that Mark shoved at me this morning. It was Earl Grey. I really don't understand his fascination with tea, considering he's not British.

Sound: Tinnitus. Yeah, that's right, I know what tinnitus is because one time Gazzy set fire to nitrocellulose and it exploded and he was deaf for a week. During that time he acted like a mime and he accidentally groped Fang and the next day Fang shaved off Gazzy's eyebrows while he slept. We're a classy bunch.

Scent: So much sweat. Ugh. It's this powerful stench of too many bodies pinned close to each other. Too much cologne, too much perfume, too much humanity. Moments like these I want to run away to some cave in the Swiss Alps with nothing but my laptop, an Internet connection, and Anna Kendrick who can sing me sweet, sweet melodies to bed.

Sorry. That turned creepy fast.

Gazzy and I were pushed against the wall, so at least we weren't trapped on all sides. Yay. I'm dripping with joy. Anyway, Gazzy screamed into my ear, "It's counting down from ten!" and I somehow managed to hear.

I ticked down the numbers in my head mentally.

Ten. I hate countdowns.

Nine. You know what else I hate? Wet socks. There is nothing worse.

Eight. Countdowns make you think about things.

Six. Like regrets.

Five. I regret that Beyoncé has never whispered "fierce" in my ear as we run the world.

Five. Shit, I missed seven.

Four. I was never very good with numbers

Three. Or good at anything, really.

Two. Unless you count roasting squirrels.

One. I make a damn good roasted squirrel.

All at once, the ringing in my ears stopped. I could hear normally and was suddenly very aware of all of the people murmuring and asking confused questions under their breath. Gazzy's hand tightened in my own. I could feel his nails digging hard into my skin.

There was an electronic click, and then a loud, booming, voice.

"Good afternoon," the voice said. It had been digitally altered and was completely androgynous. The voice bounced off the towering walls of the atrium and was magnified tenfold. "I'm glad to see you're all gathered here today."

"There's an image being projected on that humungous screen," Gazzy told me. His voice was hesitant. "But…"

"But what?"

"There's no picture. It's just a black screen with a smiley face on it."

The voice continued. It was completely emotionless and static. Even when it asked questions, there was no inflection of tone. "I do not hate you. I love you. I love everyone. And don't we hurt the ones we love the most. Think of the last time you yelled at your mothers. Your fathers. Your brothers and sisters and friends. It seems like caring hurts, doesn't it.

"I care about the world. And this will hurt, but that is okay, because the more we love, the more we hurt.

"At the time of broadcast, it is 14:00. At 20:00, there will be a rather interesting event occurring in the city of Los Angeles. Did you know that the name of the city means The Angels. This is what is called poetry."

Of all the words the voice had spoken, "interesting" was the only one with an emphasis. I did not like where this was going.

The voice added, "The fall and the destruction and the burning can be beautiful. Paradise is ready. It is important to remember that in the upcoming times. I tell you the time of this event so that you have time to gather your family and friends and to finish your final affairs.

"There is one more thing. Yes, I love all of you…but the one I love the most is you, Iggy."

The voice clicked off.




As you could imagine, the whole place exploded with a cacophony of people yelling and shouting and saying a whole bunch of scientific jargon about radars and maps would somebody please get a bucket for the person who just puked?

I don't get it. Why did this creepy-ass voice have to give a shoutout to me? He could've called me up and said, "Holla, Iggy, let's grab some dinner and chat about me wanting to kill people," and I would've been like, "for suresies, just let me check my schedule."

"We need to get back to our room," Gazzy shouted above the uproar. I didn't argue, so he shepherded me back to the stairwell. We started off by sprinting up each step, but it's a lot harder running up than down. My thighs burned like a woman using a StairMaster in the '80s.

It took us at least ten minutes to make our way back to our room. It was empty; since we had been so close to an exit from the atrium, we had made a faster getaway than most people. The place still smelled dusty and the electric wires were still crackling; I had forgotten that my fall out of the shaft had trashed the place. Even Febreeze couldn't save this disaster zone.

Gazzy's bed creaked as he fell onto it. "So, are you flattered?" he asked. "I mean, out of all the thousands of people here, he said he loved you the most. You should expect some flowers or chocolate or – hey!"

I had sat right on top of him and punched him in the shoulder. I didn't reply, though; what could I say? This was way out of my league. I'm just a blind kid who wants to eat junk food. That's seriously my life goal. Am I asking too much?

We had to wait for another ten minutes for the rest of the Flock burst into the room. I could tell they had been running since they were panting and also stank. They must've been in the center of that crowd.

"Why are you sitting down?" Max asked, borderline frantic. Max is all about control, and she was losing it. Her voice was so taut I could have used it as a tightrope wire. "We're going. Now. Grab your backpack."

"Going? Where?" Gazzy asked. He didn't move – then again, he couldn't, considering I was still on top of him. "I like this place."

"Los Angeles! Where else?" Max stomped further into the room. Judging by the frantic banging of drawers, she was stuffing things into her bag. Patience was not her strong suit. Me, I would sit down with a nice cup of tea and ponder things and not rush head-first into a potential situation that may or may not end with a very dead Iggy. She added a sharp, "Get ready!"

It was hopeless to fight. I slowly dragged myself over to my bed and realized that I hadn't even had time to unpack. I slung my backpack over one shoulder and said, "See, men get ready so much faster than women."

Max didn't dignify that with a response and chose to instead to order around all of the other members of the Flock. I wish I hadn't made that joke; I could feel her fury rolling off her in waves. I didn't have to ask her rage because I felt it myself. Right when we had the opportunity to be comfortable, it had been ripped away from us.

The loss, again.

Fang huffed and his clothes rustled as he crossed his arms over his chest and waited; he probably didn't need to pack either. Nudge scampered over to her bed to throw some clothes in her bag when Angel whispered, "I don't like this."

None of us expected what happened next.

It hurt because it was real.

Max whirled around and spat, "Do you think I like this? Do you think I like any of this? The leadership? The worry? The thought I might die today running through my head every morning? I'm trying, Angel! I'm trying!"

The five of us were frozen, as if someone had poured cement through our veins. Max's wings outstretched further as her anger grew. I could hear her teeth grinding and her feet were planted on the floor. "So just shut up, okay? Shut up, shut up, shut up!"

This is what the fall looks like.

"It's not even worth it! Nothing! What's the point of even trying?" Max's voice was breaking and so was she. I clenched my hands and closed my eyes. She sniffed and I could tell she was standing on the edge of a cliff of tears. A long-buried sadness bled into her wrath. She was so close to me that some drops of spit and sweat hit my arm. "So I can't. Can't do this. Can't pretend to be okay any more."

Her voice quieted and she repeated, "Not any more."


What could you say after that?

And then the shocker of the century.

I mean, more shocking than Snooki writing a book and proving she's literate. More shocking than Arnold Schwarzenegger running for Governor of California and winning. More shocking than Justin Timberlake's return to music after six years.

It was Fang that spoke.

"No one said you have to be okay," he said. His steps bounced off the walls as he came closer to Max. He put his hands on her shoulders, "since when has anyone ever been okay?"

Gazzy told me later that Max dropped her head onto Fang's shoulder and Fang put a hand on her waist. A point for The Project, yes, but also a point for humanity.

I'm not angry that Max lashed out at us. It was her breaking point and she hit it. We're all going to pretend like it never happened, which is unhealthy, yeah, but none of us have ever been the poster children of stability. No, more than anything else, I'm sad.

I'm sad because what the voice said is true, and I saw it just now with Max.

And don't we hurt the ones we love the most.

Ugh, man, I hate being sad. Screw it. I'll be happy and live in a world full of squishy manatees and bouncy castles and cookie dough and I will make being happy a choice.

And in my first act of chosen happiness, I shall sneak down to the cafeteria and steal a burrito before we fly off to Los Angeles, the city of angels.


Gazzy's note: I was planning on being really careful in editing this but Ig mentioned Robot Unicorn Attack at the beginning so I just went and played that and I feel so magical now and when I grow up I'm going to be a unicorn.

12. Twelve

A/N- I received a weird voicemail on my phone. It was a guy saying, "Hey, I found this number in a bathroom stall. I'm looking for a good time. I can't wait to cover your body in Nutella. I love Nutella." It was clearly a prank call, but I decided to text the number back. Basically, the conversation turned hilariously dirty where both of us were trying to out-wit each other. I can now say that the first guy I ever sexted was a random stranger who wanted to get it on with Nutella.

Sorry for my awkward update time. Hahaha university thinks I came here to do schoolwork!

Reviewer of the Week:

A: I, too, aspire to be a unicorn.

Comment of the Week:


Hey Internet,

Part of me wants to go to Los Angeles and get plastic surgery so that I can have boobs for a day. Like, just a day. You know, to see what it's like. If I were a girl I wouldn't get anything done because I would be so distracted by my boobs all day.

Aaaaand I can't believe I just said that. Whatever. There's weirder stuff on the Internet, trust me.

But instead of going to LA for a casual boob job, we were flying as fast as we can to try and stop an unknown villain from doing some unknown dastardly deed that will cause unknown damage. This wasn't the best plan we'd ever had, which is saying something, because we once went with a plan that involved Fang dressing up as Kim Kardashian at a big-shot Hollywood party, and the worst part is that nobody noticed.

If you recall, Internet, that Cupid guy said that something big was going to happen in LA at eight o'clock at night. This was super vague and he could have at least pointed us in the right direction, ya know?

"So," I deadpanned as the six of us touched down behind some run-down grocery store, "How was everyone's flight? Did the stewardess come along and give you your complimentary meals and drinks? I could certainly use a little bubbly right now."

Nobody bothered paying any attention to me, and hey, there's the story of my life. Max glanced at her watch. "Okay guys. It's three thirty. We only have a few hours to stop… uh, this. This thing." Max fumbled over her words like an eighth grader asking out his crush.

I don't think any of us were really in the mood for saving the city. Max hadn't forced us to fly that fast in years; my wings ached and needed some sweet R&R. I didn't think Max would spring for a quick massage session. I have no idea why, but I was suddenly compelled to put my hand on Angel's shoulder beside me. Her curls brushed my hand as she looked up. A smile tugged at my lips.

You okay? She asked through her freaky mind-skills.

Just dandy, I said. Err, thought.

Somewhere behind us, a police siren blared. Judging from the stink of rotten curry and molding apples, we were near some dumpsters. The smell was only made worse by the sun that beat down on us with an oppressive weight. The sad part was that I was totally down for some dumpster diving à la carte.

"So what are we supposed to do?" Nudge asked. "How can we-"

A sharp ringtone interrupted her, causing all of us to jump at least a foot. Max patted her jacket pockets until she pulled out her cell. "Yeah?" she said.

"It's me." Dr. Martinez's staticy voice came through the speaker. Max didn't have it on speakerphone, but it was easy enough to listen in to the conversation. "We know what he's planning. The past few hours have basically been a scientist orgy."

Okay, so that was a weird image.

Dr. Martinez kept talking. "We've had every type of scientist pour over data coming from Los Angeles. Geologists, biologists, meteorologists, hydrologists, agronomists and every other job ending in an "ist" has been looking for any irregularities in the LA area. It was the seismologists who found something."

"I have no idea what a seismologist is," Max said, speaking for all of us. I hoped that a seismologist studied different types of pie, but I had a hunch that I was wrong.

You could practically hear Dr. Martinez rolling her eyes at our lack of education. "Someone who studies earthquakes. Some genius decided to build LA on top of the San Andreas Fault. People have been predicting a massive earthquake in LA for years, but this one is the mother load."

"What the hell is the San Andreas Fault?" Fang asked, loud enough for Dr. Martinez to hear him over the phone.

She clucked her tongue. "Faults are basically where one chunk of land – uh, the proper term is a 'tectonic plate' – rests against another. And when the plates shift, they crash into each other, which usually results in an earthquake. Our seismologists are getting data that shows massive underground movement. It's almost impossible to predict an earthquake, but the facts are irrefutable. We don't know how, but somehow this Cupid guy is controlling things that aren't meant to be controlled."

"So we have to stop an earthquake?" Max asked. She fanned her wings out in frustration. If I've ever seen a candidate for a chill pill, it would be her. "Not possible."

Dr. Martinez's voice faded out before coming back with a crack. Clearly we needed to change our cell phone service provider. "We think it's artificially constructed, so if you can start one, you can stop one. Who makes a 'start' button without a 'stop' button? But that's not the biggest problem."

Of course not.

"The Diablo Canyon Power Plant lies directly on the San Andreas fault. It's a few hours north of the city. If there's a massive earthquake, it could destroy the reactors and cause a massive nuclear explosion. And worse, LA is right on the eastern seaboard, and with the westerly winds, the radiation will drift over the continental states. It's the perfect place for a nuclear attack. Chernobyl would look like spilt milk."


Alrighty. So basically an enormous earthquake was going to set off an enormous nuclear explosion. I had a nasty suspicion that I knew where this was going. (A free vacation to Hawaii where we could re-population the world in a post-apocalyptic environment? Survey says no.)

"I think you know what to do," Dr. Martinez said, clearly wrapping up her little education speech. "I've got to go. Some intern just chugged a cup of beta hydroxyl acid and I think he thought it was coffee. Love you, bye."

The phone went dead, and the sound of her voice was followed by an unbroken beep. Max snapped the phone shut and slid it into her pocket.

"Well," Max said, "We've dealt with worse."

Gazzy snorted and stamped his foot into the gravel. It crunched under his feet as he dug his toe into the ground. "Yeah, like the time that Fang made breakfast. That was bad."

"Yeah," Nudge said, "Or when Fang thought he tackled an intruder and it turns out it was Max in a mud mask."

"Or when he thought I was a pillow and tried lying on me," Total added. Man, it's so easy to forget about him (sorry, Total). He was stuck in my backpack that sat at my feet.

"I'm so glad that your daily interactions with me are worse than a nuclear explosion that could wipe out a city," Fang drawled, drawing snickers from all of us. He knew what we all knew: we were just trying to find something to laugh about so that we didn't become super emo kids in the next ten minutes.

Considering our long-ass flight to LA, we weren't super thrilled about flying three hours north to this nuclear power station, but we weren't exactly excited about the prospect of being fried into a radioactive crunch either. Max, fortunately, had data installed on her phone, so we pulled up Google Maps for our route. God bless you, powers of Google.

It was a rough flight. Flying east or west is a lot easier than flying north or south due to wind currents, so it was a whole bucket of unfun trying to battle against the wind that buffered us. It was surprisingly freezing, so we had to fly lower than we would have liked so that we didn't turn into popsicles and plummet out of the sky and land in someone's backyard. (Can you imagine this random birdkid smashing into the middle of your barbeque?)

It's so pretty, Angel said. The view below, I mean. It's all reds and browns that surround the cities. It looks like a painting.

Aww, Angel is the sweetest. While I'm complaining about being cold/tired/hungry/not being fabulous, she's checking out the scenery. What a trooper. Maybe I should make a list of the fabulous things in the world, like:

Walking into a Starbucks and getting free samples

My hair

There's a town named Moosonee that sits on the Moose River and is beside the other community of Moose Factory which is on Moose Factory Island

Another awesome thing: we managed to cut the flight time into only two and a half hours. By the time we landed on the deserted coastline, it was around six o'clock, which only gave us two hours until the so-called Disaster Caused by Yet Another Villain with a Power Complex.

Landing on the beach was nice; for a quiet moment, I pretended that we were at the beach, like, for realsies. The sand was all squishy beneath my feet, and the waves lapped at the shore. I felt like I was standing in a desktop wallpaper.

"So the power plant is just on the cliff above us," Gazzy explained, tugging at my hand. "It's kind of funky looking. Think, like, a prison, with two grey silos sticking out of it."

Gazzy needs to work on his descriptive skills, but I could at least picture it. "How do we get in? Security must be tight," I said.

"I don't think we have to worry about that," Max drawled.

The sound of a whirring thump-thump-thump started to come close. I was worried that it might be robotic dinosaurs or something, (because honestly that's the only thing we haven't encountered yet) but Gazzy put my fears to rest.

"We have some visitors, Ig. There's a Jeep driving towards us, over the sand. I can't…wait – wait – is that a rifle? Why can't they greet us with McDonalds or something? Why would that be so difficult? Ugh."

The sound came right up to us before stopping with a huff of smoke bursting from the exhaust. Judging by the number of feet hitting the sand as they jumped out of the Jeep, I judged it to be about four people who had decided to pay us a visit. "You can put the guns down, boys," Max said. Perk of being blind: I hadn't even known they were pointing guns at us, so I hadn't been afraid of my brains being blown out. Yay!

"You're trespassing on private property," a deep voice said. Like, so deep that it seemed he was hitting on us. Which, hopefully, he wasn't. Otherwise this scene would take quite the dramatic turn.

"Look," Max said, "We need to talk with someone – anyone – who runs this place. It's urgent." For dramatic effect, she shot out her wings. Bits of sand flew around us, adding an unexpected flair of awesome. The men gave startled cries for obvs reasons.

"We're taking you in for questioning," deep voice guy said. Hell, if he hadn't invited us, we would have broken in just so we could be questioned. At least this made it nice and easy.

The six of us jumped into their Jeeps. And these were, like, high-quality Jeeps; the leather was smooth and soft. It was like sitting on really silky dead cows. Fang sat beside me, but he was dripping in anxiety and hormones, so he smelled pretty terrible.

Since we were escorted, it didn't take us long to get inside. After a few gates and a few flashes of security badges, we were hustled out of the car and into a building. It was surprisingly cool. "We're in a really long hallway," Gazzy whispered. "It's spooky." I felt something being prodded into the small of my back. It was definitely a gun, which was totally 50 Shades of Uncool.

Our steps echoed as we marched down the hallway. My heart thudded in my chest. Was it even safe being in a nuclear power plant? Would I be infected by gamma radiation and turn into the Hulk version 2.0? I would hate to be the Hulk because I would have to spend so much money on clothes.

Finally, we were shoved into a tiny room with no chairs. I was surprised that they had kept the six of us together; normally, when we're questioned by The Authority Figures of the Day, we're separated. I didn't understand until Angel said, There's a glass wall in front of us. We can see them and they can see us. I don't think they wanted to interview us and be in the room at the same time. They're scared of us.

Hah! Scared of us? That felt good. I once burned down my duvet when I found a spider in it.

We must've caused quite the stir, since we didn't have to wait long before the interrogation began. There was a buzz from an intercom as a voice laced with static introduced herself. "Hello," a female voice said. "We saw you guys fly onto our beach. That gave us quite the scare. Would you mind telling us who you are? Oh, and you can press the button on the wall to talk."

Well, this woman sounded nice at least. She could turn out to be a rage-monster with a serious inability to not kill people, but for now I picture her as a short lady who liked to drink tea and read old novels.

Something was bothering me: how had they seen us land-? Ah, cameras. Duh. Normally we don't have to worry about video cameras, which are normally focused on just entrances and exits of buildings. With a nuclear power plant, there were probably cameras up and down the entire coast. I wished I had combed my hair. Post-flight hair is not the sexiest thing ever.

Max walked over to the button and held it down as she spoke. "Our names aren't important. We're not interested in blowing this place up. That would suck for everyone here. Long story short, we need to talk to whoever is in charge." She paused.

Another beep before the female voice spoke. "That's me."

"Oh." Well, that was easier than expected. Then again, having some flying kids show up at your power plant is kind of a big deal. "Could we talk somewhere a little more private?" Max asked, pressing the button again. I wanted to press the button. Who doesn't want to press buttons?

The woman spoke again. "Whatever needs to be said can be said here."

I could feel Max rolling her eyes. Adults just don't get it. Like, here we are, trying to save the western seaboard, and they're probably more concerned about what they're going to have for dinner. Then again, I was fairly concerned about dinner too. I'm so over eating rodents of the forest. Squirrels and rats just don't have the same pizazz as a few thousand deliciously awful calories from McDonald's.

Max slammed the button down again. "Look, lady, we need to do an emergency shutdown of this place. There's going to be an earthquake in a few hours. I know this is hard to believe, but isn't a bunch of kids with wings hard to believe as well?" Then again, it's pretty unbelievable that some people prefer Doritos Cool Ranch over Sweet Chili Heat. Talk about a travesty.

We were all getting fidgety. Small, enclosed spaces have never really rocked for any of us. Nudge was tapping her fingers against her jeans, while Total was gnawing through the straps on my backpack. Angel was humming "The Song That Never Ends," which was making murder a definite possibility.

"We monitor seismic activity," the woman said. "This is a top-of-the line federal facility with state-of-the-art technology-"

Fang burst through our group and smashed his hand against the glass. "Shut up!" he shouted. He slammed his hand again with a sharp bang. "Shut up! Just listen!" You could feel the shock ripple across us. Fang can get kinda scary, even when he's not doing the whole Angel of Death thing.

Max pressed the button, but Fang spoke. "Please," he said in a whisper. "We can give you people to call. People who know more. Adults. I'm sorry that we trespassed, and I'm sorry that we scared you. You've just got to believe us. Please."

Fang was sounding Canadian with all of these pleases and sorrys. No one spoke; we were all just standing there, shifting back and forth. Awko taco.

It turns out we didn't even need to say anything.

The ground suddenly lurched, throwing us into each other. I was I had said something brave like, "Worry not, fellow comrades, we shall overcome this" but instead I yelled something along the liens of "HEAWHEAHAHH." My stomach dropped as I bumped into Gazzy, followed by smashing into the wall. Hello wall, how are you today?

The earthquake had started sooner than expected.

A deep rumbling seemed to come from all around us, like really good speakers in a movie theatre. I felt the rumble inside me. It wasn't a rumble inside me like I just Mexican food, but more of an innate, earthly type where my body was saying, Yo, Iggs, this is really uncool. Get out of here.

So yeah, there was an earthquake happing right as we were inside a nuclear power plant. Like, really, Universe? Is that really necessary?

And the Universe is probably like lol yeah sry Iggy.

I know this is really bad timing, but I've got to run, Internet; if I don't pee now there will be serious repercussions. Gazzy will put this up on the blog soon. Make good choices.


13. Thirteen

A/N- I use the word "goatee" in this chapter. I wanted to make a joke involving goats, since I thought it was a random coincidence that the root word was goat. But, after some quick research, I found that it's called a goatee because they look like the tufts of hair on a goat's chin.

I'm in university and this just blew my freaking mind.

Reviewer of the Week/Month ('cause I'm lazy)

CHM13: I love Iggy, he is a total sassmaster. And I love how he always seems to talk to the Universe. And how Gazzy found time to write this up in an earthquake.

Comment of the Month:

A friend: I actually sold my soul in grade 6 for my friend's copy of Mario Kart 64. I kinda miss it... but now I have Mario Kart.

Hey Internet,

I have a few life goals, including:

1. Find out why Fang's hair is so luscious.

2. Become Beyoncé.

3. Go to a bar and tell someone that my favorite drink is "Mount and Do".

But above all, I want to kiss a girl that I love. Aww, I know, look at how adorable the blind kid is! But really, I'd like my first kiss to a) not be from a stripper, and b) not be under the influence of margaritas and other "beverages".

And when we were in the middle of a freaking earthquake while in the middle of a freaking nuclear power plant, my first thought was "I never kissed the girl of my dreams". My second thought was "JESUS CHRIST I'M GOING TO DIEEEEEEE."

An alarm was blaring. It felt like my brain was being continually smashed into my skull, which, for the record, is not cool. Worse, the ground kept shifting. The wall and I became very well acquainted since I kept running into it. My fingers grasped for anything to hold onto, but other than accidentally grazing Max's boobs, they found nothing. My knees bashed into the floor as I hit the ground. Total groaned as he fell out of my backpack

The seven of us were locked in the interrogation room. But there was a swooshing sound to my right, followed by a cool breeze. "The door opened!" Max yelled. "The alarm must have triggered it."

A pair of hands grabbed my forearm. It was Nudge, judging from the placement of the callouses on her fingers. She hauled me to my feet. "God, Iggy, do you eat cement for breakfast?"

"It's tasty," I muttered, as she guided me towards the door. By now, the adults who had been questioning us had disappeared – they were probably oh, I don't know, trying to stop a cataclysmic nuclear explosion or something.

We managed to all fit into the narrow hallway. Nudge shrieked, "Ow!" as her hand slipped from mine.

"What happened?" I asked. She didn't answer. "Nudge?"

"I'm fine," she said, but she didn't

"We need to get out of here," Fang shouted, and I was tempted to say something along the lines of "obvs". "Want to do a flyaway?" A flyaway is when we run helter-skelter out of a situation and fly hard and fast in any direction. It's the Hail Mary of trying not to die.

A tiny piece of plaster from the ceiling drifted down to land on my nose. Was the building coming down on us?

"We can't just leave!" Angel yelled. "We can't just fail."

We had come here to a) stop a nuclear explosion and b) stop a terrible event. Looks like we failed on both counts. Back in Virginia I failed my Spanish exam and I thought the world was over (odio este maldito idioma) since I wouldn't be able to move into the next grade, but this failure meant nuclear fallout and other fun side effects.

"We can't help here," Max said. "Flyaway it is."

Next came the tricky problem of actually getting out. We're all good with directions – yay for a built-in GPS! – but there had been a lot of turns in the hallway. There weren't any defining features that made one hall different from another. Plus, dudes with guns had manhandled us, so we had been worried about not painting the floor with our brains.

"I think we turn right," Max said, right as Fang said, "I think we turn left."

"Aren't there any maps?" I asked, exasperated. We were at a fork in the hallway – surely there must have been some sort of "Or like emergency exit signs? This building is violating so many building codes."

"I swear we need to go left," Fang said. It was hard to hear him over the alarm. That boy needs public speaking skills. "Just trust me on this."

"Fang, I love you, but you're definitely wrong," Max said.




I could hear the gears turning in her head as she sorted out what she had said. A nuclear explosion could have gone off at that moment, and we wouldn't have noticed. We were all shell-shocked. Even Total, stuffed in my backpack, couldn't make a smart-ass remark.

"I love you…all? In a family way?" Max was trying to cover herself up, and it was like watching a car crash. Or, uh, hearing a car crash in my case.

Max had just admitted she loved Fang. Oh my God oh my God oh my God. I felt like a sixth-grader at my first dance. It had totally slipped out and Max was hardly aware that she said it, but the words had been said. It was the mother of all Freudian slips.

There was silence. Well, as much silence as you can have when there's a blaring alarm and some distant screaming going on, but you know what I mean. Like, internal silence.

"You love me?" Fang asked. His voice was almost washed away by the alarm. I'm surprised he didn't just shrug it off and deal with that nasty thing called "emotions" later.

Max stuttered. "Uhh…I love everyone?"

I'm sure Fang's hands were clenched; they always were when he was frustrated. "You know what I mean, Max. I'm tired of running around this. I need to know. Now. I don't give a damn if we're about to been blown up in five minutes. Just tell me. Yes or no?"

Nothing in the world existed except for Max and Fang. They had forgotten all about us. Everyone turned towards Max.

"Yes," she whispered.


My mouth dropped. Like, literally, my mouth was wide open. Max accidentally confessing her love of Fang was as shocking as when I learned that Gazzy ships Johnlock. and Merthur.

Max has some awful timing for this confession. Instead of candles and music and dinner, we had nuclear explosions and sirens and earthquakes. Classy. It was Nudge who brought us back into the reality of the situation. Tugging on my sleeve, she said, "Yo, I'm really glad that this lovely-dovey stuff is going on, but we need to go. Like, now."

"She's right," Fang cut in, his baritone voice cutting above the ruckus. (Did I seriously just refer to Fang's voice as "baritone"? Oh my God, shoot me.) "Let's go."

This seemed like a really uncool way of responding to Max's confession, until Angel whispered, "He just grabbed her hand. Beyond adorable." It was sort of weird that she didn't do her cool mind-reading thing to send that thought to me, but I guess it was one of those "stage whisper" tihngs.

We eventually agreed to turn left. Our run turned into sprinting as we tried to navigate the never-ending labyrinth. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate running? Well, exercise in general. It's like, yeah, let's voluntarily subject myself to repetitive motions that makes it feel like angry Russians are stabbing knives into my legs. Every time we thought we reached the end of a hallway, we were forced to start running down another.

"Isn't it weird that nobody else is down here?" Gazzy said after a solid five minutes. "Are we about to be blasted with radioactive material? Am I going to become the Hulk?"

"I don't want to be the Hulk!" Nudge shrieked, probably because she was worried about her complexion being green.

But Gazzy was right: despite the chaos that was inevitably happening in the building, there was nobody in these lower hallways. It was definitely pinging my This is Suspicious radar. Just as I was about to comment, an aftershock threw us into each other. All I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a tub of cookie dough ice cream and listen to Gordon Ramsay bitching at people on TV.

And as if someone had snapped their fingers, the siren shut off.

It took me a moment to figure out that the blaring in my ears was an echo effect, rather than the alarm itself. I was totally going to have tinnitus for the rest of my life. My ears felt as if I had been standing beside speakers at a rock concert.

"Why is it quiet?" Total yelled, totally not realizing that he didn't have to raise his voice any more. "Spooky."

Damn straight it was spooky. And it got worse – from behind us, a low laugh rang through the hallway. I was reminded of all those creepy-ass five-year-old exorcised girls from horror movies.

But the strange thing was that I recognized the laugh.

Looking back on the moment, I should have been able to recognize the laugh. It was such a small possibility that my brain had ruled out any idea that she could have been standing there. She was supposed to be in a different state – not here.

"Did you hear that?" I asked. Nobody answered. "Guys?"

The laugh became high-pitched. It was closer.

"…Guys?" I flung my hands out, but I only grazed the walls. The Flock had been right beside me, but now they were clearly out of arm's reach. They weren't even talking. "Now is not the time to try out your stylish invisibility cloaks." There was no answer. How could they have disappeared without a sound? I hadn't heard their footsteps recede or anything. It was as if they had fallen through a trap door. And since I'm fairly sure America's scientists aren't batshit crazy, I really doubt they have casual trap doors in random hallways. Where had they all gone?

The worst part was that I had no idea where the girl was. She could have been standing right next to me, for all I knew.

Her footsteps came closer. They reverberated off the walls: step, step, step. I didn't think I would miss that blaring alarm, but those dull footsteps sent shivers down my back.

I started to quickly walk in the opposite direction. The footsteps picked up speed. I started to run; so did she. I ran my with my hand grazing the wall so that I would know when to turn. We both hit a sprint; my legs pounding and my heart ready to call it quits. I couldn't help but yell, "THIS IS SUSPICIOUS. THIS IS VERY VERY SUSPICIOUS."

The wall disappeared from my hand, and before I could slow myself down enough to turn, I went crashing into the opposite wall. I was having an awful day with walls.

The few seconds of disorientation were enough for my chaser to catch up. Her clammy hands tried to grab me, but I kept slipping away. Internet, I know you're thinking, "Why don't you just run away? You're faster than this girl. Time to hustle, bro." But honestly, blinding running in any direction – pardon the pun – would get me nowhere fast. I had to take her out. I was suddenly glad for Max's remedial fight training from a little while ago.

I guessed the girl to be somewhere in her teens, judging from her footsteps and the length of time it took her to reach her. Her hands weren't calloused at all, but it was the familiarity that struck me. Even her scent was unsettling.

I settled into Sherlock Holmes mode. Like, Robert Downey Jr Sherlock, not Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock. Remember all those scenes where he plans how to fight his enemies? Same deal. I carefully evaluated each of her movements as we went through an intricate dance.

Breathe. Send right hook to stomach. Jump over left kick. Slam fist into shoulder. Stumble. Think about what Chuck Norris would do. Swing leg around, bring her down. Straddle her. Hands around throat. Her foot connects with stomach. Recoil. She pounces. Reversal of position. Hook both legs around body. Roll around. Punch. Kick. Scratch. Bite. She tastes awful.

I just wish I could rock Robert Downey Jr's goatee.

Something jangled near my right ear, and it was only when cool metal wrapped around my wrists did I realize that I was being handcuffed. The last time I was handcuffed I was suspected of being a pimp. This was hardly a step up. I thrashed around and kicked, but she managed to shackle my feet together as well. I was like a fish that was awkwardly flopping around on the floor.

The girl rolled up my sleeve. "Woah, boy!" I said. "You're moving a bit fast. I don't have many standards, but at least like to know names." She huffed out air in amusement. Clearly she didn't want to talk. Instead, she used her sharp nail to write something into my skin. She dug deeply. "Ow!"

Slowly and clearly, she used her nail to go down, up, down, and up again. It was obviously a "W". She took her time when drawing out the other letters.


"What else can I do?" I spat, not at all bitter that this random girl had managed to incapacitate me in about a minute. "It's not like I'm about to escape when you've got me tied up like Anastasia Steele." (I shouldn't be able to make that reference, but shh, we all have our secrets.)

She giggled, and it was so unbelievably familiar that I asked, "Who are you?" It was like hearing a song from your childhood and forgetting the title even though you know all the lyrics.

Her clothes rustled as she stood up. Her receding footsteps sounded like a strut. I wanted to slit her throat, which sounds really morbid, but I was grade-A pissed off. Before turning the hallway, she laughed again. That was when it clicked.


No. It couldn't be. I must have been wrong. But I had heard that laugh hundreds of times, in the kitchen and outside and sitting on the couch playing video games. But it was impossible for her to be in California. It was impossible for her to have the strength to take me down.

Then again, I'm not the right person to say when something is impossible.

As I was lying on the floor, completely incapacitated, I was totally waiting for Max & Co to come and save the day. But they never came. This was a total shame because all I wanted to do was razz on Max and Fang about their young love that would inevitably result in two children and relocation to the suburbs where they would drink lemonade on Sundays.

I really hate to say, "and then something weird happened," because that phrase would be used at least three times a day in my life. But this moment really does qualify.

There were more footsteps; at least three people, judging from the voices. There were two females and one male. They sounded like adults. "Hey," one of them said, kicking me lightly in the stomach. His boots were steel-toed, which was a major fashion faux pas. "Get up."

"Are you serious?" I guffawed. "I would if I could. You lovelies will have to carry me out, princess style, thank you very much." If I was being kidnapped, then I would be kidnapped with style.

Unfortunately, their version of princess style was much different than mine. The guy threw me over his shoulder like a burlap sack. I was tempted to kick him in the nuts for good luck, but my escape attempt would be limited to me rolling around on the floor like a taquito. "Would you at least tell me where my friends are? Or where my friends are? Or explain if this place is about to go boom?"

"I like your blog," one of the women said.

Wait, what?

"You read my blog?" I said, mainly because I was flattered. It took me a moment to realize that she was kidnapping me and it was so not okay to be friends with her.

"Uh, yeah." She said it like it was the most obvious thing ever. She slapped my back, almost good-naturedly. "Why do you think we're here?"

They were kidnapping me because of my blog? Am I that bad of a writer? Was Gazzy posting really weird videos of kittens doing inappropriate things that were garnering national attention? Maybe I was extra confused because of all the blood rushing to my head – I was still upside-down over the guy's back – but I couldn't begin to try to understand.

"You do realize that we have Internet access, right?" It was the other woman who spoke. She had a deep voice that carried authority. "It's probably not a smart idea to publically broadcast your location and activity."


I had skipped Internet Safety 101, and this was what I got. People always say, "don't over-share online," but I pictured creepy comments from horny people or the occasional hate mail. But kidnapping – this was way in excess.

They began walking down the hallway. My head kept whacking against the man's back. He was sweaty and smelled like cheap coffee. "Actually," the first woman said, "We want you to update your blog. Today. Give it to us, and we'll post it."

"Are you for real?" These were the worst kidnappers ever. "Why the hell would you want me to do that?"

"So many questions," the man said. Clearly he was in the mood for being mysterious, since he didn't follow up the statement. We walked for about five minutes, taking a few staircases to further below in the building, before we arrived at our destination. A door clicked as it opened.

The man sat me down in a chair. He unshackled my hands, but my feet were chained to a table that was bolted to the floor. Both the chair and the table were a cold metal. From the lack of breeze I could tell that we were in a fairly small room. Something was thrown onto the table with a thunk.

"It's a notebook and pen," the first woman said. "Write."

"Write what?" God, these people are so into mystery. Nobody knows how to freaking communicate these days.

"A blog post. We'll transcribe in accurately later. Well, we'll add a little note to the end of the post, but that's it. Just do it."

They wanted me to blog. With a notebook. I once heard about a man who liked having sex with balloons, and I thought that was weird. But this outclasses anything in the weird factor. "Why?"

The notebook was pushed closer to me. "Once you do it, we'll feed you."

I love food, but not enough to do it under such circumstances. I crossed my arms. "I'm not doing it."

"We'll tell you where your friends are," the woman in charge said. I hated to admit it, but I had forgotten about the Flock. I was so worried about, you know, not dying that I had forgotten about their sketchy disappearance. For all I knew, they were suffering more than I was. I had to help. I picked up the pen.

And so for the past two hours, I've written faster than I ever have. My penmanship is awful since I never formally learned how to write, so whoever is transcribing this is going to have a fun time. Screw you, evil kidnapper people. I know you're reading this.

And to anyone out there reading this: please send help. I just wished other people subscribed to my life motto, which is "don't be a dick."


a note to all readers


did we kidnap iggy? yes

is there is a reason? yes

will you find out? yes

but there is no need to send help

we are the help

14. Fourteen

A/N – Totally my bad for not updating in, like, forever. It's sort of funny that the last time I updated it was a different season and Amanda Bynes' dignity was still intact.

For most of the summer, I was in the backwoods of Quebec. Fun story, this town has one club that everyone went to. So one night I got dressed up in my little black dress. You know how you feel when you know you're rocking an outfit, and feel on top of the world? That was me. So I'm at the club, dancing away, when I go the bathroom. I return to the dance floor, and after about five minutes, I start to feel kind of weird. That's when I notice that everybody is staring at me. I turn around, and notice that the hem of my skirt was caught in my underwear, so that me entire ass was showing.

For the rest of the trip I was known as "That Ass Girl".

Reviewer of the Week:

Awesome Guest P: My sister shoved a screwdriver into my other sister's nose the other day, then said "An apple a day keeps the doctor away, if well aimed" and walked away.

Comment of the Week:

A friend: That awkward moment when you try and adopt your father's phrase "Bye for now," because it sounds sweet and sincere. Then you leave a voice message and say "Bye" as per usual, then after a long pause add "for now" and it takes on a new, much creepier meaning. Sorry secretary, I'm sure you're a nice lady.

Dearest Internet,

Huh, it feels like it's been a while since writing my last blog post. Wonder why.

Anyways, you've probably filled your brain with all of the important stuff of the past while, including: the miracle that science has given us in the form of deep-friend ice cream, why the gods who created Supernatural are killing us all, and how Fang manages to keep his hair so lusciously smooth without using conditioner.

But there's other important stuff going on.

Last time we checked in, there was some serious negative mumbo-jumbo going on. Namely, during a rather conveniently-timed earthquake in the nuclear facility, I had been kidnapped (by random strangers) while the Flock had disappeared (probably by random strangers). And I would be totally down for being kidnapped if I at least knew why. This guy Cupid, who seems to be masterminding this whole shebang, is all about re-building the world and watering the fields with our capitalist blood, yada yada yada.

But it doesn't explain his specific interest in me.

I get it, I'm a cool guy. Nobody makes lasagna better than me, and I've been known to bust out some slick rhymes from time to time. But is that really kidnap-worthy? I think not.

And there's one more thing.

I thought I heard Ella's laugh in the hallway. It must have been her laugh – I'd heard it millions of times in front of the TV and sitting on the couch beside her. But why was she miles away from home, in a nuclear facility? If another person is about to betray me, shit will be flipped.

So here we are now.

Let's set the scene: there's a man (over six feet, overweight, has keys dangling from his belt), a woman (shorter than the man, trim, and knives stuffed up her sleeve) and me (a kid who is really hungry and would eat a literal horse if it were near us). The room was tiny, judging from the lack of echoes.

"You said you would feed me," I said, stretching my shackled hands out onto the table. My legs were also shackled to the table and chair, so apparently we were going to be chilling there for a while. "My favorite time of the day is food."

I didn't expect a thump on the table, followed by something sliding over to me. "It's a sandwich," the woman said. "You can eat it."

Villains who actually do what they say they will? Praise the Lord. Let me tell you, eating a tuna sandwich - it was a little heavy on the mayo, but I'll take it – with my hands attached was super awkward, but I managed it. One of my many secret talents is eating anything anywhere. Yum yum.

"Okay, so," I said, my mouth full of non-squirrel and non-mystery meat, "can you give me the low-down on why I'm here? And you said you would tell me where my friends are."

"Your friends are fine. They're in the building," the man said. Let's name him Sven. I have no idea what his real name is, but I've only ever known evil Svens. Both he and the woman were sitting down opposite me - their chairs scraped against the floor whenever they moved. Sven tapped his foot against the floor in a steady rhythm. It was in time with the soft clicks of the woman's watch.

"Okay, that tells me nothing." I swallowed both my tuna and more sarcastic comments.

"We wanted to talk to you alone. Make you an offer."

"That I can't refuse?" I snorted.

"In a way." The chair screeched as the woman stood up. She walked slowly around the table to stand right behind me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up; I could feel her right behind me, but she didn't touch me at all. No, she was just there. "What do you know about the Apocalypse?"

According to Max the Apocalypse happened every time I went to the bathroom after eating Taco Bell, but I doubt that was the answer she was looking for. "Um, fire and brimstone? Horsies? Smoke and dark and clouds?"

The woman shifted slightly so that I knew her face was beside mine. The ghost of air currents made me shiver. I could feel her hot breath envelop the air. "Close enough."

I couldn't stand it; she was way into popping my bubble of personal space. I swung my arms into her chest; they barely connected before she grabbed my head and pushed it to the table. On second thought, that wasn't one of my cleverer ideas. "You're like a cornered cat," Sven drawled from across the table.

"Meow," I spat.

The woman kept one hand on my head, pinning me. The table was metal, cold, and so not comfy. I tasted something like copper, and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was my own blood. I must have bit my tongue so hard that it broke the skin. (Do tongues have skin? You know what I mean.)

"So here's the thing, Iggy," the woman said. "I want to tell you a story. Will you listen?"

"Sure thing, sugar." It wasn't like I had anything else to do. I could feel my neck cramping up from the weird angle. Damn, I would need one of Nudge's patented massages to sort out the knots I was going to have. And then, wait for it –




Her fingers twisted into my hair and caressed each lock. Her nails lightly scraped into my head, massaging in light circles. Moving back and forth, she played with my hair as she spoke. "You were on the right path when you said 'horsies' when I asked you about the Apocalypse. You were thinking of the Horsemen, right? It's the typical image of the Apocalypse. The four: Conquest, War, Famine, and Death."

On the last word, she had both hands wrapped around my neck.

She kept speaking. "Our boss has heard about you. About your Flock. How could he not? You publish on a public blog – it's easy to know where you are." Wait a second – had my writing my blog led to this whole disaster? I thought no one read it. "We were planning on using the six of you as figures. As ideals. Symbols are very powerful."

Her hands drifted upwards as she started to massage my head again. She went deeper, and the sensation bordered on pain. "Well, we were actually only going to use four of you. We had it all planned out. Max as Conquest. Nudge as War. You as Famine. Fang as Death." Of course Fang was Death, but hell, I could have told you that. "The others were not necessary."

Her nails scraped along the side of my face. "We would have had you flying over cities, spreading our message, letting the world know about the end of its troubles. It would have been beautiful."

They would have killed Gazzy and Angel? And hell to the no about the whole "let's spread the end of the world message". But something wasn't right – she was speaking in the past tense. Something had changed. I spoke up. "So why me?"

The woman hummed softly. "Because you're our superstar."

Um, okay yeah no.

Her hands withdrew from my head (finally) and rustled in her pockets. She pulled out something metallic, and kneeled down. With a few deft movements she had unchained me from the table, but my feet were still attached. I could walk, but not fast. "We're going to go on a fieldtrip, Iggy. Isn't this exciting?"

"No." I stood up, flinching. My hands had fallen asleep; they felt like TV static.

The duo flanked me as they marched me into the hallway. We walked for maybe ten minutes. We took multiple flights of stairs in damp stairwells, and doubled back on ourselves so many times that I wondered if we were lost. The alarms had all fallen silent. Finally, we arrived at our destination: another room. Dramatic, right? We could have at least gone to a volcano or underwater layer or secret dungeon. But a room somewhere it southwestern America? They needed class.

When the door slid opened, it was like being hit by a tsunami of noise.

People were shouting over each other: "Can I have another camera over here?" "I don't think the lighting is good in here." "Where's our sound guy?" "Is there a script? Hey, I said, do we have a script?" It was hot, too – I judged that the room was fairly large, but crammed packed with busy people. It sounded like a photo shoot – but photo shoots don't happen in nuclear power plants. I know Vogue and Cosmopolitan have some really weird pictures sometimes, but last time I checked radioactive material isn't really in style.

Someone seemed to be speaking to my handlers. Another excited female voice said, "We'll be ready shortly." A pause, and I could feel her gaze rest on me. "You must be Iggy! And you must be so excited. After so many years, you finally get your-"

"-your dream of helping the world," Sven interrupted, his hand tightening on my arm. There were a few moments when none of them spoke; they were probably having a whole conversation with just their eyes. They were hiding something, and they weren't even trying to be subtle about it. "So you're doing the surgery now?"

Surgery? Now that is something I hate, even more than people who loudly crunch potato chips or who talk when I'm trying to listen to the latest episode of Welcome to Night Vale.

"Yeah, we'll take him from here." There was a flurry of movement – someone grabbed me and hauled me into the ocean of sound. People bustled all around us, brushing up against my back. It totally gave me the heeby-bajeeby feeling. A brush wiped hurriedly at my face; I sneezed.

"Is that makeup?" I asked, trying to swat the brush away. The person easily dodged my attempts and continued to add powder to my face. "Please don't use any blue shades. I'm more of a summer complexion."

The person "hmmed" which is not really a response at all, so I was quite unimpressed. Another thing that was quite unimpressive: I had yet to find out why I was suddenly getting pampered. The last time I had makeup on was when Angel and Nudge threw the tea party of the century. That tea party ended up with me decked out in mascara, lipstick, nail, and plenty of fabulous feather boas. I managed to get lipstick on Fang, and the bruises on my arms lasted for a week.

"So, can you tell me what we're doing here?" I asked. Wait a minute – here I was in a strange location, with strange people, and with cameras?


"You're totally washed out, man," the person brushing my face said. "When the lights are on you, the camera will pick up everything…we want to make this perfect."


"It's just for your interview," the man continued.


But I was on the right track with filming, apparently. Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser! So they had kidnapped me just to that they could have an interview? Hell, I would have done it if they had just asked nicely. Don't parents teach their kids manners these days?

"Ready for showtime, Iggy?" Before I could answer I was thrust backwards, losing my balance. My stomach dropped; but instead of hitting the floor, my ass was squished into a hard chair. The whole moment had felt like the "kick" in Inception, but without Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Without warning, cold handcuffs were locked around my wrists and ankles. Well, shoot. Maybe they were into kinky stuff?

There was a loud serious of clicks, followed by radiant heat on my face – I guessed that bright lights were shining on me. There were more clicks, whirs, and finally shhing sounds as it all became quiet.

Lights, camera, action.

"And here we are with the star of the day, our man Iggy!" an over-enthusiastic voice announced. I instantly recognized the voice. My heart swapped places with my stomach.


"This interview is being broadcast live across America, in prime-time, on ever channel! Gotta love telecommunications." I was frozen. Words were jammed in my brain, in my head. I briefly flashed back to the power outages in Phoenix, and the radio waves being taken over. This group, whoever they were, clearly had the capability to hijack satellites. It only took me a moment to realize that they had kidnapped me to interview me – in front of the country.

"So, unless you're not aware, America, Iggy here is a bit special. Let's show the people why."

Why are you doing this, Ella?

I had the totally weird sensation of someone pulling on the collar of my windbreaker. With scissors, they sliced all the way down to the bottom hem. In my head I could hear Max bitching about how it would take oh-my-God-forever to get another one. The windbreaker was slid off of me. I didn't resist; I was restrained and surrounded. Literally nothing has been this worse since the one time I forgot my towel in my bedroom and Total ended up seeing my junk.

Ella was walking around my chair, dragging her fingers up and down my arm. How had I not seen this coming? Had there been clues along the way?

My wings unfolded themselves on their own accord. Our wings, while similar to birds, have a different bone structure that allows them to be crunched up nice and tight against our bodies when we're doing our incognito mode. The chair had evidently been built with me in mind (how considerate), since my wings could fit through slits in the side.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the United States of America, I present to you the very first angel the world has ever seen."

I couldn't rebuff her. I couldn't say no. I couldn't do anything because it felt like my whole body had been short-circuited. I was beyond confused, beyond betrayed.

"It may be difficult to tell, but our friend Iggy here is blind. We won't be getting into how that happened, but it should be said that Iggy may be blind, but he has the most vision. He can see the beauty in the world." She rested her hand on top of mine. "I would know."

Okay, so Ella had officially inherited the title of Bitch Queen 4 Lyfe.

"But I want to show you something, America. Think of Iggy as…. a metaphor. Naïve, wandering, but above all, blind." She paused for dramatic effect. "Cupid is here to open your eyes."


I did not like where this was going.

I know this might seem like a tangent, but have you ever heard of Schrōdinger's cat? It's basically a paradox that points out that maybe every time a decision is made another universe is created. So basically, there are an infinite number of universes in which you can do an infinite number of things. If that is true, than in one universe, I should be diving into a pool of Corgis. WHERE IS MY CORGI POOL?

And instead, I was stuck in this universe, with a girl who used to be my friend still caressing my hand. Creepy.

And Internet, I'm going to pause here for now. You're never going to believe what happened next, and honestly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I'm sure one of those creepy agents will be able to put this online.

When Max and the rest of the Flock show up, I'm going to whip their collective asses for taking forever to get here, and then we're going to go get victory McDonalds. Count on it.