Mustafa Zaid

The fourth of ten children, Mustafa Zaid tells us: “I believe that there is something about being from a large family that makes you grow up quicker than other kids, especially when you are poor.” The son of a Vietnam veteran on disability, and a mother who home-schooled him and his siblings, Mustafa attributes his belief in himself and his abilities to his mother: “We were poor, but my mother never let us talk or think like we were. She always told us that the world was developing into a place where only intelligent people could succeed, and that was why we had to do schoolwork, even during our summer breaks. We did our work even when we were evicted and lived in the shelters, and even when we lived in the community center when we could no longer afford rent. She taught us that we could escape the reality of our situation if we could just be focused and creative. She taught us to read and then to write our own stories. Creativity was the key to staying sane, she would say. Because of her dedication and support, I took my first college course at the age of 15. She is my inspiration for pursuing a career in education.”


Night Cap

(300 words without title)

"The sun’s last-ditch efforts left a bloody red ink on the horizon."

“I think I fell in love with you tonight,” Peter said, gazing out his window at the passing traffic. The car shook lightly, as the engine rattled in neutral. “I kinda wish it didn’t have to end,” he mused aloud.

Natalie dipped her head, blushing hard.

“I had an amazing time,” she almost whispered, shyly.

Amazing might have been an understatement, she thought. The truth was that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d enjoyed herself so much. It had been a magical day.

They’d spent the entire day together, and Peter planned it all. Lunch was at the rose garden in a sea of bright colors. The flowers grew high. They picnicked in a rainbow of lilacs and lavender, with little patches of sunlight streaming through the petals. Later they’d strolled down the boardwalk and enjoyed a friendly round of bowling.

She raised her knees up to her chin and shifted her glance to him, his blond hair slightly ruffled from the air blowing in the open window.

Dinner was the highlight. It was her first time in a skylight restaurant. Burgundy candles and black drapes decorated the interior of the tower, and they were seated with a magnificent view of the evening creeping upon the sky. The sun’s last-ditch efforts left a bloody red ink on the horizon.

She looked past him, out at the cars whizzing by.

The night was bright with lights, abuzz with people bustling to and fro. The huge lights in the center of town mingled with those of the lampposts and traffic signals. The ambiance grasped her; it was trance-like.

“Maybe it doesn’t have to end just yet,” she said, still whispering. “How about dessert?”

He turned in his seat to look her in the eyes. “I thought you’d never ask.”



Eyes in the Night

(288 words without title)

"She prayed that it was all her imagination…"

Either her nightmares had come to life or she was slowly losing her mind. She couldn't think of any other explanation. The eyes that peered at her through the dense darkness of the night were distinctly inhuman. Lying awake in her bed, she shook violently; terrified. A slick sheen of sweet lined her sheets and her teeth chattered audibly.

It wasn’t enough that Jonathan went on the road to work for weeks at a time. It wasn't enough that the new house was huge and creepy, with a few broken, boarded-up windows for decoration. Chipped paint and creaky floorboards. Jonathan's pet project.

Tonight she was wondering if it would end up her grave.

It had been a consistent week now that she’d been seeing the eyes. Ghostly white, cold. The first time was last Friday, staring at her through the high grass as she came in from work. Tuesday they stalked her slowly as she threw away the garbage. The police had come to investigate but found nothing. The scratching on her windows had started a day ago. She prayed that it was all her imagination, but she'd locked every door and window anyway.

So why did it seem the scratches were coming from down the hall and the eyes creeping towards her half-opened bedroom door...stalking.

She whimpered in fear, but she couldn’t help feeling a little silly.

Slowly, she rose from her bed and tiptoed toward the hall. She reached for the light, and just as she flipped the switch...

"Aaaaaaaaahhhhh!"

Her blood-curdling screech tore through the house and echoed off of the empty walls.

Terrified, the little raccoon turned tail and fled, fearing for his life.


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